The Long-Lost Characters Of Half-Life 2

Better than kings - gods!

The leaked Half-Life 2 beta is an old, old story – and how it happened, and what happened next was documented masterfully by RPS chum Simon Parking a few years back – but a recent fan compilation of all the characters in it who never turned up in the finished article is fascinating. This is the Half-Life 2 that never was, and yet, to some extent, it does exist after all.

That Grayson chap – rings a bell – over on Kotaku ran this video earlier today, in which a YouTube ShoutymanTM does a rapid run through of all the NPCs who never ultimately made it City 17. As with the notorious hydra creature, it’s fascinating to see what such a landmark game might have been. There’s an alternate, evil Eli, a different Daddy Vance entirely, a faction of Combine sympathisers, and a chap called The Consul who did the Dr Breen thing before Dr Breen was created. City 17 isn’t quite as we know it either. To some extent it’s more grimdark, but sections of it also seem closer to HL1 than HL2-actual was.

This is games archeology, and I would be entirely happy to see more of it happen. Give me unfinished, discarded Deus Ex maps, half-finished Dungeon Keeper creatures, X-COM enemies based on unused concept art.

Inevitably, modders have been making something out of these Valvian offcuts, which are relatively easily added to Garry’s Mod.

25 Comments

  1. int says:

    Boy, I still can’t wait for Half-Life 4.

  2. Distec says:

    I always thought “The Consul” could make a return in some fashion, since Breen’s demise was very ambiguous. Not so much any longer with Robert Culp having passed away, although Laidlaw did continue to hint at it on Twitter last year.

    I love the Half-Life mythology to bits. But I do stand by my assertion from many years ago that too much of the linkage between the games was left to rabid fans piecing together details on a wiki. So much of the cut content would have helped, but then I guess it was cut for a reason.

    • Napalm Sushi says:

      My own chief gripe is with the way that almost all of that mystery was due to Gordon’s inexplicable inability/unwillingness to just ask someone what the living fuck was going on.

    • WHS says:

      Actually, the way you only get bits and pieces of the mythology is one of my favorite things about it. Too much exposition and you lose one of the most compelling thematic bits of the series, which is “Gordon Freeman as an instrument of forces beyond his control.” It all contributes to the creepy sense that you’re manipulating events in ways you don’t understand at the bidding of some power outside your knowledge.

      • Distec says:

        Oh, I quite like hunting for morsels of information. But something as basic as “How did the events on Xen lead to the Combine invasion” are tucked away pretty thoroughly, and that’s one of your main bridges between the two games. I understand it because I geeked out and hoovered up all HL2 info leading up to its release and some years afterwards. But if I were less of a fan, I’m sure a lot of that would have escaped me.

        I would never want Half-Life to resolve all of its mysteries though. I don’t think you can properly explain somebody like G-Man without completely robbing his character of power..

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          DelrueOfDetroit says:

          You see and know only what Gordon knows. Nobody explains what happened because nobody assumes Gordon literally popped out of thin air. As far as they know he has spent the last however many years somewhere else on Earth (and perhaps Xen for a time.) The lack of exposition makes the dialogue feel a lot more natural. Everyone’s like “Holy shit! It’s Gordon Freeman!” and then he’s gone before they have time to ask him how his day is.

          Any game that uses the silent protagonist always has that how-come aspect to it, but I still prefer it over someone you end up hating within an hour.

      • Robert Post's Child says:

        One of the cut scenes involved Gordon finally speaking, as he shouts ‘The crowbar is a metaphor!’ while bashing in a headcrabbed person’s face.

    • joa says:

      I think the charm of Half-Life is that the story is kind of kitchy – not kitchy exactly, I can’t think of the right word – and the characters a bit goofy – but it’s played quite earnestly. I think if you had loads of tedious exposition about aliens and ‘lore’ and so on you’d ruin that.

      • Geebs says:

        Lore is the death of mystery.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        I agree with this. Although I do think there is definitely room for the world to be explored in other media, it’s very interesting and they really haven’t made anything of it.
        For example I think Telltale could make a great game based on the Half-Life universe. I’m guessing Valve is not willing to give away the IP at all and seemingly refuses to do anything with it either.

    • MattM says:

      When I first played HL2 I didn’t really understand the back-story at all. It felt like I had missed the first 30 minutes of a movie.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Did it bother anyone else the way this guy pronounced ‘consul’ as ‘counsel’ all the way through the video?

      • ix says:

        Oh that explains it. Thanks, I was wondering why the council was only one guy.

  3. emptyskin says:

    Deus ex has several unreleased (unfinished) missions. For instance, some of the rooms are still accessible in Hong Kong where JC was given the option to assassinate Tong. The rooms are empty and it takes some finesse to get into them, but there are extra missions and cut plot elements that existed for that game out there.

  4. vorador says:

    Modern archeology, indeed. I think it’s fascinating to read this stuff, and sad that most companies just discard the cut assets.

    I remember some guy on a forum did an excellent article on the Blood Omen/Legacy of Kain series, investigating screenshots and videos to dig up features that were cut, and how the game evolved while in development.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Even better, give this stuff to modders and let them go to work with it. I mean they can hold it back for 2-3 years then release all the unused assets without much worry about lost sales or any of that crap.

  5. Tusque D'Ivoire says:

    I thought he called himself Simon Parkin’.

  6. MuscleHorse says:

    I love how amateurish the voice files left over in the beta sound – I’m guessing that they were just placeholders for the time.

  7. leeder krenon says:

    youtube guy, slow down your talking! some of us are not 14 any more.

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      Lexx87 says:

      Americans must get bored if it’s a slower pace. Watch an episode of Masterchef, then an American episode of the same, for evidence of American attention spans.

      • deadly.by.design says:

        As an American, I dislike the trend, too.

        Seriously — it’s like the Gift Shop Sketch come to life. Half of the show is rehashing the episode’s premise and events thus far, because…? Maybe they don’t expect anyone to actually sit through it all, so the audience has to be spoon-feed details to cater to channel surfers. In reality, it’s probably that “reality” shows don’t have enough content to fill out the time block they’re given, so they pad, pad, pad.

        Movie trailers have the ADHD issue where you dare not show a scene for more than 1/2 a second. It drives me nuts and makes me feel old at 32.

  8. Turkey says:

    Oh boy. They made the right call by cutting those guys.

  9. Gap Gen says:

    Some other canned characters:
    – Dr Gordon Breeman – a portal accident merges Dr Breen and Gordon Freeman. While his/their capers were w(h)acky and hilarious, sometimes, Valve mused, you can have too much of a good thing.
    – Harold the Sky Whale – the gunship whales used to have a speaking part, and their arrival used to be announced by polite greetings and astute airborne observations. Cut because apparently “whales don’t talk, Mark, you idiot”
    – Alyce – Alyx’s twin sister. Cut because creepy.
    – Mandl, Markey, Loder and Stauffer – headcrabs that continuously attempt to mate with Lamarr. Cut because also creepy.
    – Buffo the Clown – Coded the night of the office party, it took months to finally hunt down and remove the last traces of Buffo from the game. Legend has it that to this day you can find Buffo, stalking the Ravenholm graveyard.

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    Harlander says:

    Interesting to see where the stuff about the Borealis originally appeared…