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This article describes the Half-Life 2 storyline, chapter by chapter.
The original Half-Life takes place at the Black Mesa Research Facility in 200-. During an experiment, researchers at Black Mesa accidentally cause a Resonance Cascade which rips open a portal to Xen, the only known borderworld. Creatures from Xen flood into Black Mesa via the portal and start killing everyone in sight. The player takes on the role of Dr. Gordon Freeman, one of the research scientists who has been involved in the accident, and who now must escape the facility.
At the end of the game, a mysterious figure referred to as the G-Man extracts Gordon from Xen, where he defeated the Nihilanth, and "offers" a job to Gordon. Forced to agree, Gordon is subsequently put into stasis for approximately 20 years.
Half-Life 2 begins with the G-Man taking Freeman out of stasis and inserting him into a train on his way to City 17, somewhere in Eastern Europe, about twenty years after the Black Mesa Incident. Official sources differ on the actual length of this intermission. A story fragment written by Marc Laidlaw for the development team puts the intermission at ten years, while Half-Life 2: Episode One's website puts this intermission as "nearly two decades" after the end of the events of Half-Life. While Episode One is an earlier source, "twenty years" is probably the more accurate figure since in-game references like the picture of the Vance family in Eli's lab portray Alyx as a small child, no older than 5 years of age.
This is the first chapter of Half-Life 2. It serves as both an introduction to City 17 and the game world itself. Here, the player begins to learn the events that took place during the 20 years between Half-Life and Half-Life 2, and what the Earth has become in the intervening time period. The player will learn about the changes and events from the characters he meets (Barney Calhoun, Alyx Vance, and some citizens he interacts with).
Dr. Gordon Freeman, who hasn't aged a day since he disappeared after the Black Mesa Incident because he was in stasis, appears on a train heading to City 17. On the train, a couple of citizens talk about city life and the process of being transferred to City 17. Arriving there, Gordon meets armed police officers known as Civil Protection, and is greeted by the image of Dr. Wallace Breen, former administrator of Black Mesa, who is broadcasting a message on a large screen, welcoming the new citizens to City 17. Gordon is ordered away from the rest of the citizens, into a small interrogation room, in which he meets former Black Mesa security guard Barney Calhoun, who is now undercover as a Civil Protection officer. He contacts Dr. Isaac Kleiner, who greets Gordon warmly. After a bit of discussion they decide to send Gordon over to Kleiner's Lab, though he must find his own way there as Barney cannot abandon his post without raising Civil Protection's suspicions. Along the way, Gordon finds himself right in the middle of a CP raid on a tenement house, barely escaping with his life, and being rescued from certain death by a young woman named Alyx Vance.
"A Red Letter Day"
The second chapter of Half-Life 2. After a failed attempt to send Gordon to Black Mest East via teleporter, Gordon is forced to escape City 17 through the old canals, with Civil Protection officers in hot pursuit. Before this, though, Barney rearms his friend with an old favorite weapon: the crowbar.
This is the third chapter of Half-Life 2. It details the first half of Dr. Gordon Freeman's journey to Black Mesa East through the City 17 canal network. In this lengthy chapter, Gordon acquires his first firearm, experiences a lot of combat with Civil Protection forces and encounters alien enemies such as Barnacles, Zombies during the end and Headcrabs for the first time.
- The name of the chapter is a reference to the term root canal, the space within the root of a tooth, and the name of a dental procedure involving removal of the contents of the root.
This is the fourth chapter of Half-Life 2. It details the second half of Dr. Gordon Freeman's escape from City 17 through its canal system to Black Mesa East. Aboard an airboat, he fights off numerous Civil Protection units and a Hunter Chopper.
- During the first few moments aboard the airboat, the player can see the G-Man on the ledge of a nearby barn. When the player approaches, the G-Man retreats into the barn. Closer inspection reveals only a few headcrab zombies. It is also possible to see him a couple of times more, after the airboat is equipped with a Hunter Chopper's gun.
- The name of the chapter is a reference to the golf term Water hazard.
Black Mesa East
This is the fifth chapter of Half-Life 2. This chapter sees Freeman reaching his destination, Black Mesa East, after a series of chases through the canals. Gordon meets Dr. Judith Mossman for the first time, and is reunited with a former Black Mesa Scientist and Resistance leader, Eli Vance and Alyx. Gordon is also introduced to the Zero Point Energy Field Manipulator, also known as the 'Gravity Gun', a physics manipulator that quickly becomes indispensable, and after that, Gordon meets DOG, Alyx's robotic "pet." Like "A Red Letter Day," this chapter is full of insight and dialogue about the current state of the world, the people in it, and the aftermath of the Black Mesa Incident. While Gordon is playing with DOG in the scrapyard, Alyx spots Combine Scanners sweeping the area, shortly before an all out aerial raid on Black Mesa East. While attempting to rejoin the others, Gordon and Dog are separated from Alyx by a collapsed ceiling, and Gordon is forced to escape down a tunnel to Ravenholm, a place that Alyx didn't want to talk about earlier, showing obvious discomfort at the thought.
- There are several locations in this chapter where the original H.E.V. charger faceplate from Half-Life and it's expansions can be seen. It can be noticeably be seen in the scrapyard on a ledge just after entering the scrapyard where Alyx orders Gordon to grab the barrels with the Gravity Gun.
"We Don't Go To Ravenholm..."
This is the sixth chapter of Half-Life 2. It details Gordon Freeman's journey through the ghost town of Ravenholm. Originally a hidden village that lived free from the rule of the Combine, it was discovered and attacked by hundreds of Headcrab Shells, transforming almost the entire population into deadly Zombies. This chapter also introduces two new headcrab variants - the Poison Headcrab and the Fast Headcrab - and their zombie counterparts. Freeman kills zombies and avoids bizarre deathtraps, meeting the man who set them, Father Grigori, who gives Gordon a shotgun. Freeman and Grigori make their way to an old mine which has a path that leads back to City 17, but Grigori stays behind to fight zombies, and he continues to do so until the crypt behind him bursts open, leaving more zombies to come out from it. He continues to shoot the zombies for a while until he runs through a blazing fire into the crypt.
- If you stay in a certain area for a long period of time you will eventually hear female screams, and sometimes sobbing.
- The Ravenholm tunnels entrance through Black Mesa East sports a sign, which says WARNING: CONTAMINATED AREA. Many similar Notices are present in Ravenholm.
- If the player is to run to the entrance to the mine and then goes back, Grigori is still there, forever battling the hordes of zombies.
- The title is a reference to a comment made by Alyx Vance in the preceding chapter while showing Freeman around the base: "That's the old passage to Ravenholm. We don´t go there anymore."
This is the seventh chapter of Half-Life 2. Freeman is informed that Eli Vance has been taken to Nova Prospekt and sets out on a journey along Highway 17 to rescue him. The player encounters Combine Soldiers for the first time as well as a new type of Xen alien, the Antlions. Colonel Odessa Cubbage is also met in this level, giving Gordon the RPG.
- If the player loses the buggy, either by punting it into the sea with the Gravity Gun or by getting hit by the Razor Train, the message: "Assignment: Terminated. Subject: Freeman. Reason: Failure to preserve mission-critical resources." will be displayed. A similar message occurs if the player punts the buggy into the water after defeating a gunship following him on the highway, or jumps off a cliff. The message says:Assignment: Terminated. Subject: Freeman. Reason: Demonstration of exceedingly poor judgement.
This is the eighth chapter of Half-Life 2. It details the second half of Gordon Freeman's journey to Nova Prospekt. After exiting a zombie infested tunnel then crossing through the last part of the coast without the Scout Car, he encounters the first Antlion Guard of the game and is trained in usage of the Antlion Guard's pheropods. He then continues to the final part of the coast, where he battles many Nova Prospekt guards on his way into the prison. In this level, Antlions become the player's allies because Gordon has the Bugbait
- Even if you kill all the zombies in the tunnel at the beginning, you can still hear zombie roars in the background.
- The Spanish name for this level is Bunkers.
- The name of the chapter is a reference to the golf term Sand Trap, also known as bunkers.
- After passing the bunkers, the two large pipes coming down along the mountain is very similar to the pipes in the canyon in Surface Tension.
- If an antlion summoned by stepping on the sand manages to survive until the antlion pheropod is acquired, it will still be hostile to the player.
Nova Prospekt / Entanglement
This is the ninth chapter of Half-Life 2. In this chapter, Gordon Freeman attacks Nova Prospekt, a Combine base, and a former prison, and breaches its defenses with the help of an army of Antlions, with the goal of finding and rescuing the captured Resistance leader, Eli Vance. This is also the last chapter where Antlions are encountered, because the player soon leaves Antlion Territory.
- If the player escapes the second Antlion Guard encounter without killing the Guard, they can look into the room and see it looking around in the corner, and even creep up behind it and only being noticed when they get very close.
This is the "ninth a" chapter (designated "9a" in the game) of Half-Life 2. In it, Gordon Freeman meets up with Alyx Vance in the Nova Prospekt train depot. They discover that Dr. Mossman was actually a Combine spy working on Breen's side. Together, they search the prison for Eli Vance and Judith Mossman, all the while fighting off security forces. They split up several times, but finally they reunite to track down Mossman. She teleports herself and Eli out of the facility, getting to the Citadel, forcing Alyx and Gordon to take the risk in using the same teleporter to get back to Kleiner's lab.
- There are no more Antlions for the rest of the game, rendering the Bugbait useless, except for stunning Combine troops for a brief period.
This is the tenth chapter of Half-Life 2. Upon arriving in Kleiner's Lab after teleporting away from the Depot, Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance discover they have been stuck in a teleport "loop" for a week's time. They find that the teleport caused the destruction of Nova Prospekt, and the blow they struck there was taken as a sign to begin The Uprising. The two factions have been locked in combat for a week and all of City 17 is a warzone. Freeman goes on to aid in the battle, while Alyx remains in Kleiner's Lab to help him escape the city. The player is able to form small squads of citizens to help as they fight their way through the city towards Barney's location. Near the end of the chapter, Alyx returns to help Gordon but is captured by Combine soldiers and taken to the Citadel.
This is the eleventh chapter of Half-Life 2. In it, Gordon Freeman teams up with Barney and together they lead a battle at the Overwatch Nexus, finally fighting at the foot of the Citadel. This section involves heavy urban combat, aided by resistance members, against Striders, Gunships, and elite Combine Soldiers.
This is the twelfth chapter of Half-Life 2. It details Gordon Freeman's infiltration in the Combine Citadel. It is also a playground for the newly charged Gravity Gun, having many Combine Soldiers and Elites to kill.
- The City 17 as seen from the Citadel is literally a satellite image of nighttime Brooklyn, NY.
- The long ride sequence through the Citadel calls back to the opening sequence of the original Half-Life: that of a long sequence through a large facility that is for the most part intact. This idea is completed with the first two chapters of Episode One: a facility seen once fully intact now falling apart due to a large explosion, just like the Resonance Cascade.
This is the thirteenth and final chapter of Half-Life 2. It details the climactic confrontation between Wallace Breen, Gordon Freeman and the leaders of the Resistance. Mossman eventually regrets that she helped Breen, and releases Freeman, Alyx, and Eli. Breen attempts to go to the Dark Energy Reactor at the very top of the Citadel where a portal to the Combine Overworld is opened for him. In the end, Gordon causes the reactor to fail and begin to go critical. Just as the reactor explodes, probably killing Breen and nearly ready to kill Alyx and Gordon, the G-Man freezes time and addresses Gordon. He is put back into stasis by the G-Man. The fate of Breen and Alyx is unknown at the ending of this game, but Alyx's fate is revealed in the sequel. In the sequel, Alyx states that she "saw Breen fall", implying his death. However, Breen's fate still remains unrevealed.
Like in its predecessors, Gordon never speaks and the player views the action through his eyes only throughout the entirety of Half-Life 2. There are no cutscenes, nor any discontinuities or jumps in time from the player's point of view. Some have criticized these design decisions as narrative holdovers from Half-Life, that effectively limit how much of the backstory is explained. Due to the lack of cutscenes, the player never directly sees what happens in Gordon's absence.
Ultimately, it is not clear to what extent Gordon exists as a separate character outside of the player's influence. Since the start of Half-Life, Valve has made sure that the player's and Gordon's experience are one and the same. An example of Valve's player strategy is shown during the scene in Eli's lab. Investigation of certain props (most notably the newspaper board) triggers Eli to give some explanation to their meaning and history, thus indicating that Gordon presents emotions (or dialogue) that the non-player characters can detect but the player cannot.
The ending of Half-Life 2 is also very similar to that of the original: after completing a difficult task against seemingly impossible odds, Gordon is extracted from reality by the G-Man. Gordon is congratulated and told that "further assignments" should follow. The fates of many of the major characters, such as Alyx, Eli, and Judith, are left unexplored. Very few of the questions raised by Half-Life are answered, and several new ones are presented. The identity and nature of the G-Man remains a mystery. A number of these issues are addressed, however, in the sequel games, Episode One and Episode Two.
|Game storyline articles|
|Half-Life story arc||Half-Life storyline · Half-Life: Opposing Force storyline · Half-Life: Blue Shift storyline · Half-Life: Decay storyline|
|Half-Life 2 story arc||Half-Life 2 original storyline · Half-Life 2 storyline · Half-Life 2: Episode One storyline · Half-Life 2: Episode Two storyline · Portal storyline · Portal 2 storyline|
|Overall||Timeline of the Half-Life universe|