Hardcore action storytelling has finally made it’s way into web content. Episode one of Escape From City 17 by the Purchase Brothers hit the web last week and already scored up a million views in three days, crashing the Brothers web site, not once but twice. With it’s shocking violence and spectacular blend of live action and in game footage, the short delivers what could be the start of a potentially revolutionary series and career for the Purchase Brothers.
One really doesn’t need to have a knowledge of the Half Life universe to understand the series, but it does help. Very quick, in the first Half Life game, a portal was opened by protagonist Gordon Freeman that allowed evil aliens called “The Combine” to take over Earth. In Half Life 2 and it’s subsequent expansion packs, Freeman leads the resistance in City 17 against the alien hordes.
Escape from 17 follows two of those resistance fighters as they try to escape from the crumbling City. Their story is visually dazzling, especially since as posted on the Brothers YouTube page, it was made for under 500 dollars. Those 500 dollars, spread between the first two episodes, go a long way when the directors are technical wizards.
Hailing from Canada, David and Ian Purchase are commercial directors, represented by Toronto-based Sons and Daughters. Before City 17, their previous videos were an ad featuring giant flying coke bottles and a very high tech iPhone commercial. According to the brothers, City 17 was initially envisioned as a spec commercial to try out new post production techniques.
The first episode opens with a tracking shot across the worn torn City. Alien gunships loom over head, Giant striders (the Half Life Version of tripods) prowl the ruins, a building explodes after glorious fire ball. The sequence which is clearly using in game models and sounds is an effective opener, but gets even more amazing when it seamlessly switches over to live action. The short is dominated by by a gritty execution on three resistance fighters by the evil Combine aliens. With each gunshot delivered to kneeling victims, there is the blood spray added in post production and the viewer knows this is not just any online series.
One of the reasons the short works is how effectively it captures the tone of game. Sounds, imagery, and even the weapons design are all identical to the game. Fans will even be thrilled to see the classic crowbar make an appearance. As reported on their YouTube page, The Purchase Brothers took meetings with Half Life makers Valve Software before making this short, and maintain contact with the video game company.
The opening episode ends with a preview of the next one, complete with impressive shots of darkly lit combat sequences, giant hangars, forrest environments, and even the notorious head crabs zombies, all staples of the video game series. One must wonder if the video game series legendary protagonist Gordon Freeman, will make an appearance in future installments. With the view count (over 1 Million on YouTube and counting) and it’s presence on the web exploding like a combine grenade, this looks to be one series to watch.