Skip to main content

Great moments in PC gaming: Leading the resistance counterattack on City 17

Half-Life 2
(Image credit: Valve)

Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.

Half-Life 2

(Image credit: Valve)

Developer: Valve
Publisher: Valve
Year: 2004

While the Half-Life series has a lot of iconic moments, from the lab accident that started it all to learning why we don't go to Ravenholm, none stand out for me as much as leading the resistance to retake City 17 near the end of Half-Life 2.

Gordon's journey does a great job of making you want to get back at the Combine from the very beginning. They're jerks. They hit you with sticks. They make you pick up trash that isn't even yours. Much of the first few hours of the game are spent showing you how bleak and oppressive life has become for humanity since the invasion, with Breen's smug face proclaiming it a paradise. And then you get little glimmers of hope as you're reunited with Barney and start discovering pockets of resistance.

This all culminates when you return to City 17 as the fabled "Anticitizen One", the Combine's most wanted. You've become more than a scientist thrown into extraordinary circumstances at this point, more than a bearded videogame protagonist with a gun. You're an inspirational figure. Alongside you, facing the same daunting odds, are ragtag freedom fighters in weathered jackets and fingerless gloves showing that, for all our faults, we humans refuse to go down fighting when you try to take over our cities with flying knife robots and giant tripod walkers.

As I fought brutally through the streets I felt proud of my resistance comrades. They didn't have plot armor or a gravity gun but they followed me into danger anyway. When I took down a stalker with a rocket launcher, they cheered and surged ahead to press the hard-won advantage. And while at this rate we may never see how the war ends, we won the battle. We at least showed the Combine that Earth doesn't bow to brain bugs without giving them a black eye.

I look forward to bumping into some of these brave men and women around a fire barrel again in the upcoming prequel, even knowing some of them won't survive what's coming. Gordon became a symbol, but they were the real heroes.

Well, OK, that’s not exactly true. Gordon was still the real hero. But they helped!