Places – Half-Life 2’s Citadel
In Half-Life 2 the player is pulled through one fascinating location to the next. Whether you’re exploring a location as simple as a train yard, or as terrifying as the remnants of a town overridden with headcrabs, the art direction and layout always keeps things interesting.
No locations, for my personal playthroughs however, are as interesting or memorable as when you finally reach the Citadel. Throughout your adventure, the structure looms in the background demanding your interest. It’s always your goal, and reaching it is no simple task.
The simplified story of Half-Life 2 is one where aliens have taken over humanity. Your concept of what this means is limited throughout the game, but entering the Citadel puts everything into overwhelming perspective. Fighting an oppressive soldier force in isolated gun battles is one way to inspire distaste for your enemy, but helplessly watching as humans are being transported and collected in the giant factory is both a humbling and infuriating experience.
As you explore the inside of the structure you’ve seen from a distance the whole game, you can’t help but feel your actions leading up to that point have served little to no purpose. You may have defeated hundreds of Combine soldiers on your way to the Citadel, but what’s the point if their resources and power can create a structure like this?
Of course, all that changes when a mistake turns your gravity gun from one of the most powerful weapons in all of video gaming to arguable the most powerful weapon in all of gaming. You go from helpless victim of the rotating human-enslaving cog-machine to a super-human ant incapable of being squished, ripping computer consoles off the walls and throwing them at your enemy, destroying the Citadel from the inside. What was previously a terrifying showcase of your enemy’s power turns into a physics playground where you’re the one in charge.
In a game full of memorable locations and unforgettable moments, the Citadel stands out as an impossible to forget area that expertly showcases both the power of your enemy, and your own.