Half-Life 2 takes place in and around the broken City 17, in what was once Eastern Europe on an Earth that is now under the rule of an oppressive alien government. Twenty years have passed since the Earth was lost, and structures built since are usually alien in origin: tall angles, sharp towers, shining in blues and black. While these new buildings are nearly always visible, they have not replaced what existed before–the remains of what Earth used to be. Under this new rule, it appears that buildings are no longer being properly maintained and rebuilt: everything is falling apart, decay is everywhere. Rather than being rebuilt, these dying buildings are being patched up, if not abandoned at all.
On a cliff high above the sea lies a lone house. No others nearby, this home seems alone in the world, leaving those to inside to wonder if they were the only people left in the world. But there are no people in this house; there is hardly even a roof on the place. This home, like so many seen in the vast abandoned wastes around the city, is empty. Long since raided for anything valuable, this house that was once a home now lies as merely a dead shell. The kitchen holds nothing of value, a broken shelf and empty cabinets if anything at all. Most rooms are filled only with dust and cobwebs, broken glass from windows shattered unknown years ago.
Outside, the paint is peeling away, the cost of a wet seabreeze going unchecked for decades. Trash litters the backyard, protected by what was once a full fence of wooden boards (of which few remain), but there is more than useless trash behind this house. A tree stands dejected and alone, the only remaining inhabitant of this once full home, a tire hanging from its branches. Once an object of joy, this swing hangs limp, swaying slightly in the corrosive breeze. It is unknown when this tire last saw use, and doubtful that it will ever be used again, yet it still hangs, one of the last signs of human life in this abandoned wasteland.
Not all places in this new Earth are as abandoned as they seem. A few have successfully escaped the heavily monitored City, and live along the sea and sewage pipes that surround it–in places carefully made invisible to dangerous eyes. What appears to be an abandoned storage building near a dock can, on closer inspection be revealed as a home, a place for those newly free to rest and find a place of their own.
This new world, though it may seem hopelessly overrun by an alien government, still holds hope. Not for Earth’s freedom–that is no longer possible to those who survive–but for a new life. They may not have free passage through their world, and they may have had to abandon their old homes and old ways of living, but humans on this earth can still live their own lives, away from the prying eyes of the alien overlords. That lonely tire swing may never be used again, but there will be others like it.