The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Route Kanal

Route Kanal is the third chapter of Half-Life 2, following 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 heavy combat with Civil Protection forces and encounters the first of the alien enemies such as Barnacles, Zombies and Headcrabs.

  • The .45 USP Match is the first weapon Freeman acquires in the game. With a relatively rapid rate of fire and plentiful ammunition, it is also the only weapon one has access to early on. One useful tactic is to zoom in on distant enemies, aim for their head, zoom back out, and fire.

  • City 17 was directly inspired by Eastern European architecture during the days of the Soviet Union. Back in its era, Half Life 2 was one of the most resource demanding games out there, requiring the best of computers to play.

  • While pistol ammunition is relatively common, it nonetheless helps to dispatch the combine units by the tried-and-true ‘aim for the head’ techniques. Three to four rounds will be required, since those gas masks offer some protection from bullets.

  • City 17 possesses architecture from mostly Eastern European architecture dating from pre-World War II neoclassicism, to post-war revival of classical designs, Soviet Union modernism, and post-Soviet contemporary designs

  • There’s a mounted gun in the canals that one may use to clear up any Combine foot soldiers. One of the interesting aspects of Half Life 2 is the sheer number of weapons that cannot be wielded by the player, among them a Combine sniper rifle and mines.

  • Barnacles are the easiest of the Xen fauna to dispatch. To take out large clusters like these, place a flammable barrel into the tongue of one barnacle, then fire two shots at the barrel. By the time the barnacle has moved the barrel to its mouth, the latter should explode and take the entire cluster with it. This technique is certainly more efficient than shooting each one individually.

  • A bit of creativity is required to get around some places, whether it be jumping onto the right platforms or solving simple physics puzzles to move on to the next area.

  • I think the game was patched since when I first played in back in 2005: the water here is a lot clearer compared to the aqua blue I remember. The ammunition counters have also seen a slight change, now showing the ammunition type in addition to ammunition remaining to the player. A submachine gun should be available for pickup somewhere in the level around this point.

  • One spends a fair amount of time in the underground complexes that lie beneath City 17. These places are reminiscent of the subways and tunnels that dot the former Soviet Union, although they are decidedly less peaceable. One thing’s for sure: the HEV suit gives Dr. Freeman an edge on even the Olympic divers.

  • Once the depths of the underground complex is behind you, the zombies start showing up. The only effective means of defeating them are with headshots: without the headcrab, the zombies present no threat to the player.

Root Kanal remains one of my favourite levels in Half Life 2, next to Water Hazard. Set completely within a dystopian urban setting, the atmosphere evoked is a dead city that is completely hostile to its inhabitants. The East European architecture enhances these emotions, and the level forces the player to think creatively. With only three weapons available, players will find themselves growing close to the SMG and pistol as they make their way to the Resistance’s next base, where an airboat awaits Freeman.

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