The Combat Zone is the poorest and most dangerous part of any modern city in the world, and Night City is no exception.
A burned-out sprawl of tenements, abandoned factories, boarded-up offices and trashed shopping malls, occupied only by the devious and the dead. During the light of day, the Zone sleeps under its industrial strength of pall of smog. But at night, the Zone comes alive, for it is only then that it’s most feared residents venture out of their sweltering sewer holes and rat-infested hovels to howl and prowl. And it’s also the Zone where the Cyberpunks come to play, no street lamps to mar the shadows, no monitor cameras to watch illegal deals, and no cops to interfere. Of all the means streets of the Dark Future, the Combat Zone is the meanest. Firefights are a way of life, drugs are a way of choice, and brutal and sudden death is always a possibility.
The most infamous Combat Zone in the world may well be the one in Detroit. There, the Zone was so bad the city government decided to wall the whole thing off. It took years but, in the end, the city completed the task after which they declared the Zone a minimum-security prison. Anyone born there is essentially guilty of the crime of being alive and anyone trying to escape on the city side can expect to be intercepted and dumped back or shot.
During the 20s
The Hong Kong Combat Zone was also known as “The Hell of the Death of a Thousand cuts” due to the local gang preference for blades over guns. Using a gun in the Hong Kong Combat Zone is a quick way to be branded as a member of the Triad, a Corporate spy or worse: a weak target incapable of defending oneself. After all, a gun will eventually run out of bullets but, in a Combat Zone, it is always possible to find a sharp piece of jagged metal. By the end of the 4th Corporate War, the Hell of the Death of a Thousand Cuts was as empty as the rest of the city, thanks to a potent and highly contagious bio weapon that was unleashed within the Hong Kong City Limits.
The Combat Zone in Night City is every bit as fun and interesting as any other in the world. No one goes into the Night City Combat Zone unless they absolutely have to. Even the hardest Solos know getting in and out can be a roll of the dice. Entire security teams have gone in and vanished. Only two organizations, Delamein Taxi and Trauma Team will enter into the Combat Zone willingly, and that’s only in well-armed and armored vehicles and with backup. Although Network News 54 may send some drones every now and then to see if they can find some morbid images of firefights for the evening news, like the vultures they are.
The Combat Zone in Night City evolved as the city itself. Night City was a New City, dreamed and designed by the late visionary architect Richard Alix Night. But his sudden and not completely surprising death in 1998, left an area out of his visionary dream, creating the first Combat Zone.
At the beginning of the XXI century
The Combat Zone in Night City was nothing more than a ghetto with its often-changing borders defined by Gang Territories and economic statistics. The neighborhoods and housing projects contained within were originally built to house both the construction crews who worked tirelessly to build the city, as well as the disenfranchised that were forced out of their homes. As the city grew at an unrivaled pace, most anyone who could afford it moved to locations more convenient to the work. As more and more people were pushed out, and more and more and more people were fleeing rural homes for the cities, the Housing projects were soon overwhelmed and the neighborhoods devolved year by year into a den of crime and neglect. As gangs began staking claim on every corner of Night City and violent incidents and drug wars raged, the police and security corporations began a short-lived but unprecedented period of co-operation: Arasaka, Militech, and Lazarus began a campaign to push the gangs out of the North East area of Night City where most of the corporate interests lay.
Draconic and unconstitutional laws were being passed allowing for the seizure and sale of any property related to gang activity, the police relentlessly harassed anyone wearing gang colors. Arrests were made by the score, and property was seized left and right. Apartment Building owners were pressured to evict suspected gang affiliates, some were bribed by corporations, and others were threatened with arrest and seizure, The properties that were seized were sold for pennies to corporations. In 6 months the worst of the gangs had been pushed out of Northern Night City and into the slums to the south.
The push continued across the city, until the majority of the most violent gangs were condensed into a smaller and smaller area. The result is the infamous Combat Zone, with gangs so firmly rooted that the only way to remove them would to demolish the entire area. Many gangs have a presence in the Night City Combat Zone, new ones spring up all the time, only to be slaughtered and absorbed by the others.
Everything changed with the 4th Corporate War
A mini-nuke was detonated in the corporate center of Night City, destroying much of city center and causing a minor earthquake that flooded the inner city, leaving the zone surrounding the radioactive ruins without basic services and pushing the inhabitants to zones in the Greater Night City Area that were abandoned during the collapse in the 90s, expanding the city limits. During the reconstruction of Night City that turned the metropolis into a megacity, one of the most ambitious construction plans was to turn the former posh residential area of Pacifica, that in the 20s was home of stars and idols like the Rockerboy Johnny Silverhand or the media Bes Isis, into a posh resort that would make even the most modern European resorts pale in comparison. An unfortunate economic crisis in the 60 forced megacorporations funding this construction to withdraw their funds, leaving half-finished buildings and workers behind.
The bulk of this workforce was composed by Haitians that moved to Night City escaping the natural disasters that sank the Caribbean Islands, and the abandonment of Megacorporations meant the loss of their income and the necessity of finding new ways of surviving in a half-built landscape. This also meant the degradation of this district that became the new Combat Zone. Soon the Haitian Community started to organize the life in Pacifica and escalated ranks in the gang hierarchy, taking control of one of the most violent booster gangs, the drug dealers Voodoo Boys, a bunch of white boys that dressed in feathers in an attempt to intimidate their competitors with their alleged Voodoo magic. This way the real Haitian Voodoo practitioners, became the Voodoo Boys and changed drug dealing for netrunning and shell trading. Also turning Pacifica into a hub for netrunners looking for the cutting edge, and sometimes more illegal than not, programs that would help them perform their digital magic, and also forcing into the Combat Zone a megacorporation that otherwise would’ve done everything to stay out of it: the boogieman of the net, Netwatch. Welcome to the Combat Zone, let’s have fun!