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Characters / Half-Life

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Characters from the Half-Life franchise.

Warning: Here be heavy spoilers. More is to come.

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    Player Characters 

Dr. Gordon Freeman

Age: 27.
Education: PhD in Theoretical Physics, MIT.
Employer and Position: Black Mesa Research Facility, Research Associate.
Assignment: Anomalous Materials Laboratory.
Clearance: Level 3.
Administrative Sponsor: Classified.
Disaster Response Priority: Discretionary.

Voiced by: None. (No, Ross Scott does not count)

The main hero of the Half-Life series, Gordon Freeman is, at the point where Half-Life begins, a recently graduated scientist who is about half a hour late for an experiment, taking place deep within the Black Mesa Research Facility. If only he had known that it would soon become the least of his worries that day...

Finding himself at the ground zero of a disaster, trapped between an invasion of aggressive creatures from the dimension Xen and a shadowy military force that wants him and his colleagues dead, Freeman manages to battle his way across the facility in the span of two days, staying alive against all odds, aided by his HEV suit and staunch determination. He is eventually teleported to Xen, where he takes on the leader of the aliens, after which he finds himself face to face with the mysterious G-Man, who offers him a job.

Displaced by G-Man in time and space, Gordon suddenly finds himself in the so-called "City 17", in some undisclosed part of Eastern Europe two decades after the events at Black Mesa. He discovers that Earth has been conquered by an alien empire called "The Combine", who rules their new colony with an iron fist, and he quickly manages to run afoul of them and is soon hunted by their military. But he also finds out that some of his old friends from Black Mesa have organized a resistance group that fights against the regime, and that he himself has become a revered and famous figure for the rebels due to his actions at Black Mesa. Together with the resistance fighter Alyx Vance, he ignites a full-scale rebellion against the Combine and manages to bring down their central control-center on Earth.

In the wake of the overthrow of the Combine control, however, Gordon and Alyx, along with the rest of the rebels, soon find themselves engaged in an even more bloody and desperate struggle to defeat the remaining Combine forces on Earth, and, even more importantly, preventing them from contacting the empire proper for reinforcements.

  • The Ace: A brilliant scientist who was hired by one of the most prestigious research institutions in the world before the age of 30, quickly becomes expertly skilled in almost all conventional and unconventional weaponry despite no prior military or weapons training (other than a basic run-through on the use of MP5 in the Hazard Course), and consistently successful when fighting against overwhelming odds. When the Rebels have lost all hope and need an army to turn the tide, they look solely to Gordon. And he succeeds.
  • Action Survivor: Despite his legendary reputation come the second game, he was really just an Average (really smart) Joe minding his own business at a government job who was really good at adapting when the Incident happened. Even when he wakes up in the Combine era, he applies his resourcefulness despite not really knowing what's going on.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: By the time of Half-Life 2, he doesn't have any definitive rank in the rebellion, but he pretty much commands any rebel squads he comes across, who are all too willing to Zerg Rush a position if he so much as looks at it, all because he's good at killing things.
  • Badass Bookworm: He's a graduate of MIT with a PhD in Theoretical Physics; his doctoral thesis is ludicrously titled "Observation of Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Entanglement on Supraquantum Structures by Induction Through Nonlinear Transuranic Crystal of Extremely Long Wavelength (ELW) Pulse from Mode-Locked Source Array". In laymen's terms... looking at teleportation effects on crystals when you fire lasers at them. Which suspiciously sounds like the experiment you are conducting at the start.
  • Badass Normal: Despite no prior military training or any superpowers, he regularly fights his way through highly trained special forces, augmented transhuman soldiers and super powered aliens.
  • Crowbar Combatant: Provides the trope image.
  • The Dreaded: He steadily builds up a reputation throughout his adventures in Half-Life; by the midpoint of the game, the marines know exactly who he is and are actively hunting for him specifically. By the end, the Nihilanth is able to directly address him by name.
    • By the second game, his fame has grown to such proportions that mere sighting of him by Breen is enough justify mobilizing the entire Combine Overwatch and yet they still underestimate him and get slaughtered in droves as a result.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: At the end of Half-Life 1, he takes down the Nihilanth.
    • The Rebels' reaction when he takes down his first Strider, and in Episode Two where he takes out an army of them.
  • Divine Intervention: Well, more like "reality-altering shapeshifting alien intervention" — as much of a badass as Freeman is, there have been a few times where he should have died, or even did outright die, only for the mysterious G-Man to intervene and keep him alive for his own reasons.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Averted. His reputation actually seems to do more work than him at times. He's definitely a badass by all standards, but his reputation reaches further than he does, inspiring and rallying the Resistance whether or not he does anything.
  • Famed In-Story: By Half-Life 2 and gains several names from the resistance.
  • Genius Bruiser: The guy who blows up every Combine thing he sees happens to be a graduate of MIT, with a doctorate in Theoretical Physics no less.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: In promotional artwork, his HEV suit doesn't have a helmet, unlike those worn by the bodies of the other dead scientists found scattered around Xen. Wether this is the case in gameplay or not is something that the fans have disputed for decades.
  • The Hero: The one who thwarts two alien races
  • Heroic Mime: The whole time, which is also Lampshaded in the second game.
    • Exception would be when he was breathing during the Black Mesa Incident, if that counts.
    • In Half-Life 2, Gordon also utters mild grunts of pain sometimes when he's on fire or falls from leg shattering heights.
    • Alyx lampshades it early on when they meet: "Man of few words, aren't you?"
  • Icon of Rebellion: In 2.
  • Implacable Man: Gordon Freeman didn't really mean to save the world by slaughtering hundreds of soldiers and aliens at Black Mesa. They were just in the way of the exit.
  • Informed Ability: Gordon is a theoretical physicist, but the most technically complex things he does in the games are plug machinery in and solve rudimentary physics puzzles. Of course, his young age most likely means he only got his Ph.D. a couple years ago at most, so he wouldn't have had time to rise very high in the Black Mesa hierarchy before all hell broke loose. Barney hangs a lampshade on that in the second game.
    Barney: Good job, Gordon. Throwing that switch and all? I can see your MIT education really pays for itself.
  • Ironic Name: Gordan Freeman spends most of the series as a puppet of the G-man's machinations.
  • Lightning Bruiser: He can take quite a bit of punishment, thanks to the suit, but can also run at ridiculous speeds and carry more firepower than the entire 2nd Armored Division.
  • Living Legend: In the second game, as he was put into a statis by the G-Man. Most of the resistance knew him through passed stories, until he was placed in City 17 after years passed.
  • Meaningful Name: The Resistance and Vortigaunts often call him "The One Free Man", the name serving as inspiration in their own fight for freedom.
  • Memetic Badass: In-Universe and out! Many characters from the second game easily associate him with his "expertise" in crowbars.
  • Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds: The entire Black Mesa Incident, specifically being told to force an alien crystal, that appeared out of nowhere, into the test chamber that led every bit of the planet down under. Oh, and he killed off the Load-Bearing Boss that was actively preventing the Combines from invading the planet.
  • One-Man Army: While his suit is a big part of it (it gives him about 4 times as much health as a regular soldier when fully charged, can automatically reload his holstered weapons, and applies morphine and other assistance to keep him going at full strength even when badly wounded), it is still pretty amazing considering he is just a scientist.
    • The best example is probably at the end of Episode Two. The rebel's main headquarters comes under attack from multiple directions. Dozens of Combine Elite Mooks storm through the roof on dropships and set up numerous defensive positions, a bunch of Hunters break in to support them, and a dozen striders, each supported by 2-3 Hunters, start attacking the base. After the rebel personnel is completely slaughtered, they just send Freeman, thinking that he's all they'll need to repel hundreds of heavily armed and armored dark energy rifle wielding super soldiers, and a bunch of giant tripod death machines supported by dozens of other, smaller tripod death machines. They're right. Completely.
  • One Riot, One Ranger: By Episode Two the Resistance sees him as nothing short than an unstoppable god amongst men, and he's often sent into the fray alone or with minimal help — not because of Resistance laziness or cowardice, but because Freeman consistently wins and thrashes the Combine in the process single-handedly.
  • Powered Armor: His rechargeable HEV Suit, which provides damage mitigation, a Geiger counter, ammunition counter. The second game improves this by adding an Auxiliary power used for sprinting, oxygen monitoring, neurotoxin application, and a zoom-in feature like a binocular.
  • Red Baron:
  • Right Man in the Wrong Place: The Trope Namer, as described by the G-Man, but not an example, because he's being manipulated by the G-Man.

Barney Calhoun

Age: Unknown.
Education: 2 years Martinson College, Undecided Major.
Employer and Position: Black Mesa Research Facility, Security Guard.
Clearance: Level 3.
Disaster Response Priority: Preservation of facility equipment and materials
Secondary Priority: Welfare of research personnel
Low Priority: Personal safety

Voice Actor: Mike Shapiro (Half-Life 2 and Episode One)

The player character in Blue Shift, Barney Calhoun was a security guard at Black Mesa, and arrived to his duties at the same time as Gordon. Unlike Gordon and Adrian, he was the only player character in the first Half-Life not to have a special suit, and the only main character to escape from Black Mesa on his own, along with a few scientists.

In Half-Life 2, Barney, posing as a Combine Civil Protection security guard, saves Gordon from heading to Nova Prospekt. He helps Gordon fight for the Resistance in City 17, and in Episode One, he helps some of the residents evacuate. Last seen boarding a train outbound from City 17 by the end of Episode One with the help of Gordon and Alyx, his whereabouts are unknown in Episode Two.

  • Action Survivor: His character arc in Blue Shift is simply surviving the incident and escaping the facility with some of the scientific staff. There's not even a Final Boss for him to fight.
  • Ascended Extra: From being a stock security guard in Half-Life 1 to the star of Blue Shift to a major character in Half-Life 2.
  • Badass Normal: Moreso than any of the other player characters. He went through Blue Shift with only security guard equipment, and unlike Gordon and Adrian, he isn't under surveillance by the G-Man.
  • Call-Back: In Half-Life, Barney invites Dr. Freeman to join him on the firing range and grab a beer with him. In Half-Life 2, he mentions he still owes Freeman a beer.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Opening his locker in Blue Shift reveals that he's currently reading two books. One is actually titled Conspiracy Theories, while the other is about aliens.
  • Crowbar Combatant: Like Freeman, he stumbles across a crowbar during his trek through the wrecked portions of Black Mesa early in Blue Shift. He uses it alongside his trusty pistol for most of the early segments of Blue Shift. And it's implied that it's this same crowbar from Black Mesa that he hands over to Gordon at the start of Half-Life 2.
  • The Lancer: Fills the gap for Alyx in Half-Life 2 during the chapter Follow Freeman!
  • Nice Guy: A trait he shares with most of the good guys.
  • One-Man Army: In "Blue Shift".
  • Precision F-Strike: Gives one at the end of the chapter noted above.
    Barney: And if you see Doctor Breen tell him I said "FUCK YOU!"
  • Put on a Bus: More accurately, the second-to-last train to leave City 17 at the end of Episode One.
  • Reverse Mole: Works within Civil Protection and uses it as a means to help civilians escape from the city
  • Rebel Leader: He seems to be the rebels de facto field commander, behind in rank only to Eli and maybe Gordon.
  • Suddenly Voiced: As typical for protagonists in the series, he's a Heroic Mime in Blue Shift, but he talks as an NPC in Half-Life 2.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Barney handles himself well in Blue Shift (even surviving through Xen, for one), but when we meet up with him in the second game, he's one of the leaders of the Resistance, their mole in Civil Protection, and once the revolution hits the streets, a competent field commander.

Corporal Adrian Shephard

Age: 22.
Training: United States Marine Corps, Special Forces.
Assignment: Hazardous Environment Combat Unit, Santiago, Arizona.
Mission: Classified.

Voiced by: Nobody.

The player character in Opposing Force, Adrian Shephard was one of the men in his unit assigned to Black Mesa to do a full containment, cleaning out the witnesses, and finding Gordon Freeman. However, his transport was ambushed and shot down before he was given his mission, which leads him to work together with Black Mesa's scientists and security guards despite them becoming increasingly distrustful of him as the game progresses. In some of his attempts to escape and regroup with any members of his team, the G-Man both helped and hindered him along the way.

He was ultimately detained by the G-Man in Another Dimension at the end of Opposing Force, now pending further evaluation.

  • Badass Normal: As with Freeman and Calhoun. In his case though, he manages to fight through and survive against a unit of trained Government agents and two simultaneous alien invasions.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: One of his diary entries from the game manual of Opposing Force has him saying that he wants to be part of a special reassignment and for a piece of action. And considering what happens once he's in Black Mesa, it's heavily implied that he regrets thinking this...
    Shephard:"Another typically hellish day at base camp... I'll be glad when this is over and I can get assigned a mission. There has been this really weird civie spotted at the base. Rumor is he's from some government branch looking to recruit; others say he's with some secret research group. I would jump at the chance to join. It would be cool just for the change and the adventure."
  • Breakout Mook Character: In the main Half-Life game, the marines were just enemies to shoot at. In Opposing Force, you play as one.
  • Cold Sniper: He receives training in the use of the M40 Sniper Rifle during boot camp, and manages to acquire one from the Black Ops late into the Black Mesa incident. And being the Heroic Mime he is, all his kills with the weapon are done without him ever speaking a single word.
  • Cool Pet: One of his weapons is a Spore Launcher, which is a small alien he uses to shoot at bigger aliens. The reason it is considered a pet is that if the player is standing still long enough while equipping it, Shephard will actually pet it.
  • Deus ex Machina: Early in the game, Shephard is trapped in a room which is filling with toxic waste. The only reason he doesn't die is that the G-Man opens the door for him so he can escape.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: After fighting his way through hordes of aliens, Shephard finally reached the evacuation. The only reason he stays behind is that the G-Man closes the door to prevent him from escaping.
  • The Faceless: Has only two character art pictures of him, both with his gas mask on. His multiplayer image is just a generic HECU soldier.
  • Fingerless Gloves: Yet he wears a gas mask.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Based on his picture, he's constantly wearing a gasmask.
  • He Knows Too Much: The G-Man knows Shephard has probably witnessed too much, which is why he decides to have him detained, despite his employers wanting him killed for it.
  • Long Bus Trip: Despite the facts that Opposing Force ends with Shephard in a state from which he could easily be brought back, and Gabe Newell himself have stated that Valve is planning to "bring him back one of these days", no mentioning of him has been made in any of the Half-Life sequels.
  • One-Man Army: Fought more Black Ops assassins and carried more weapons than Barney or Gordon.
  • Pet The Spore Launcher: Shephard's idle animation indicates he really has a fondness for the thing.
  • Powered Armor: He wears a vest which requires power but can protect him against things which would otherwise kill him. In his training, the drill instructor even demonstrates this by firing a shotgun at him while he wears a fully powered vest.
    "As you can see, you are not dead."
  • Semper Fi: Like the rest of the HECU, he's shown to be extremely determined with regards to fighting the alien threats and trying to find a way out of Black Mesa.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: He's rendered unconscious at the start of the game and only comes to around the same time as the HECU decides to pull out of Black Mesa.
  • Space Marine: Downplayed. Adrian Shephard is never in space. While his branch of the Marines is explicitly reserved for fighting aliens, he and his comrades remain planted firmly on Earth.
  • Suicide Mission: After G-Man hinders his one chance of escaping from Black Mesa, he ends up going deeper and deeper into the bowels of the facility. In the end, he goes to fight the Gene Worm despite knowing he will probably die.
  • Villain Protagonist: While it's rather hard to call Adrian a "villain", he was actually working for HECU in order to annihilate not only the aliens, but also the Black Mesa staff, the witnesses and Freeman himself. The fact that the trailer for Blue Shift expansion pack features him with the text "You played the villain" may probably help, though...
  • Walking Armory: Notable in that his weapons not only includes various types of guns but also alien lifeforms.
    • Wrench Whack: One of his weapons is a Pipe Wrench.
    • Knife Fight: Another of his weapons is a Combat Knife, which a quick enough player can easily use to kill both aliens and Black Ops agents.
    • Cool Guns: The typical shotguns and machine guns.
    • Living Weapon: He has one alien what he can use as gun that shoots energy balls, another alien that he uses as a gun that shoots exploding green balls (see Cool Pet), and an alien which will viciously attack anything he throws it at. He also has one of those hanging barnacles which can be used as a grappling hook, but this last one doesn't count because it can't be used as a weapon.
      • The barnacle can be used on all non-boss enemies actually. It's just not a good idea as they'll be shooting/clawing you the whole time and it takes a few bites to kill larger enemies, particularly the aliens. It's effective on Headcrabs though.
    • Sniper Rifle: Like the HECU snipers, Shephard has access to the M40 sniper rifle.
    • Grenades
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Shephard inevitably gets snarked at by the scientists by the time it's clear he wasn't sent there to save anyone.
  • You Remind Me of X: G-Man uses variant 1 towards Shephard, and mentions his ability to survive against all odds as the main reason. G-Man also mentions that this why he saved Shephard's life and argued against his employers' wishes to kill him.

Gina Cross

Age: 25. Note 
Employer and Position: Black Mesa Research Facility, Research Associate and Hazardous Environment Supervisor.
Education: PhD in Bioengineering and Mechanical Engineering, Caltech. Note 
Clearance: Level 4.
Administrative Sponsor: Richard Keller. Note 

Voice Actor: Kathy Levin

Dr. Gina Cross is one half of the protagonist team in Half-Life: Decay and a Black Mesa scientist. What happened to her after the events of Decay is unknown.

  • Action Girl
  • Ascended Extra: A hologram of her as the Hazard Course Instructor appears in Half-Life and Opposing Force. She can also be seen on security camera footage in Blue Shift, and is one of the original multiplayer characters.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Blue Oni to Green's Red Oni.
  • The Smurfette Principle: She was the only female Black Mesa employee to appear in the first game, and only as a hologram in the tutorial.
  • Uncertain Doom: In Opposing Force, a body resembling hers is found near one of the Displacer's Xen teleport locations, and said body has the file name "Gina.mdl". However, it's worth noting that said model was a standard one from Half-Life: Deathmatch, and was created before Decay, so her fate is ambiguous at best.
    • Randy Pitchford confirmed that the body was in fact Gina's in a response to the question on Twitter Though her fate remains unconfirmed by Valve.

Colette Green

Age: 31. Note 
Employer and Position: Black Mesa Research Facility, Research Associate.
Education: PhD in Electrical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon.
Clearance: Level 4.
Administrative Sponsor: Richard Keller. Note 

Voice Actor: Lani Minella

Dr. Colette Green is one half of the protagonist team in Half-Life: Decay and a Black Mesa scientist. What happened to her after the events of Decay is unknown.

  • Action Girl
  • Blood Knight
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Red Oni to Cross' Blue Oni.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Assuming the aforementioned body found in Opposing Force really is Gina's, it's never made clear what happened to Colette. Pitchford even states they don't know what happened to her, albeit he claims that she might be in the G-Man's freezer with Adrian Shephard.

    Supporting Characters 

Alyx Vance

Voice Actor: Merle Dandridge (Half-Life 2, Episodes One and Two)

The heroine of Half-Life 2, Alyx Vance helped Gordon Freeman time and again in his work with the Resistance. She also follows Gordon the whole way throughout Episodes One and Two.

  • Action Girl: Is capable of holding on her own against the Combine, is athletic and knows how to wield firearms.
  • Adorkable: Some of her expressions fall into this, thanks to the Source engine's somewhat realistic face rendering.
  • Ambiguously Brown: See Mixed Ancestry below.
  • Armor Is Useless: See Made of Iron; bizarrely enough, she can survive much more damage than other human NPCs (bar Barney and Freeman himself), even though she's not wearing any kind of armor, just a jacket and hoodie.
  • Badass in Distress: In the initial Half-Life 2, she gets bagged by the Combine during the revolt, and almost ends up sent through a Combine portal before Mossman saves her. In Episode Two, she gets skewered by a Hunter and is rendered Only Mostly Dead until the Vorts save her.
  • Boyish Short Hair
  • But Not Too Black: Noticeably fairer-skinned than her father, commonly mistaken for a tanned Caucasian woman (even though she's half African-American, half Malaysian). In discussions praising notable People of Color in video games, she tends to get left off the list as a result.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Deuteragonist: Of the Half-Life 2 series.
  • Disney Death: In Episode Two she gets stabbed in the back by a Hunter, and just manages to say "Gordon... help..." before she passes out, appearing to be dead. Her condition goes from critically injured to no pulse left just before the Vortigaunts manage to save her.
  • Exposition Fairy: When she accompanies you, she does some explanations on how the Gravity Gun works, and provides brief background for areas like Ravenholm and Nova Prospekt.
  • Fingerless Gloves
  • Give Geeks a Chance: She seems quite attached to Gordon. When her father Eli semi-jokingly tells her he wants grandkids while she and Gordon are both listening, leaving no doubt as to whom he envisions as their father, she laughs it off but doesn't actually appear disinclined to the idea.
  • Handgun: Her main weapon throughout the Half-Life 2 series is a seemingly custom made machine pistol she carries around in her jacket.
  • The Lancer: To Gordon for the Episodes.
  • Master of Unlocking: Her EMP tool lets her get through a lot of places Gordon would otherwise be unable to reach.
  • Made of Iron: It takes an ungodly amount of punishment to kill her, and unlike Freeman and Shephard, there is no in-game justification for it.
  • Messy Hair
  • Missing Mom: Her mom died during the Black Mesa incident.
  • Mission Control: Adopts this role occasionally (such as a couple times in Half-Life 2), though she does a lot more of accompanying the hero into the field.
  • Mixed Ancestry: She has a black father and a Malaysian mother. Applies to her voice actress as well (who has a black father and a Japanese mother).
  • My Nayme Is: Alyx.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: She's very knowledgeable about science and mechanics. Most of DOG is her work.
  • Nice Girl: She's a serious contender for the title of "Nicest Companion In The History Of Gaming". Alyx is nothing but supportive of Gordon, commends him on pretty much every even slightly awesome feat he pulls off, protects him with her life without a second of hesitation, always asks him to be careful when the circumstances force her to send him to do something she can't do herself... At the beginning of Episode One, she's so overjoyed to see him alive she actually greets him with an epic first-person Glomp. Some time later, after Gordon single-handedly wrecks a gunship and then a Strider, she almost bubbles over with awe and names him her personal hero. It's also very apparent she really, really loves her dad and cares deeply about just about everyone else (especially Gordon, of course, whom she seems to have more than a slight crush on). She even gives a vortigaunt a peck at one point.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: "Hah! No you don't!" [beats the shit out of four armed Metrocops in about five seconds]
  • Precision F-Strike: She responds to Mossman's attempts to justify her betrayal with "Enough of your bullshit!"
  • Rescue Introduction: She and Gordon meet when she saves him from a group of Metrocops.
  • Secondary Fire: Her custom machine pistol is capable of both semi-automatic and automatic fire.
  • Ship Tease: With Gordon. Loads of it by various characters.
  • Spiteful Spit:
    Breen: [to Eli] Will you let your stubborn short-sightedness doom the entire species, or... [touching Alyx's face]... will you give your child the chance her mother never had?
    She spits in his face.
    Alyx: How dare you even mention her!
  • Trauma Conga Line: Where to start? For the first years of her life, she lives in the dormitories of Black Mesa, a dangerous and accident-prone research facility. Then, her mother is killed during the Black Mesa Incident. She only survives because the G-Man saves her life, putting her in his debt unknowingly. Fast forward to when she meets Gordon Freeman, leading to events in which her father is captured by the Combine. In the end, when the dark matter reactor explodes, killing Breen, she only survives because the Vortigaunts teleport her out of the wreckage. In the beginning of Episode Two, she is stabbed twice by the long blades of a Hunter and survives, once again, because of the Vortigaunts. Finally, after Eli, Magnusson, and Kleiner launch the rocket and Gordon and Alyx are about to get into a helicopter to save their friend Mossman, a pair of Advisors smash through the building and kill Eli right in front of her.
  • Unkempt Beauty: She's famous for her Messy Hair.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: She seems to have developed a slight fear of Hunters after her near death experience in Episode 2
  • Wrench Wench: She created D0g, after all.

Dr. Eli Vance

Voice Actor: Robert Guilliame (Half-Life 2, Episodes One and Two)

A major character in Half-Life 2, Eli Vance is one of the survivors of the Resonance Cascade incident, a lead member of the Resistance, and Alyx's father. Also known to be a Harvard graduate.

  • Ascended Extra: Remember that scientist in Half-Life 1 that sent you up for help after the Resonance Cascade and opened the door for you? That's Eli. Made more obvious in Black Mesa, the Source Fan Remake.
  • Artificial Limbs: Eli apparently lost his left leg during an incident involving a bullsquid. He has a makeshift prosthetic now.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Distressed Dude: One of the major goals driving the plot is Alyx's quest to rescue her father, twice.
  • I See Them, Too: So far, he has been the only character who has acknowledged the G-Man, a.k.a. "our mutual friend's" existence to Gordon.
  • I Want Grandkids: Hey, you can't blame him, considering the Combine's anti-reproduction suppression field in the past twenty years.
  • Like a Son to Me: Shortly before he's killed by an Advisor, he tells Gordon that he couldn't be more proud of him if Gordon were his own son.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The personal cutscene between Gordon and him in Episode Two pretty much made him admit he was doing oversight for the test leading up to the Resonance Cascade.
    "When he came in, I knew I should have aborted that damn test. But I didn't. The whole world went to hell that day."
  • Rebel Leader: Seeing as Black Mesa is leading the resistance.
  • Sacrificial Lion: At the end of Episode Two, right before Gordon and Alyx were to board the helicopter to find the Borealis, he is killed by a Combine Advisor by having his brain sucked out right in front of Gordon and Alyx.
  • Shipper on Deck: He's obviously quite fond of the idea of Gordon and Alyx hooking up.
  • So Proud of You: Says this to both Alyx and Gordon mere minutes before he's gruesomely killed by an Advisor. It's heavily implied he knew his end was coming and took the chance to secretly say farewell.


A walking junkpile that moves like a robotic gorilla, but has an effective mindset of a dog, hence his name. Fiercely loyal to and protective of Alyx, and her friends by extension.

  • Badass Adorable: Has quite the endearing attitude when he's happy, but when he's on the warpath, he'll smash the utter shit out of anything that isn't a Strider, where the only difference is that he'll take it apart with his bare hands instead.
  • Big, Friendly Dog: You play catch with him as part of Alyx's training regime for the gravity gun.
  • The Big Guy: He's the size and shape of a very big gorilla.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Him versus any Combine forces short of a Strider. His favored method is to pick up ground vehicles and throw them at the enemy.
  • David vs. Goliath: Him versus a Strider.
  • Lightning Bruiser: He's more than capable of wrecking pretty much anything in his path. At the same time he's fast enough to keep up with a car going flat-out. When you race him to White Forest in Episode Two and don't make liberal use of your car's booster, chances are he'll be waiting for you at the gate when you finally get there.
  • My Nayme Is: D0G (with a zero) is written on his body shell. The in-game subtitles spell it "Dog" (with a letter o).
  • Robot Buddy: He's loyal just like a normal dog, but is made from scraps.
  • What a Piece of Junk: Consider him a junky old robot at your own peril if you're a Combine. He will thrash you.

Dr. Isaac Kleiner

Voice Actor: Harry S. Robins (Half-Life 2, Episodes One and Two)

A major character in Half-Life 2, Isaac was the man who recommended Gordon Freeman to Black Mesa Research Facility's Civilian Recruitment Division. Also a survivor of the Resonance Cascade incident at Black Mesa. Was also Gordon's theoretical physics teacher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

  • Absent-Minded Professor: Fits the stereotype perfectly, though he's not quite as absent-minded as some. In fact, more of the problems that come from interacting with him tend to be Lamarr's fault, rather than his.
  • Admiring the Abomination: He's implied to be the scientist who finds headcrabs fascinating in the first game, leading to him keeping one as a pet in the second.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Has a Hebrew given name and a German surname, and named his pet headcrab after a Jewish actress.
  • Adorkable: There's just something so endearing about a quiet, timid old man who coos over a headcrab as if it were a sweet little kitten.
  • Ascended Extra: Like Barney, he's a stock scientist from the original game turned into a main character in the sequel.
  • Bald of Awesome: He's almost completely bald, but still a highly capable scientist and a fairly entertaining fellow.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: The badass is hidden pretty deep down, but, he did manage to escape from Black Mesa alive and stay alive for years afterwards as a rebel. Plus, he somehow managed to catch a headcrab alive and surgically remove its zombifying fangs without getting turned into a zombie himself; give the man some credit for that.
  • Fluffy Tamer: He keeps a 'de-beaked' headcrab as a pet. Her name is Lamarr.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: It really wouldn't be inaccurate to lay the entire mess of the second game and its expansion packs on him. It was Lamarr who disrupted the teleporter, causing Breen to become aware of Freeman's restoration, which resulted in the Transhuman Forces being rallied, which led to... well, all of the death and destruction the player sees sweep before them over the course of the game. All because he had to keep a frigging untameable brain-sucking alien monster as a pet.
  • Noodle Incident: It has to do something with the cat and the teleporter in his lab. Barney mentions the cat twice.
  • Pet's Homage Name: His "de-beaked" headcrab is named after Hedy Lamarr.note  It's both a bad Stealth Pun and a Shout-Out to a classic actress—one who helped pioneer early wi-fi and cordless technologies.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Setting up a resistance research lab in the Combine's capitol city certainly took some chutzpah.
  • The Smart Guy: He creates a short-ranged teleportation system that allows for transportation on the same planet. Something that the Combine haven't figured out themselves yet.
  • Voice of the Resistance: Becomes one temporarily in Episode 1 when the Resistance hijacks Breen public broadcast system. It's mostly to give instructions on how to evacuate City 17, but he does take some time to give an inspirational speech about finally taking back the planet which is pretty impressive for someone who admits he's not very good at public speaking. Then he reminds everyone that the suppression field is down and now would be a good time to fuck.


Dr. Kleiner's de-beaked pet headcrab.

  • All Animals Are Dogs: Downplayed; while Kleiner has managed to domesticate it to some extent and "debeaked" its ability to control a host, Lamarr still retains much of the predatory behavior of a typical Headcrab and Kleiner doesen't seem to have much control over the creature as it attacks Barney and aggressively hisses to both him and Kleiner before escaping to the airducts during its first appearance. That being said, it appears to pant like a dog when resting from hopping around.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: A formerly dangerous Puppeteer Parasite named Hedy.
  • Hurl It into the Sun: Last seen in the nosecone of a rocket launched into the Combine super-portal. If it's not dead its in another universe.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Named after Hedy Lamarr.
  • Team Pet: For The Resistance, though most members don't seem to like it all that much.
    We're all starving, and Kleiner's Headcrab is probably eating grade-A head!
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Watermelons, if a sticky note found in Kleiner's lab is any indication. Must be a good substitute for heads.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Unwitting because it's a dumb animal, but thanks to Lamarr climbing into the teleporter, Gordon gets teleported into Breen's office and alerts the Combine to his presence.

Dr. Judith Mossman

Voice Actor: Michelle Forbes (Half-Life 2, Episode One)

The other scientist at Black Mesa East, and is somewhat distrustful of Alyx. Also played traitor for Wallace Breen, but after coming back to her senses, she eventually saves Gordon, Alyx, and Eli from him near the end of Half-Life 2. Was last seen with Resistance members tracking down the Borealis, and got ambushed from the Combine before she could finish her message. She is still alive, whereabouts unknown. Her message was found by Gordon and Alyx, who were pursued by the Combine for the entirety of Episodes One and Two while delivering it to the scientists in White Forest Base. She will be most likely seen again in 'Episode Three''.

Dr. Arne Magnusson

Voice Actor: John Aylward (Episode Two)

The manager of White Forest Base. Has a very distrustful relationship with Isaac Kleiner (well, they fought between each other for grant money). Later revealed to be the owner of a certain microwave casserole in the lounge of the Sector C Personnel Facilities in Black Mesa.

  • Brick Joke: Remember the casserole you had the option to blow up in the beginning of the first game? According to canon, that just so happened to be Arne's casserole, and Gordon did in fact blow it up, something Arne still hasn't forgiven.
  • It's All About Me: Magnusson is an incredibly egocentric asshole. Listening to him alone, it's very easy to get the impression that he does everything there is to do while everyone else exists solely to annoy him or hinder his great accomplishments. During the final sequence of Episode Two he explicitly takes full credit for the success of the entire operation (including the brutal defence of White Forest against a dozen friggin' Striders plus their Hunter escorts), completely ignoring the fact that he would've gotten nowhere without the invaluable support of scores of brave people, the player character among them, naturally.
  • Jerkass: Specifically created to be this to contrast with Eli and Isaac.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He is grateful for Gordon's part in the rocket launch, although he really seems to have difficulty expressing it (and even then he manages to mostly praise himself).
  • Remember the New Guy?: He just appears during Episode Two. Sure, it's implied he hadn't seen Gordon in a long time, but it still appears as though they know each other.
  • Stock Foreign Name: Arne Magnusson is a typical Scandinavian name.

Father Grigori

Voice Actor: Jim French (Half-Life 2)

Very little is known about him other than that he's a Russian Orthodox-like preacher of questionable sanity who has taken it upon himself to clear his "flock" from Ravenholm.

  • Ambiguously Christian: His denomination isn't fully addressed even it's heavily implied to be Orthodox Christian in Ravenholm chapter.
  • Badass Beard
  • Badass Normal: All he has is his old fashioned rifle.
  • Badass Preacher: While the preacher part may be questionable as his backstory is never expanded on, he is still such a badass for being able to survive and remain in the zombie and headcrab-infested Ravenholm.
  • Bald of Awesome
  • Crazy Survivalist: Grigori's the nice kind.
  • Evil Laugh: His laugh is pretty evil sounding, even though he's helping you.
  • Good Samaritan: Grigori is the only NPC in the entire game to help Gordon Freeman without recognizing who he is. He just thinks it's the right thing to do.
  • Good Shepherd: While there are few people left in Ravenholm for him to help, he gives Gordon a shotgun, some supplies, and has built several traps that Gordon uses on the zombies. It is implied that Grigori has done the same for other rebels.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: He willingly stays behind to slow the zombie hordes down and allow Gordon to escape. Whether he actually dies is never made clear. See below under Uncertain Doom.
  • Meaningful Name: "Grigori" is a term in Biblical apocrypha for a group of angels tasked with watching over humanity as well as the name of another famous Russian preacher who was supposedly very hard to kill.
  • Sanity Slippage: He's obviously insane, although it's implied that he was driven insane by the whole headcrab infestation in Ravenholm.
  • Uncertain Doom: The devs have stated Grigori will never appear on-screen again, so whether or not he's still alive is up to you.
  • Weapon of Choice: A .357 caliber lever action rifle called "Annabelle".

Colonel Odessa Cubbage

Voice Actor: John Patrick Lowrie (Half-Life 2)

A somewhat suspicious and supposedly British Resistance colonel, leading the New Little Odessa base along the coast. He only appears briefly in the 7th chapter of Half-Life 2, granting Gordon a rocket launcher.

  • Call-Back: After playing out his minor role in Half-Life 2, he disappears from the plot, and there is no mention of him again. Then, late in Episode One, three independent mentions suddenly turns up concerning him, first Alyx sarcastically claiming he is her father, then two rebels coming to the conclusion that he is an idiot, and finally a rebel who reveals that he had taken the credit for Gordon's work, and who turns out to be an admirer of him.
  • Cower Power: When the base he has responsibility to lead comes under an attack threatening its very existence, no less, Cubbage sends Freeman to dispatch the gunship, while he safely hides to send a warning to another base, that mysteriously never reaches its destination.
  • Miles Gloriosus: While there is no explicit mentions of his great military exploits, he does by no means seem like someone deserving a colonel title.
    • Better yet, a passing comment in Episode One reveals that he took the credit for shooting down aforementioned gunship.
  • Mysterious Past: The Prima Guide to Half-Life 2 states that virtually nothing is known of Cubbage's past, his name may even be taken from the outpost, the only thing sure is his cowardice.
    • If Gordon uses the Combine binoculars overlooking New Little Odessa, he can be seen talking to the G-Man.
  • Rebel Leader: Although how significant he is doubtable.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: It is staggeringly clear that he believes himself to be one of the great heroes of La Résistance, although he appears to be the only one with this view, apart from one rebel in Episode One speaking somewhat highly of him.

Griggs and Sheckley

Voice Actor: John Patrick Lowrie (Griggs, Episode Two); Adam Baldwin (Sheckley, Episode Two)

A pair of resistance members in an underground base, they help Freeman defend the base against an army of Antlions to protect the Vortigaunts while they heal Alyx.

The G-Man

Voice Actor: Mike Shapiro (Half-Life 1 and 2, Episodes One and Two)

A strange character, looking like a blend between a government worker and a businessman, who apparently has some limited control over space and time. All we know is that he's been observing the events of the entire Half-Life series. And that he is possibly not entirely human. He apparently answers to some higher authority which he simply refers to as his "employers". He has, however, on a couple of occasions hinted that he does not necessarily obey these "employers".

  • Action Survivor: Implied to be the case in one of the few allusions to his history:
    G-Man: I admit I have a fascination with those who adapt and survive against all odds. They rather remind me of myself.
  • Affably Evil: We actually don't know how much "evil" he is. But if he is, he's pretty damn proper about it.
  • Ambiguously Evil: On one hand, his chessmaster antics, creepy dialogue, and mysterious powers make him easy to see as a villain of some sort. Plus, the Vortigaunts seem to oppose him and Eli suggests he's the one who gave Black Mesa the crystal that caused the resonance cascade in the first Half-Life. On the other hand, we know absolutely nothing about who he actually is and what his motivations are, and he seems to oppose the Combine, who definitely are villains, and he has saved Freeman and Shephard's lives on several occasions.
  • Ambiguously Human: He obviously isn't, but we don't know what he actually is.
  • AcCENT upon the Wrong SylLABle: Although sometimes he accents the right syllable just with far too much emphasis.
  • Big Good/Big Bad: He's definitely the big...something. However, there's just as much to suggest that he's the former (saving Freeman and Shepard from their doom; seems to oppose the definite villains, the Combine; saving Alyx Vance despite his employers objecting) as there is to suggest he's the latter (his employers are unknown; the Vortigauts don't support him; and as noted above, Eli suggests that he's the one Black Mesa got the crystal that caused the resonance cascade, and by extension, the events of the entire series).
  • Blue and Orange Morality: For whom does he play? No one knows but him.
  • Creepy Blue Eyes: Look at those eyes. What the hell is up with those eyes.
  • Creepy Monotone: He rarely shows emotion.
  • Creepy Shadowed Undereyes: His eyebags have been darkened enough.
  • The Chessmaster: Although no one even knows what he is trying to accomplish.
  • Children Are a Waste: The G-Man seems to disagree, as he saved Alyx Vance despite objections from his employers, presumably because he anticipated the role she'd play in the future. They didn't want him to, because "she was a mere child, and of no practical use to anyone." Well... how about now?
    G-Man: When I -plucked- her from Black Mesa... I acted in the face of objections that she was a mere child and of no practical use to anyone. I have learned to ignore such -naysayers- when... quelling... them, uh, was out of the question.
  • Consummate Liar: If the Nihilanth is to be trusted (which is a dubious condition, to be sure).
    Nihilanth: Deceive you... he will deceive you...
  • Deadpan Snarker: He has some moments of very dry sarcasm.
    G-Man: The biggest embarrassment has been Black Mesa, but I think that's finally taken care of itself...[Black Mesa explodes in the background.] Quite so.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Always remains cool and businesslike no matter what chaos is occurring around him.
  • Graceful Loser: Not necessarily a villain, but when the Vortigaunts foil some plan he has for Gordon, he is annoyed but doesn't retaliate; he simply waits for another opportunity to make contact, and does not seem to hold any kind of grudge against them for their interference.
  • Human Alien: It's made quite clear he is from a different world, since he has supernatural powers and speaks in a way that is described by the developers as "something trying and failing to act human".
  • Humanoid Abomination: Maybe. Standing still, he looks human. When he moves — and where he appears — tells you that he cannot be.
  • Immune to Bullets: It is possible to shoot him at various points in the original game and its expansions. It just has no effect on him, although since he's a plot critical character, he can't die anyway.
  • Inexplicably Awesome: One of the most intriguing parts of the G-Man is how little we know about anything about him, including how he does what he does, what he is, who he works for, and what he wants.
  • Invisible to Normals: He can apparently choose which persons are able to see him, and it is hinted that he also has some power over if they remember him or not afterwards.
  • I See Them, Too: The G-Man appears to be invisible to everyone but Freeman and Shephard at times (excluding cameos in Blue Shift and Decay). However, the Nihilanth, Eli Vance, and the Vortigaunts are all also aware of his existence. Dr. Breen has also implied that he's aware of his employers, what the G-Man did to Gordon in the interim between the first and second games, and that Breen and/or the Combine may have also been involved in a bidding war for Gordon's 'services'. Breen was also implied to be among the "naysayers" who objected to the G-Man saving Alyx Vance's life.
  • Lack of Empathy: Debatable. He saves Gordon's life quite a few times and later he admits he saved Alyx during the Black Mesa disaster suggesting that maybe he's capable of mercy. He also mentions to Shephard that he saved his life specifically because he sees him as a kindred spirit.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Always addresses Gordon as Mr. Freeman, putting extra emphasis on the "Mr." just to rub it in that he doesn't respect Gordon enough to use his proper title. This changes once Gordon defeats Dr. Breen.
  • Manipulative Bastard: From locking out Gordon and Adrian from certain doors, to shoving them in deep-freeze, yeah.
  • The Men in Black: Doesn't quite fit the trope, but sure as hell evokes the basic concept, probably deliberately.
  • Mysterious Employer: Claims he works for someone, or something, else. Given he seems to have the power to teleport at will and even stop time itself, the fact he is employed by a being presumably of greater power than himself is either reassuring or disturbing, depending on his real allegiances.
  • Noble Demon: If we believe what he says, then he most likely saved both Alyx and Shephard from his employers when it would have been easier to let them die.
  • No Name Given: While he is called "G-Man" in the credits and character models, he is never actually referred to as this in-story. The only direct reference to him is Eli's label of "our mutual friend." As such, the G-Man is not his actual name or even an In-Series Nickname. In the manual for Opposing Force, Adrian Shephard does call him "a G-man" in his diary, but this seems to be a generic term.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Though there are two scenes where you get to see him do it: Once in Half-Life ("Lambda Core"), and once in Opposing Force ("Foxtrot Uniform"). Played straight several times in Half-Life 2 and its episodes where he can occasionally be spotted in the distance, only to calmly walk away and disappear without a trace when approached. Even more glaring is his habit of appearing to Gordon literally out of thin air without using a visible portal, so...
  • Reality Warper: Can casually stop time and plant subliminal orders into people.
  • Retcon: He was originally imagined as the administrator of Black Mesa and a literal government agent, but in Half-Life 2 the administrator role was given to Breen.
  • The Spook: All we know is that he's not human.
  • Sssssnake Talk: In the first game. Averted in the second game and its expansions, although his speech patterns remain quite erratic.
  • The Stoic: Has a very emotionless demeanor, though he occasionally expresses slight amusement, and on one occasion the merest hint of anger.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: As far as we can tell.
  • Time Master: He seems to be able to stop time for his "employees" at the very least.
  • Uncanny Valley: Invoked intentionally. Word of God states that he's to hint at something trying to look human, but not bothering to try very hard.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Whenever he appears he just goes about his business even if there's a huge battle raging around him. Possibly justified as he seems to be invincible.


Dr. Wallace Breen

Voice Actor: Robert Culp (Half-Life 2, cameo in Episode One)

Breen is the earlier head of the Black Mesa Research Facility, and was unnamed and unseen in the first game, where he is merely referred to as "The Administrator". In Half-Life 2, he is the main antagonist and the Combine's puppet ruler of Earth, a position he got after selling out mankind to them.

  • 0% Approval Rating: Given that he's The Quisling for The Combine and it's heavily implied that he's really in this just for the power, pretty much no one outside of the Combine's own forces like him.
  • Asshole Victim: While it's unclear if he actually dies at the end, either way it's hard to feel sorry for him.
  • Beard of Evil: Interestingly, it's rather similar to Gordon's beard.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: While he is the main antagonist of Half Life 2, he is just being used as a puppet by the combine (who are the real main antagonists) and is shown to be a Dirty Coward when faced by Gordon.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: While he superficially seems like a Reasonable Authority Figure he is actually helping the Combine to wipe out the human race (at one point he has some device that makes it so people can't have sex, which he claims will help them focus on other things, in reality it's a plot to make people stop reproducing so they go extinct)
  • Body Horror: In the original Half-Life 2 script, Breen himself was going to be turned into an Advisor. (In fact, the last conversation Breen has with an Advisor has him complaining there's no way he could survive Combine space, and apparently gets a psychic answer, because he then reacts incredulously that the Advisors have a less-than-pleasant way for him to live.)
  • Breaking Speech: He's quite found of these such as near the end of HL2.
    Breen: I'd like to take a moment to address you directly, Dr. Freeman. Yes, I'm talking to you. The so-called One Free Man. I have a question for you. How could you have thrown it all away? It staggers the mind. A man of science, with the ability to sway reactionary and fearful minds toward the truth choosing instead to embark on a path of ignorance and decay. Make no mistake, Dr. Freeman. This is not a scientific revolution you have sparked... this is death and finality. You have plunged humanity into freefall. Even if you offered your surrender now, I cannot guarantee that our benefactors would accept it. At the moment, I fear they have begun to look upon even me with suspicion. So much for serving as humanity's representative. Help me win back their trust, Dr. Freeman. Surrender while you still can. Help ensure that humanity's trust in you is not misguided. Do what is right, Dr. Freeman. Serve mankind.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: He was the administrator of Black Mesa before becoming the Combine governor of the Earth, and pushed for the risky analysis that eventually led to the disaster in the first game.
  • Dirty Coward: He begs Freeman to surrender to the Combine and attempts to escape him by teleporting away from Earth. Not helped by the fact that he essentially sold all of mankind's freedom to the Combine (admittedly because otherwise, the Combine would have completely erased humanity from Earth, but still) so he could sit comfortably at the top of the Citadel and wants to avoid all kinds of direct confrontation.
  • Establishing Character Moment: His first appearance on the monitors. While he may sound like a kindly ruler his rhetoric is decidedly authoritarian as befits his status as an Expy of Big Brother.
  • Evil Overlord: Of City 17.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Breen's pretty well spoken and (mostly) calm for being a smug backstabber. But he's also cold, dismissive, patronizing, and arrogant. Though he often covers it with a veneer of concern, friendliness, and approachability — especially in his Breencasts — the underlying disdain and indifference, even towards his allies, is unmistakeable.
  • The Ghost: In the first game, he's just referred to as "The Administrator" a couple of times.
  • Hate Sink: Breen lacks any sympathetic, likable or even cool qualities, and apart from being a ruthless dictator, he is shown to be little more than an incredibly smug, condescending, cowardly and passive aggressive jerkass.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: In a series all about fighting evil aliens, one of the most vile and dangerous enemies of all is a human.
  • Hypocrite: In his Breencasts he says that "small minds" use the term "the Combine", and ostensibly eschews that label in favor of "Our Benefactors" and "the Universal Union." However, when you meet him in person he himself calls them "the Combine."
  • Misanthrope Supreme: His motivations are a wee bit unclear. He did convince The Combine to enslave rather than outright exterminate humanity (and was afterwards named Administrator of Earth), but whether he did so for personal power, or because he really cared about humanity is left unclear.
  • Narcissist: He's got propaganda posters of himself in City 17 and even busts of himself in some locations — including his own office. Then there's the fact he's got jumbo screens of himself talking plastered all over the place.
  • Never Found the Body: We never really know what happened to him after the end of 2 when The Citadel is destroyed.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: The final battle is against him, but it's the other soldiers and the gunships who are attacking you.
  • Puppet King: Over all of humanity due to the Combine.
  • The Quisling: He refers to a genocidal race that owns a big chunk of the multiverse as "Our Benefactors", at least when speaking over the Breencasts.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Mildly. He's very eloquent and likes to use fancy or obscure synonyms for common words. It's like he reads thesauruses in his spare time.
  • Smug Snake: Things escalate beyond his control rather quickly.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: His speech is normally impeccably erudite, so it makes the one time he swears glorious.
  • Uncertain Doom: At the end of Half-Life 2, the platform lifting him up the teleporter collapses, and he seems to fall to his death. In Episode One, a recording of Breen conversing with an Advisor suggests he may have become (or had a copy of his mind transferred into) an Advisor.
  • Villainous Breakdown: He becomes increasingly impatient and childish as Gordon Freeman kills off his soldiers and starts a rebellion. When Gordon invades the Citadel, Breen goes from first trying browbeating him into surrendering, to frantically, but still condescendingly trying to reason with him, and finally he starts outright begging for him to stop. Later, while trying to escape via teleport, he resorts to juvenile taunting and mockery — then goes back to begging when it becomes clear that Gordon's not playing around.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Judging by the events of the Seven Hour War, he managed to stave off extinction. It was either death or A Fate Worse Than Death for all of humanity, and so chose the latter. Breen might honestly believe that the Combine will elevate humanity to the next level, though he has turned a blind eye to Transhuman Treachery by the Combine, and his behavior behind closed doors suggests that he may be in this purely for the power.
  • Wicked Cultured: He shows a mild example of Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, and makes reference to advanced physics notions several times, but we're not sure exactly what his Morally Ambiguous Doctorate is actually in. In any case, everything about him, from his way of speaking to his bearing and his dress, screams "scholarly and cultured".

The Combine, a.k.a. The Universal Union

A powerful trans-dimensional alien empire, they conquered the Earth and are the main antagonists of the series. Their occupation force on Earth, the Overwatch, consists of a portion of their transhuman forces (modified humans using human vehicles and weapons), and "Synths", aliens who have been modified and outfitted with cyborg attachments and pulse weaponry.

  • Aliens are Bastards: Oh boy, where to start? Completely unprovoked and imperialistic conquest of an entire species (one of millions no less)? Check. Using headcrabs as biological weapons to inflict a horrifying fate on anyone who gets overtaken by one? Check. Ruthless lobotomization and forced cybernetic augmentation to their army of transhuman slave soldiers? Check. A literal "beating quota" for Civil Protection officers? Check. Indiscriminate slaughter of unarmed humans attempting to escape City 17 or help others do so? Check. Turning any resistance members they capture into cybernetic slaves stripped of their humanity and most of their organs? Check. Steadily stripping the Earth of all its usable resources, up to and including the oceans? Check. Setting up a suppression field to prevent all human reproduction, thus guaranteeing extinction within a century? Check. Honestly, the Combine could have codified the trope.
  • Ambiguous Robots: It's unclear whether some Synths are actually alien species enslaved and heavily augmented for military purposes by the Combine, or are just robots manufactured by Combine with some biological characteristics.
  • Artificial Brilliance: None of the Combine forces are stupid. First off, the Overwatch soldiers will flank, throw grenades, and run to cover when reloading. Furthermore, the Hunters will use splash damage, flank, and lay down suppression fire. Also, the Gunships will wildly strafe while firing, and will even shoot down your missiles in mid-air. Foot-soldiers, however, do not have a high amount of hit points, and will usually get killed by the player before their strategies can kick in. Mostly averted by Civil Protection soldiers, who tend to stand in place firing away with pistols, which makes sense when you consider that they're really closer to being beat cops rather than soldiers.
    • However, they do fight very aggressively, meaning that once you've figured out their tactics, it's fairly easy to fall back and ambush them.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: The Combine Advisors are the top tier in the Combine hierarchy, or at least very close to it. They have the authority to subsume any Combine forces they need, and sacrifice them without a second thought. While they resemble blind limbless grubs the size of baby elephants, they have powerful telekinetic and telepathic abilities, and are able to completely immobilize and control anyone around them, as well as levitate themselves for transport.
    • They are also Made of Iron. You actually briefly get a chance to shoot at one during the first stage of the assault at White Forest, using a mounted pulse cannon, which seems to be the Combine's equivalent to a .50 machine gun. Despite taking many shots, only a few of which are enough to kill Powered Armor wearing cyborgs, the Advisor shows no visible signs of injury and escapes unharmed. This also shows the limits of their powers; the Advisor can't actually throw Freeman around like the previous ones did, only being able to give him a headache, likely because of the (not at all long) distance between them.
      • Admittedly, this also might be an example of Plot Armor. They deliberately have a massive amount of health in Episode Two (over 1000) to prevent the player from killing them during the brief windows of opportunity. Presumably, if the series had ever continued, they would've eventually been featured in a proper boss fight.
  • Badass Army: Well, they don't call it the "Seven Hour War" for nothing...
  • Badass Baritone: The Overwatch soldiers speak this way by design.
  • Big Bad: Of the second game and subsequent episodes.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The regular soldiers are colored gray and blue, and are relatively harmless. The Shotgun Soldiers, on the other hand, are brown and red and more dangerous. And then there's the Combine Elite (though his model is separate), who is white with touches of black and is the most dangerous.
  • Creative Sterility: For all their advanced technology, the Combine Empire appears to be unable to create something that is truly their own, original design. Every bit of their technology and utilities appears to have conceived by violently appropriating an already existing design from another race and then building upon, or rather twisting it until it serves the purpose they need it for.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Despite having sophisticated technology for teleporting between alternative realities, this technology only seems to be found in the Citadel and some other small locations across the globe. Furthermore, it doesn't seem to be that efficient for transporting large groups of units at once (as seen during the climax of Half-Life 2 with how long it takes to just teleport Dr. Breen to the Combine Overworld), with it being all but stated that the Combine's regular access to Earth after the Portal Storms abated became very fragile. And their technology for achieving teleportation within the same reality is downright laughable, with Black Mesa, Aperture Science, and even the Resistance having the kind of tech the Combine could only dream of.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The entire might of every military on Earth combined was utterly destroyed by them in just seven hours.
  • Cyborg: Synths are part mechanical, part biological aliens that Combine enslaved at some point and turned into military machines by forcibly augmenting them with advanced cybernetics. Transhuman Overwatch and Stalkers are the latest example in this trend, showcasing Combine's true intentions for what they are going to do with humanity.
  • Elite Mooks: The Combine Elites. They have better aim, better weapons and take damage before dying. Plus they show up much later in the game.
  • The Empire: Quite possibly the Most Triumphant Example. Most fictional empires would be satisfied with taking over the world or, at most, the galaxy. The Combine instead conquered the entire universe. But then, even that wasn't enough, so they made portals to other universes and proceeded to conquer them too.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: After the fall of City 17, the Union is pissed, and this is said to happen if the forces on Earth manage to ever call the rest of their empire for reinforcements.
    Isaac Kleiner: What you're seeing is the infancy of a superportal. If it attains full strength —
  • Expy:
  • Eye Scream: Implied with the Combine Elites due to their singular red eyes. You can see a undressed Combine Soldier with several cybernetic implants in Nova Prospect. This can make you wonder how the Elites look benath their helmets... or not.
  • Fake Ultimate Mook: The Combine Overwatch may look big and scary, but the untrained rag tag rebels are actually better shots (strangely this only applies to SMG's, Rebels and Combine soldiers are on par in accuracy with the other weapons). Still, the Overwatch soldiers are actually more effective in combat though because of their ability to throw grenades and their slightly larger amount of health.
  • Fascist, but Inefficient: Shockingly so. Despite being an empire that spans multiple universes, encompassing countless galaxies, planets, and millions of different species, the Combine forgot to invest anything in worthwhile teleportation technology. Their travel methods are slow and inefficient considering the massive span of their empire, and their teleportation system, while functional, is actually less advanced than what both Black Mesa and Aperture Science have designed.
    • It really can't be overstated how awful this is for them. It's explained that they can only efficiently teleport between dimensions, not within a single dimension. Whether or not they have some sort of space fleet for travel is unknown, but what is known is that the destruction of the Citadel crippled their forces on Earth, as it not only knocked out their only source of transit to/from Earth and cost them their biggest base, it also resulted in their distress signal to their empire proper getting intercepted by the Resistance. This is why in Episode Two the Combine, especially the Advisors, become very desperate to obtain the Black Mesa teleportation technology so they can contact their headquarters for reinforcements. You'd think a reliable method of teleporting among your galaxies upon galaxies of controlled territory would be one of the first things a multi-dimensional empire would develop.
  • Foreshadowing: At the very least, something much nastier than the Xenians was hinted at by the Nihilanth way back in the first game.
    Nihilanth: Their slaves... we are their slaves... we are...
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Justified, in that Overwatch Transhuman troops are in use on other, non-human-habitable planets.
    • Apparently, the Civil Protection officers just wear them because it looks intimidating. Also Justified as this is something SWAT teams do in real life. Besides, given how brutal the metrocops are, it's probably best they remain faceless and anonymous.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Of the first game. Also in Half-Life 2, while Breen acts as the Big Bad, the Advisors are clearly above him and are seemingly the Combine's leaders.
  • Insectoid Aliens: The land Synths look like insectoids, while aircraft Synths look more like cetaceans or crustaceans. Made of metal. With guns.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: It's clear that they don't care at all about Earth or humanity, considering the token force they've left to occupy it (with the majority of even the transhuman forces being used elsewhere) and the state of the planet after they're done draining it for resources. They've conquered millions of species, the humans are just one more to them.
    • On the other hand, once they learn that the Rebels have developed simple and cheap teleportation (compared to the Combine teleporters at least), the Combine becomes immensely more interested in their activities. And after City 17 falls, they immediately stop understimating the Rebels, and waste no time making preparations to call a massive assault on Earth with reinforcements from the Union's Home Universe itself.
  • Leitmotif: "Combine Harvester", though sadly not used in the games. It's Music to Invade Poland To mixed with haunting alien noises.
  • Les Collaborateurs: The Civil Protection members are humans who willingly decided to work with the Combines. It is implied that while at least some of the volunteers has had somewhat sympathetic motives for joining up, such as better food and housing, many of them have done it simply for the power and brutality they are allowed to exercise.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: A collective, in-story version. For all the Combine's cruelty, they at least did manage to keep the massive Antlion infestations in check and keep headcrabs out of their cities. But then Gordon Freeman blew up Nova Prospekt, destroyed their defensive network of machine gun bunkers and 'thumpers' on the coast (thereby letting the Antlions into Nova Prospekt), slaughtered hundreds of soldiers and Synths, started a worldwide rebellion, and blew up the Citadel. All these things caused the Combine to lose control over City 17, resulting in a massive invasion by the nearby Antlion colonies and an infestation of headcrab zombies. By the time Episode One begins, the entire region is caught in a four way struggle between the headcrab zombies, the antlion hordes, the Resistance, and the Combine.
  • Mini-Boss: Gunships and Striders.
  • Mecha-Mooks: The Earth Overwatch seems rather understaffed (likely due to most of the transhuman forces being shipped off-world), so make use of units like automated turrets, scanner drones, and Manhacks to make up for it.
  • Multiversal Conqueror: According to Word of God, the Combine have already conquered several universes, enslaving their home species and forcibly modifying them for use as Synths. They're in the process of doing the same thing to Earth.
  • Organic Technology: The Synth units.
  • Planet Looters: It's very clear that the Combine have no long-term plans for Earth. They're visibly just taking every resource they can use (including the oceans, atmosphere, and some population) and shipping it off-world.
  • Police Brutality: Civil Protection; some of their terror-mongering acts include beating people for no reason, shooting people after they surrender and lining up innocent people on walls and using them for target practice in true Nazi-Gestapo-meets-Soviet-NKVD style. Think of them as a world-wide example of the Stanford Prison Experiment.
  • Putting on the Reich: The Civil Protection and Overwatch uniforms were based on both Soviet and Nazi designs. This was more blatant in the original concept art.
  • The Singularity: The Advisors have passed it, a very long time ago, according to Word of God.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Apparently as part of protocol, the Metrocops, Soldiers and even the Overwatch Announcer use medical jargon Newspeak to communicate. Alien intruders are "exogens", zombies are "necrotics", turrets are "sterilizers", soldiers are "stabilization delegates", Freeman, as Anticitizen One, is "malignant" and contact with him is a "staph infection". Troops are also routinely issued orders like "inoculate", "shield", "clamp" and "cauterize".
  • Shout-Out:
  • Slave Mooks: An entire army of them, with most of the Combine soldiers you fight throughout Half-Life 2 and its episodes are actually cybernetically modified and enslaved transhumans. Also, the "Striders," "Gunships," "Hunters," "Dropships," and "Synth Scanners" you see in-game are all either enslaved aliens or biomachines. It's implied that there are millions of enslaved species. The Vortigaunts may have been one of them, though they were later found to be enslaved by the Nihilanth. In fact, the Nihilanth's species' role in relation to the Combine is never really explained, and neither is Race X's role.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens/The Juggernaut: They curb-stomped the combined military might of every country on Earth in just seven hours. It took Dr. Breen to convince them not to exterminate every single human and settle for enslaving us instead.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Surprisingly, not the Overwatch. They're just brainwashed slaves. No, the real sociopaths here are in Civil Protection, mentioned above in Police Brutality; the corps consists of humans who joined the The Combine's forces willingly, for perks like extra rations and sexual privileges. They appear to be somewhere between SWAT police and low-ranking soldiers. Their tasks are basically to instill fear in every citizen, and to brutally crack down on small resistance pockets. Their technology is notably a bit more primitive, as well. Where the Overwatch and Airwatch use Striders, Gunships and energy weapons, CP units make due with APCs, patrol helicopters and sub-machineguns.
  • Starfish Aliens: The creatures running the whole thing, called "Advisors", resemble rhino-sized brain-sucking grubs with no eyes, arms, legs or face. The developers deliberately wanted to invoke the image of a species that passed its Singularity a very long time ago. They rely on mechanical arms and eyes for manipulation, and anti-gravity packs for movement. Well, those and their near-unstoppable telekinetic and telepathic abilities.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: Part of their official policy. Any Overwatch soldier who fails and lives to report about it will receive "permanent off-world assignment". Their destination is likely not pleasant.
  • Vestigial Empire: Not the Union itself, but its occupation of Earth is quite low in maintenance. Some of their own structures appear to be rusting, and most of their much stronger Synth army was withdrawn in favor of human occupation forces long ago. While the rest of the Union thrives, it's made evident they don't care much about Earth or its integrity.
  • Villain Ball: Downplayed, but their usage of headcrab shells on Resistance locations, since it only replaces still-dangerous-but-managable human Resistance fighters with uncontrollable hordes of Zombies that can be a lot more unpredictable and difficult to manage than the Resistance itself.
  • We Will Wear Armor in the Future: Averted with the transhuman Overwatch soldiers, who wear kevlar-like soft armor that resembles modern riot gear with what look likes protective inserts, in contrast to the more standard sci-fi plate armor with Shoulders of Doom that most FPS soldier enemies tend to wear.
  • White Mask of Doom: The Metropolice, although the Combine Elites are even worse.
  • You Are Number 6: The remaining cities under their control on Earth are simply given numerical designations, with Half-Life 2 and its episodes being set in "City 17," located somewhere in Eastern Europe.


Rhino-sized, grub-like alien lifeforms. They led the Universal Union's Synth invasion of Earth, and now command the Combine forces stationed on Earth through Breen and the Overwatch, taking direct control in Episode 2. The Vortigaunts are familiar with the Advisors, whom they call "Shu'ulathoi", having long been enslaved by them. They are ancient beings, extremely intelligent and powerful, possessing a variety of psychic and telekinetic abilities.

  • Aliens are Bastards: Our First Contact resulted in them enslaving us and exterminating much of the population. Pleasant fellows, aren't they?
  • Alien Invasion: They led the Combine in their invasion of Earth, conquering the planet in only seven hours.
  • Aliens Speaking English: They can fluently communicate via telepathy in what seems to be a variety of languages.
  • Ancient Astronauts: Though they never technically visited Earth, according to Word of God they had been closely observing Earth for a very, very long time before they invaded. Not for us humans, but for our natural resources.
  • Assimilation Plot: Every race the Combine conquers is either forcibly or willingly assimilated into their unified ranks. After Breen convinced the Advisors to not annihilate humanity, this has become their main goal.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: It's unknown where exactly they fall in the Combine hierarchy, but Dr. Breen is completely subservient to them, as are all Combine-affiliated forces on Earth by extension. They're armed with extraordinarily powerful psychic abilities and end up directly commanding all of the Combine military force left on Earth by Episode Two.
  • Big Bad: At the very least they oversaw the Combine invasion of Earth, and later rule over its occupation from clandestine stasis pods.
    • Greater-Scope Villain: Revealed in Episode Two to actually be the ones who were in charge all along, not Breen.
  • Blob Monster/Starfish Aliens: Other than their long tongues, they have no discernible body features, appearing like a mass of grey flesh, resembling grubs.
  • Cyborg: Apparently they aren't adapted to Earth's atmosphere (not yet, anyway) and as such are outfitted with a wide variety of odd mechanical apparatus.
  • Evil Colonialist: Their entire motif is conquering then assimilating and/or enslaving all species they come across, or simply plundering their worlds for resources.
  • Evil Overlord: Unclear how high in the overall Combine rankings they are, but they are the overseers of the Combine occupation of Earth.
  • Expy: They're based on the Guild Navigators from Dune.
  • The Ghost: Their existence isn't known by anyone on Earth outside of the Combine's highest ranks and the oldest Vortigaunts; not even the folks of Black Mesa knew what they were. By Episode Two, it's revealed that Breen was little more than a puppet for their interests.
  • Kill All Humans: At first they wanted to wipe out the human race entirely, viewing us as insects not even worth ruling over. Only through Breen's pleading did they reconsider this and settle for enslavement.
  • Leitmotif: Plays alongside them, named after them.
  • Mars Needs Water: One reason they invaded Earth, it seems, was to siphon our oceans.
  • Master Race: Often believed that they are the masterminds of the entire Universal Union, or at least part of the leading race.
  • Mind Probe: Their long tongues allow them to pierce through humans easily; Word of God suggests they can literally suck out human brains in order to interpret their knowledge and their memories, making it especially vital that Resistance leaders don't fall into their clutches.
  • Psychic Powers: Telekinesis, Clairvoyance, Telepathy, Empathy.
    • Mind Rape: Either through their vocal noises or through mind powers, they can induce debilitating, severely painful seizure-like effects on anything in their close proximity.
      • The graphic and sound effects used on screen when an Advisor is in close proximity gives a very realistic portrayal of what it's like to have a migraine. Don't get migraines? Now you know what it looks and sounds like to those who do.
  • Reality Warper: Not on the same level as the G-Man, but they are capable of freezing time and space in a short area, and can manipulate this localized area at will.
  • Reluctant Ruler: For unknown reasons the Advisors remain in stasis up until Episode Two, very rarely asserting control over Earth themselves and leaving most of it up to Breen. By Two, however, they take direct control with a vengeance.
    • Justified by meta-explanations of canon - The years that Earth had been under their rule, they were merely there to observe and not intervene, part of Breen's obligation to prove to them that humanity was worth sparing and integrating into the Universal Union rather than eradicating outright.
  • Squishy Wizard: They have strong psychic attacks, but they're easily dispatched in a physical fight by Dog, and can even be taken out by conventional fire.
  • Super Intelligence: As some of the oldest beings in existence, they've got the intellect, accumulated knowledge, and the administrative skills to control, or at least aid in running, an empire that stretches across multiple dimensions. It's even implied that they mastered universal space travel at the same time as humanity was still in its Prehistoric era.
  • You Have Failed Me: After Breen's consistent failures against the Resistance and Freeman, it's made clear they no longer have any use for him.

Race X

A mysterious alien race from another dimension they only appear in Opposing Force, where their invasion is repelled by Adrian Shephard, and finally ended when the US government nukes Black Mesa. Their main soldiers are the Shock Troopers but they also have other creatures at their disposal such as the Pit Drone, Shock Roach, Voltigore, Pit Worm, and Gene Worm.

  • Arc Villain: They serve as the main antagonists of Opposing Force, continuing to exploit the Resonance Cascade even as the Nihilanth is killed.
  • Big-Bad Ensemble: Form one not only with the HECU and Xen aliens but also with the Black Ops later on.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Haven't been seen since Opposing Force, and Marc Laidlaw has said that they were purely a Gearbox creation and don't figure into his thinking about the universe. He also wanted to leave them alone to allow Gearbox to freely use and develop them in any potential future Half-Life titles they might make.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Gene Worm is a gigantic monstrosity which has the power to convert any natural resource and by extension an entire planet in order to suit Race X's needs. It also houses an exit portal for reinforcements in its abdomen.
    • The manual for Opposing Force implies that it's several miles long and that the portion you fight in-game is just its head.
  • Eye Scream: Shooting the eyes of the Gene Worm with the conveniently placed laser turrets blinds it...
    • Attack Its Weak Point: ...if blinded in both eyes it opens its midsection revealing a portal, making it vulnerable to attack.
  • Fragile Speedster: Pit Drones. They're incredibly fast and agile, and can kill Shephard and other human soldiers in a few hits. However, compared to the larger Race X troops, they die rather quickly from just a few shotgun or submachine-gun rounds.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: They're essentially an entire race of this since they're not connected to the Resonance Cascade nor the Xen aliens, and only appear in Opposing Force to take advantage of the whole incident in an attempt to raid Earth. They're not even given a backstory and any semblance to the main plot beyond that.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: The Shock Roaches will attack anything close to them, including their own handlers (like Adrian). Heck, the idle animation shows Adrian teasing the Roach and it wanting to attack his fingers.
  • Interim Villain: They serve as antagonists just as the Xen invasion begins to peter out thanks to Gordon Freeman's actions, and before the Combine make their invasion of Earth.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Shock Troopers move fast, take a lot of damage from both bullets and explosives, and deal a lot of damage in return. In fact, they have even more health than the Male Assassins, already known for being Lightning Bruisers themselves.
  • Made of Explodium: The Shock Roaches also eventually explode after being released.
  • Made of Iron: Shock Troopers take about twenty MP5 shots to kill, or just three Desert Eagle shots. That's twice as much as the average human soldier.
  • Mighty Glacier: Voltigores are this, being able to soak up a ton of bullet and even explosive damage before dying.
  • Planet Looters: Their goal regardless of origin and affiliation is all very much the same: conquer a planet while also plundering all of it's resources, and then terraform it so it can be of better use as a more suitable colony.
  • Shock and Awe: The aptly named Shock Troopers which carry a weapon called a Shock Roach, insect-like creatures that shoot deadly electricity. Also, Voltigores, large creatures which shoot powerful bolts of purple electricity.
  • Starfish Aliens: Even more so than Xen's occupants which is saying a lot. For example, Shock Troopers, in their infantile stage, are green amphibious fish-like organisms; by the time they reach maturity, they gain a humanoid stature, two pairs of arms, and have more in common with insects than fish.
  • The Spook: Infamously known for this. The only things we do know about them is that they're interested in conquering and colonizing other planets, and that they have already mastered teleportation technology. Even in-universe, the higher ups at Black Mesa didn't fully know about their existence despite the countless research expeditions made on Xen.
    Security Guard: What is that thing, doc?
    Scientist: I don't know, I've never seen that species before!
  • Ugly Cute: In-Universe, Shephard seems to think so of the Spore Launcher, since he can't help but pet the cute thing (which is actually a larval infant of the Shock Troopers, according to Word of God.)
  • Zerg Rush: The preferred tactic of the Pit Drone, taking advantage of their speed and numbers to overwhelm HECU and Black Ops positions.


Voice Actor: Michael Shapiro (Half-Life 1)

The ruler of the Xen aliens and the main antagonist of the first Half-Life (and by extension, Blue Shift, Decay and part of Opposing Force). His race was under severe threat from the Combine, being hunted to near extinction. Some time prior to the first game, he enslaved the Vortigaunts, who were further pursued by the Combine. To escape them, he and the Vortigaunts fled to the border world, Xen, where they set up shop. Still desperate, he used the Resonance Cascade to launch an invasion of Earth, and despite the Black Mesa's scientists' best efforts to plug the rift between the dimensions, he was able to use his psychic powers to force it to stay open. His forces had success with pushing back the HECU, but his invasion was ended when the Black Ops nuked Black Mesa and Gordon Freeman traveled to Xen and killed him, finally closing the hole in the dimensions.

  • Always a Bigger Fish: Invoked by Nihilanth. He's undoubtedly talking about the Combine, or more specifically the Combine Advisors — or, quite possibly, who they're advisors to.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Mostly because we know so little about him; what we do know casts him in a pretty ambiguous light. On one hand, he did enslave the Vortigaunts and invade Earth, with his forces being quite indiscriminate in their killings. On the other hand, the Black Mesa scientists had repeatedly invaded Xen to take apparently valuable crystals and specimens (including actually sentient soldiers in the Nihilanth's army), and Marc Laidlaw confirmed that the Nihilanth's invasion of Earth was largely an act of desperation, as his kind had been hunted to near extinction by the Combine. He also seems to care somewhat about Xen's ecosystem, given his apparent horror in the telepathic message he sends to Gordon after Gordon kills the Gonarch ("Doooone... what have you dooooone?"), and was the only thing keeping the Combine from invading our universe.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: The only way Freeman can kill the Nihilanth is to fire everything he's got directly into its brain. Even then, it takes quite a bit of damage.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Just like the Combine Advisors, he leads a large army and has very powerful telekinetic powers, which include the ability to teleport himself and others, telepathy, the ability to shoot extremely powerful balls of lightning, and levitation. His commanders and possible relatives, the "Alien Controllers", also possess these abilities, but to much less powerful degrees.
  • Big Bad: Of the first game, and by extension, Decay and Blue Shift.
  • Big-Bad Ensemble: Between himself and his forces, Race X, the HECU, and the Black Ops in the first game and its expansions.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: His eyes appear plain black, unlike his underlings, whose eyes are red. He may not even have eyes, just holes where they should be like the Stalkers, but it's hard to tell.
  • Body Horror: In addition to his general creepy anatomy, he also has what appears to be amputation scars on his chest, slave bracelets, and mutilated legs that have been burned to vestigial stubs. But Marc Laidlaw denies that this is the result of being captured by the Combine, which is a common fan theory.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: His orbs all have distinct roles, and are distinguished by color and shape.
    • Blue: Balls of energy that kill anything they come into contact with.
    • Green: Teleports whoever it touches.
    • Gold: Provides a powerful personal shield that protects him from damage.
  • Energy Ball: Can launch dozens of energy balls at a time; they each deal a ton of damage, but they can be (barely) avoided with strafing because Gordon Freeman can strafe at over forty miles per hour.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Has a voice that can probably be best described with adjectives like "vast" and "bellowing."
  • Fat Bastard: His torso looks a little more human-like than the other Xen aliens, making it somewhat noticeable that he looks overweight. This is likely the result of his legs being vestigial, and him floating around everywhere.
  • Fetus Terrible: What he looks like.
  • Final Boss: Of Half-Life 1.
  • Flunky Boss: One of the more annoying parts about the fight with him. He'll launch a green orb that either teleports you to another room or spawns some vortigaunts or Alien controllers in his chamber. The second option isn't so bad, since he only spawns a few at a time, but him teleporting you to another room is very frustrating. In one instance, he'll teleport you to a room with a Gargantua, forcing you to have a boss fight in the middle of another boss fight.
  • Foreshadowing: His telepathic messages have a ton of this in regards to the Combine, the G-Man, Gordon, and possibly Breen and Shephard.
    Deceive you... he will deceive you...
    You are man... he is not man... for you he waits... for you...
  • Interim Villain: Strange inversion; he's only the villain for the first game, but his defeat leads to the Combine finding Earth.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Killing causes him to explode, which knocks Gordon out.
    • Also one in-story; his psychic powers were the only thing keeping the portals between the Combine's universes and Xen closed. When he died, the Combine were free to pour through Xen, and then to Earth.
  • Large and in Charge: The largest alien ever encountered in the series in terms of pure size. Even bigger than the three story tall tentacle monsters.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Much like the G-Man and the Vortigaunts, most of his comments may be just as much about the player as they are about something in-universe, and open to many theories. For example, in the quote below, he is both the last of his kind, possibly the last thing keeping the Combine away from Earth, and the last boss.
  • Meaningful Name: Word of God says "Nihilanth" is meant to imply nihilism. The -anth suffix relates to the flower-shape of his head.
  • My Brain Is Big: His head takes up over half of his entire body!
  • Pivotal Boss: He never moves from his point in the center of his room. Also...
  • Power Floats: Nor does he touch the ground.
  • Psychic Powers: The only psychic seen so far, aside from possibly the G-Man, who can affect things on a planetary scale. He was able to keep open a dimensional rift, telepathically mind control an entire species, and, judging by what happened after he died, was powerful enough to trigger disastrous portal storms all over the Earth, resulting in Xen wildlife killing off most of Earth's native fauna. Compared to that, his personal combat abilities (which are still formidable) seem rather unimpressive.
  • Puzzle Boss/Damage-Sponge Boss: To actually damage him, you need to find out that he is using the crystals to regenerate his force field and destroy the crystals. After that, his protective orbs won't regenerate, and he can be killed, but it takes quite a bit of damage.
  • Say My Name: The very first thing he says to Gordon in person is a chilling, angry bellow: "FREEEEEEEEEEEMAAAAAAAN!"
  • Single Specimen Species: Justified, since he's...
    • Last of His Kind Said by the Nihilanth himself just before Gordon enters his chamber:
      Nihilanth: ...THE LAAAAAAST. I AM THE LAAAAAAST. I AM...
    • The Alien Controllers, however, appear to be genetic crossbreeds between Nihilanth and Vortigaunt. So at least in them his species continues to exist (or at least in what few ones are left).
  • Shock and Awe
  • Straw Nihilist: Both his name and his cryptic comments to Gordon imply that he is a nihilist.
  • Telepathy: He broadcasts telepathic messages to Freeman all throughout Xen, and can also use this ability to communicate with other Xen creatures.
  • Turns Red: Inverted. Throughout the battle with him, he will become progressively weaker as he gets injured until he finally just starts firing one ball of lightning at a time at you, as opposed to the dozens he fired before.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Nihilanth is actually warning Freeman the entire game to cut it out ("Deceive you... will deceive you...", "Their slaves... we are their slaves... we are...", "The truth... you can never know... the truth...") Basically, the Nihilanth was the one thing preventing the Combine from invading Earth.

Hazardous Environment Combat Unit (HECU)

Voiced by: Mike Shapiro and Harry Robins (Half-Life 1)

The special forces unit who was sent to Black Mesa to clear up the aliens, it is soon discovered that they are also under orders to silence all the Black Mesa personnel... with bullets. They end up having to pull out, leaving behind dozens of their own troops in the process, while the Black Ops took over the operation.

  • Anti-Villain: The more noble ones are this. They are trying to thwart an alien invasion, and they are willing to stay behind and die just to kill as many of them as they can. Many of them strongly disagree with killing the staff and only do so because they are afraid of being executed themselves. It's not hard to sympathize with some of them.
  • Anti-Hero: The ones featured in Opposing Force are this. While they still treat the scientists and security guards harshly, their more redeeming features are emphasized, namely their determination to fight their way out of Black Mesa, killing any more Xen or Race X Aliens invading the facility, and their loyalty to one another.
  • Armies Are Evil: Zig Zagged Trope. On one hand, many of them remorselessly massacre unsuspecting Black Mesa personnel. Others, however, openly question as to why they're engaging unarmed civilians as opposed to dealing with the aliens, and by the time they pull out of Black Mesa, are more concerned with getting out the facility together.
  • Artificial Brilliance: They were praised as being the first tactically intellegent enemies in video games.
  • Artistic License – Military: The HECU medical personnel are referred to, both in-universe and out, as medics. The U.S. Marines, which make up the HECU's foot soldiers, do not use medics. They have corpsmen, who are actually from the Navy and have been specially trained to work and fight alongside the Marines.
    • Although they're identified as marines, HECU soldiers deploy various types of military hardware that are not used by U.S. Marines in real life, including U.S. Army's M2 Bradley IFVs (real-world marines use LAV-25) and AH-64 Apache helicopters (real-world marines use AH-1W Super Cobras), as well as U.S. Air Force F-16 fighters (real-world marines use AV-8B Harrier II fighters). Possibly justified, since - as noted elsewhere on this page - HECU may actually be a multi-branch effort.
  • Asshole Victim: All of the ones that feel no remorse or hesitation in killing the staff. When they themselves end up being betrayed and marked for assassination, it's very satisfying.
  • Badass Army: Consists of highly trained marines with a full repertoire of US Military hardware, including M1 Abrams tanks, M2 Bradley IFVs, Apache attack helicopters, and even F-16 fighters. Unfortunately for them, they're a mere battalion-sized unit facing an entire alien invasion. Not to mention Gordon Freeman.
  • Band of Brothers: Subverted and played straight. Many soldiers throughout Opposing Force are shown to care for their squad mates, but the same can not be said for many other members of the unit, particularly the commanders, who abandon several dozen soldiers in their attempt to escape from Black Mesa in blatant violation of the "Never Leave a Man Behind" policy. In fact, two of the soldiers refuse to turn Gordon over to their bosses because they don't want to see him alive after he'd killed so many of their compatriots.
  • The Big Guy: Yet another class introduced in Opposing Force is a tall, muscular soldier toting an M249.
  • Cavalry Betrayal: You rather quickly find out that they are not at Black Mesa to help the employees and especially not Gordon.
  • Cold Sniper: A handful of them wield sniper rifles in the original Half-Life. Shephard himself can wield one of these rifles in Opposing Force, and even receives specialized training for use of one beforehand.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: The Opposing Force training level has one guide you through, quoting Full Metal Jacket the whole way.
    "Where are you from, soldier? ... "Texas"?! Holy cow! You know what comes from Texas, don't you?"
  • The Engineer: He gets introduced in Opposing Force. While engineers are meant to fix vehicles, the engineer in Opposing Force is more useful for just opening locked doors with his blow torch and fighting with his Desert Eagle.
  • Faceless Goons: The shotgun wielding ones wear balaclavas. However...
    • Gas Mask Mooks: Most of them wear chemical warfare gear, such as gas masks, although the officers wear berets.
    • Averted in Opposing Force for the most part, where they actually have their faces shown.
  • Fiery Coverup: Their mission.
  • Hate Sink: The more evil soldiers, specifically the ones who not only show no remorse or hesitation in killing the Black Mesa staff, but state that they are happy that they get to kill someone and complain about how easy it is to kill the Black Mesa staff due to them not putting up a fight. The ones who hate Gordon for killing their buddies are also this, since they don't care that it was in self defense after they had betrayed and started killing many members of the Black Mesa staff. The commanders who leave their troops to fend for themselves are also this. While many of the others can be seen as punch clock villains, these other assholes deserve to be killed and serve as good human antagonists that serve the role of someone the audience can hate.
  • Jerkass: The soldiers who are happy they get to kill people, find it annoying that the staff don't put up much of a fight, feel no remorse for their actions, and hate Gordon for killing their men despite it being completely justified.
  • The Medic: Another class introduced in Opposing Force. While he isn't very effective with his Glock 17 handgun, he is the only thing in the game that can heal your teammates.
  • Moral Myopia: Two soldiers that capture Gordon seemed rather outraged at him for killing so many soldiers, even though 100% of those guys were trying to kill Gordon.
  • Retcon: Originally, they were only called "soldiers" or "the military". They received their current name in Opposing Force. In the original Half-Life, their helicopters even had a US Army logo on them.
    • Given this, and some other facts (HECU grunts are recognized as marines, land vehicles have Army markings, the F-16 is a plane used by the USAF) some fans have theorized that HECU is a multi-branch effort, like SOCOM in real life.
  • More Dakka: Many of their weapons, such as the M249 and Flash missile launcher. Hell, even their standard issue sub machine gun has a 50 round magazine.
  • Radio Voice: They spoke this way, and it sounded extremely robotic. May have something to do with most of their Enemy Chatter being Mad Libs Dialogue. Averted in Opposing Force to make them more relatable as Shepard's comrades.
  • Red Shirt Army: Zig zagged. They're actually capable of soaking up more damage than the aliens thanks to their PCVs and are more than capable of taking them in a fight. On the other hand, Gordon slaughters them by the score and their AI leaves a lot to be desired in Opposing Force, where they can often be easily killed by Black Ops troops.
  • Semper Fi: They never seem to give up against you or the aliens.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: A few of them seem to take joy in killing innocent scientists.
    "I've killed twelve dumbass scientists, and not one of them fought back! This sucks!
  • Suicide Mission: After the Marines evacuate, they leave several soldiers behind. These soldiers, despite essentially being doomed men, still fight on to kill the more powerful aliens and therefore prevent them from ransacking Earth. Especially noticeable in Opposing Force, when the corpses of dead marines can be found in the area where you fight the pit worm. Also in the final boss battle, when the security guard tells Shephard that some other marines went down to fight the Gene Worm and never came back.
  • White and Grey Morality: Their main job is to prevent an alien invasion, which means protecting Earth. Plus, it is hinted at in their conversations that they mistakenly believe Gordon (and by extension all the scientists at Black Mesa) intentionally caused the resonance cascade.
    "So, who is this guy, Freeman?"
    "They say he was at Ground Zero."
    "Science Team? You think he was responsible, sabotage, maybe?"
    "Yeah, maybe. But one thing for sure is he's been killing my buddies."
    "Oh yeah, he'll pay. He will definitely pay!"
  • With Catlike Tread: "SQUAD, QUIET DOWN!"
  • You All Look Familiar: They had exactly four models in the original game, which just changed the head: the caucasian officer who wore a beret, the normal mook who wore a gas mask, the shotgun using soldier who wore a balaclava and goggles, and the grenade launcher using African-American soldier who wore no hat or mask, and smoked a cigarette. The latter was changed to simply being an African-American version of the officer with a mustache in the HD pack.
  • You Have Failed Me: After they fail to defeat the aliens and start pulling out, the Black Ops come in to deal with the situation themselves by blowing the facility up to kill the aliens and ensure the incident is covered up. They not only have no interest in rescuing any of the HECU troopers still present at the facility, but in fact start killing any of them they come across for essentially no reason.

The Black Ops

A very shadowy unit sent to Black Mesa after the HECU failed their tasks, the Black Ops are there to remove everything in the facility, including the dozens of HECU stragglers left behind. Their purpose is only explained in Opposing Force.

  • Armies Are Evil: Played straight. Unlike the HECU, who are shown to at least be a Band of Brothers and show bravery and camaraderie against all odds, these soldiers are straight-up evil, massacring anyone who isn't part of their unit remorselessly.
  • Bad Boss: HECU soldiers find this out in a bad way.
  • Badass Army: They use the same equipment as the HECU, but are also far more competent in combat, managing to hold out far longer against the Xen and later Race X hordes, not to mention having more health than the HECU soldiers. Also, the fact that they never make noise is pretty impressive when they're being shot constantly.
  • Black Helicopter: They use black AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, in contrast to the green ones used by the HECU.
  • Cavalry Betrayal: Shephard, and by extension, the remaining HECU soldiers in Black Mesa, realize that they're not there to help them pull out, but are ordered to silence them along with any surviving Black Mesa personnel as well as the aliens.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: In Opposing Force, after defeating a bunch of Black Ops in a garage, Shephard finds an engineer who is bleeding and mortally wounded. He has to bring the nearby medic to him in order to save his life so he can open a door for you. It is clear the Black Ops tortured him for information.
  • Cold Sniper: Some of them have sniper rifles.
  • Dark Is Evil: They wear all-black combat suits, and are absolutely ruthless in their containment of the Black Mesa disaster.
  • Deus ex Nukina: The way they eventually take care of Black Mesa.
  • Doom Troops: the HECU may be a diverse lot, but these guys are a straight Legion of Terror.
  • Elite Mooks: In addition to being completely silent, the male black ops use powerful hand to hand moves at close range, run much faster than the marines, and have a little more health. The female black ops on the other hand prefer to flip and jump around wildly while pelting the player with pistol fire and kung-fu kicks.
  • Faceless Goons: They all wear balaclavas, and the female black ops, as well as some male black ops, also wear night vision goggles. Referenced in Opposing Force when one Marine refers to them as "masked freaks".
  • Fiery Coverup: Same mission as the HECU, except this time, their coverup also includes the HECU themselves.
  • Fragile Speedster: The female variant can move very fast, and do a lot of damage with their pistols to both Freeman and Shephard. However, they're easily taken down in one-two Magnum pistol hits.
  • Gainaxing: The Female Black Ops had a very exaggerated breast bounce when they walked, never mind they wear absolutely skin-tight overalls.
  • Hate Sink: While some of the H.E.C.U. troopers could be seen as Punch Clock Villains, there is nothing to like about these people.
  • Highly Visible Ninja: Their pitch-black scheme does stand-out in well-lit areas. Unless you play on Hard (at least in the first game), in which case the female ones have Invisibility Cloaks.
  • Jerkass: All of them. They order the deaths of all of the Black Mesa staff without any hesitation or remorse, and move on to kill their pawns when they are no longer needed. Unlike the H.E.C.U, none of them have any redeeming qualities whatsoever.
  • Leave No Witnesses: And that includes the H.E.C.U. marines doing the dirty work.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Male Black Ops move much faster than their HECU counterparts, and are tougher to take down.
  • Ninja: They are ninjas in all but name, complete with silent, fast movement and using karate kicks and punches at close range. Even their uniforms have a "kabuki stagehand" vibe to them.
  • Radio Voice: Averted, even though you only hear them speak once (they're completely silent the rest of the time).
  • Silent Antagonist: Most of them never speak a single line in and out of combat, and are antagonistic towards both Black Mesa personnel and the HECU.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Unlike the HECU, played completely straight.
  • Van in Black: Well, M35 truck in black.

    Alien Species 


Voice Actor: Lou Gossett Jr. (Half-Life 2), Tony Todd (Episode Two)

A race of peaceful aliens linked to something called the Vortessence. They were enslaved by the Nihilanth as factory workers and militia, and were one of the most common enemies in the original Half-Life; after the fall of the Nihilanth, they were free to converse with humanity and, come the arrival of the Combine, join the Resistance.

  • Aliens Speaking English: Interspersed with their native language and phrases.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At least one quote from the All-Knowing Vortigaunt implies they are aware of the player controlling Freeman, or everyone who has played the game.
    "Far distant eyes look out through yours."
    "Could you but see the eyes inside your own, the minds in your mind, you would see how much we share."
    "How many are there in you? Whose hopes and dreams do you encompass?"
    "Something secret steers us both. We shall not name it."
  • Death Is Cheap: Apparently, via the "Vortessence":
    "What seems to you a sacrifice is merely, to us, an oscillation. We do not fear the interval of darkness."
  • Easily Forgiven: The vortigaunts don't seem too upset about you killing scores of them in the first game. Justified as you had no choice but to fight them and the surviving vortigaunts see what you did as more of a Mercy Kill.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The All-Knowing Vortigaunt states that Freeman did the enslaved Vortigaunts a favor by killing them.
  • Heel–Race Turn: Since the original Half-Life.
  • Hive Mind: Or at least an entire race somehow connected on a metaphysical level by the Vortessence...Whatever that is.
  • Lightworlder: Considering the Vortigaunts spent a good amount of time in Xen (which has lower gravity than Earth), they could count as such. Although, how much they're considered true lightworlders is left ambiguous, because they adapted to Earth's gravity very well and have Super Strength. Not to mention that details about their actual homeworld are never revealed.
  • Magic by Any Other Name: They can shoot lightning, they can charge your suit, they can heal critically-injured Alyx, and power generators. And it's all just put down to "the Vortessence"
  • Not Always Evil: In the first game, they were typical Mooks for Gordon Freeman to mindlessly kill. It turns out, they were only fighting you because they were enslaved by the Nihilanth, and they help La Résistance in the second game and its episodes. (Sharp eyes at the time noted they were wearing control braces. That and their name in the game files was alien_slave) Whoops. The G-Man tries to make Gordon feel guilty about this later on.
  • One-Man Army: You didn't think that the humans were the only ones with these, did you?
    • X-8973 and R-4913, the two Vortigaunts from the PlayStation 2 exclusive expansion, Half-Life: Decay. They are noticeably more durable than standard Vortigaunts, have stronger and seemingly more developed electrokinesis, and can regenerate health by damaging enemies. Something of a downplayed example though, as they work as a team and only get to take down twenty or so soldiers in the small bonus chapter in which they appear.
    • The three Vortigaunts in Episode Two who slaughter dozens of antlions, turning what used to be a tough Hold the Line moment into a glorious Curb-Stomp Battle. The one that accompanies you throughout the mines, nicknamed the Victory Mine Vortigaunt, is probably the best example.
  • Shock and Awe: Their primary attack is releasing bolts of lightning from their fingertips.
  • Slave Mooks: In the first game, but then Gordon Freeman freed them from control of their alien masters.
  • Slave Race: They've been enslaved by both the Nihilanth and the Universal Union long before the events of the first game.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": They always call you and Alyx "The Freeman and the Alyx Vance".
  • Starfish Aliens: They have at least four eyes. Also, they have three arms, lightning powers, and some sort of Hive Mind (that may or may not overlap with the very (vort)essence of the universe).
  • Starfish Language: Vortigese and the related "flux-shifting" ranges from a 'normal' spoken language to telepathy to a language where two vortigaunts have to talk at the same time to properly communicate.
  • Super Strength: While it is not as pronounced as the strength of the Grunts, they still have it. The very first time you encounter one, it breaks down a 20mm thick heavy metal door with a few hits, with the door being reduced to pieces.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In the first game, they were disposable mooks, slaughtered in droves by Freeman and the soldiers. By Half-Life 2, they're much more powerful combatants (individually about on par with the original's Hard mode Vortigaunts) and have gained new mystical abilities including, at one point, resurrecting someone from the dead.

Clockwise from Top Right: Standard, Gonarch, Fast and Poison

Parasitic alien lifeforms. Originally from an unknown dimension far from Xen, they were eventually brought there by the portal storms. After the Resonance Cascade and the following portal storms, the headcrabs migrated and set up shop on Earth. Their most notable quality is their ability to turn humans (and possibly other creatures) into Zombies by attaching to their heads.

  • Blue and Orange Morality: Like the Antlions, despite being quite threatening and a dangerous threat to both Combine and Resistance operations, they're not really evil and only operate on a basic animal-like intelligence.
  • Body Horror: For unknown reasons, headcrabs mutilate a persons body, possibly because as a parasite they are draining its "resources". Standard Zombies have their ribcages open like teeth and their organs are on display. The bloodied faces of the victims aren't much better. In the original Half-Life, it appeared some of the mutations happened as a result of the Headcrab fusing with the victim, becoming a warped mass of flesh overtop the skull.
    • It gets worse with elite zombies. Fast Zombies look like all of the flesh save the bare muscle is gone, and the Poisonous Zombies have a smashed in looking "face" and a back that appears to have been eaten away. Gonomes from Opposing Force have even the Headcrab undergoing some substantial effects, with its front limbs withering away after having effectively become the host's new face.
  • Butt-Monkey: In a way they are this, even if they are pretty damn creepy. They are usually getting obliterated by both Combine and rebels, and even the game actively encourages you to kill them in "creative" ways such as throwing saws, using traps, or setting them on fire. Of the four factions competing for control by the end of Half-Life 2, they are probably the weakest, with their only saving grace being their sheer numbers.
  • Elite Mooks: In the first game, there were just basic headcrabs and zombies. The later games introduce new forms.
    • Opposing Force has the Gonome, a mutated version of the standard headcrab zombie. Not only does it have more health than a normal zombie, but it can throw some sort of projectile and sprint.
    • Half-Life 2 introduces the fast headcrabs and poison headcrabs, as well as their accompanying zombie forms.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: Which causes Barney to refer to them as "head humpers".
  • Fate Worse than Death: Headcrab zombies can be heard crying out in pain, and playing their audio backwards reveals a large amount of dialogue such as "God Help Me! Help me!" or "Get it off me!" This heavily implies that headcrab victims are aware of what's happening but unfortunately there is no way to remove headcrabs without killing the victim.
  • Fragile Speedster: Invoked for all of the variants, of course.
    • Fast headcrab zombies are the fastest ones by far, and are arguably the most dangerous for this reason. However, they have no more health than a standard zombie, and so are only a big threat in large numbers and being pretty annoying as well.
  • Glass Cannon: While the Poison Headcrab may be durable as the regular and it's fast variants, it can drain the player's health to 1 HP and thus, leaving the player vulnerable to other enemies.
  • The Goomba: Both the zombies and the headcrabs themselves, with the former being almost a complete non-threat due to their slow speed, low health, and weak attacks, and the latter dying in one or two hits from just about anything and doing next to no damage.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Headcrab noises are all horrible, whether alone or from a zombie. Special mention has to go the poison headcrabs which make three distinctive noises: a disarming chirping noise, a rattle that sounds like a rattlesnake rattle, and when they attack they let out a horrible high-pitched scream that sounds almost human.
  • King Mook: The Gonarch.
  • Mascot Mook: They've become this due to being unique but common enemies.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Due to how easy it is to kill them, it's easy to forget just how dangerous they can be. For proof just look at Ravenholm.
  • Personal Space Invader: They have a habit of flinging themselves at people's heads.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: They effectively replace their victims heads, controlling their every actions. There seems to be enough of their hoists mind left to be horrified at their predicament.
  • Zerg Rush: Zombies are fond of this tactic in Ravenholm and City 17, post collapse of the Sector 17 Overwatch.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Can cause this if they show up in large numbers. See Ravenholm.


Large, insect like creatures that migrated to Earth following the portal storms. They seem to operate much like many Earth insects, living in extremely large colonies with other antlions. After the events of Half-Life 2, the street war between the Combine and the Resistance has caused a breakdown of the Combine defenses, and the antlions have started pouring in to civilized areas.

  • Blue and Orange Morality: Like the Headcrabs, despite being incredibly dangerous and a significant threat to both Combine and Resistance operations, they're not really evil and only operate on a basic animal-like intelligence.
  • Cannon Fodder: Antlion soldiers. The most commonly encountered ones by far, they pretty much just charge and attempt to bite/claw whatever is threatening the colony with little regard for personal safety. Good thing they're extremely numerous.
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: Antlion workers explode when they die, shooting acid everywhere.
  • Elite Mook: Antlion workers, which use their wings to jump around more often, have twice as much health as Antlion soldiers, and spit acid with deadly accuracy.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Their presence is quite a help to the Resistance, as it gives the already overstretched Overwatch occupation force something else to shoot at.
    • Though to be fair, they're not evil so much as animalistic. Once Gordon gets the pheremones, they're actually pretty helpful allies.
  • Expy: Especially the basic soldiers look and behave a lot like the Bugs from the Starship Troopers films.
  • Giant Mook: Antlion Guards, which can soak up bullets and grenades like a sponge and punt APCs with a headbutt.
  • Made of Plasticine: Antlions are the only enemies in Half-Life 2 that can be gibbed.
  • Mama Bear/Papa Wolf: Don't mess with their grubs. Seriously, don't.
  • Mysterious Past: In a sense, with them having some unknown connection to the Vortigaunts (who have even domesticated some of their species to a certain extent).
  • Insectoid Aliens: They greatly resemble giant beetles. Their grubs also resemble giant maggots.
  • Unstoppable Rage: If you mess around with Antlion grubs, the Antlion Guardian will. Get. Pissed. Th Guardian that appears in Episode Two actually leaves the nest to hunt down and kill Freeman in revenge for breaking in and killing their young.
  • Zerg Rush:
    • During Half-Life 2, they have a tendency of doing this — they will even push the player onto the sand, summoning more Antlions.
    • During Episode Two, they do this once Gordon reaches Griggs and Sheckley's hideout. Fortunately the aforementioned rebels are quite adept at killing them, not to mention they have two turrets as backup.


Large, stationary creatures that wait on the ceiling for prey to wander in range, where upon they grab their prey with their tentacle and pull it up into their mouth.

  • Extreme Omnivore: They'll eat just about any living thing, from humans to Antlions to birds. On the other hand, should they pick up something they cannot eat such as wood, they'll chew it a little, get frustrated and spit it out.
  • Glass Cannon: Despite it can be killed easily with any conventional weapons, the Barnacle can mow down an NPC including the player in few seconds while chewing in the first game. While in it's sequel, it will instantly kill an NPC via Neck Snap. However, the Player can take 10 damage points per bite, thus giving the latter enough time to whack the said beast.
  • Neck Snap: How they instantly kill non player characters in the second game. Freeman is immune, possibly due to his HEV Suit.
  • Overly Long Tongue: Weaponized, as they wait for prey to wander into their dangling tongues and drag them up to devour them.

Alien Grunt

The backbone of the Nihilanth's Xenian army in the first Half-Life. The Grunts are tall, bipedal, muscular creatures with multiple red eyes, backward jointed legs, tube ears, vertical opening mouths, and an arm sticking out of their chest, similar to the Vortigaunts. They make up a large part of the invasion force during the Black Mesa Incident, where the Nihilanth's forces squared off against the HECU.

  • Bee Bee Gun: Their weapon, the Hivehand, which shoots alien "thornets", which are less like bees, and more like flying, poisonous, heat seeking armor-piercing daggers of death that can find you anywhere
  • Cyborg: Their armor and weapons look like they have been surgically grafted on to their bodies, and the Grunts themselves are artificially created in a factory.
  • Dumb Muscle: Averted. While their strength is mainly emphasized over their smarts, they clearly use strategy in their skirmishes. They use tactics such as firing their Hivehands to track those hiding behind cover and running between cover themselves when the opportunity sees fit.
  • Elite Mooks: They're much more dangerous than Vortigaunts, the other foot soldier of Xen in the first game, due to their high health, heat seeking projectiles, and armor.
  • No-Sell: Shooting the armored parts of the Grunts will simply do no damage at all if you shoot them with a pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, or even an uncharged Tau Cannon. Oddly enough (and good for the player), their armor is placed just about everywhere but the Grunt's torso, the most likely place it is to get shot.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Continuing the Xen theme as seen in Vortigaunts and Controllers.
    • This isn't all they share; like the Controllers, they also have the Vortigaunts' red eyes, vertical opening mouths, backwards jointed legs, hoofed feet, bipedal posture, two legs, and claws (well, on their third arm at least).
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family
  • Organic Technology: Their main weapon, the Hivehand, mentioned above, is a textbook case. This trope applies to the Grunts themselves, as they are a...
  • Servant Race: Towards the end of the game, you can find a factory run by Vortigaunts, with several barrels on an assembly line. Opening these barrels will reveal Alien Grunts, with the implication being that the grunts are a manufactured species. This fits with the bio-technology theme of Xen.
  • Super Strength: In various scripted scenes, they're seen doing things like prying open steel doors with their bare hands, or punching marines through walls.


The tanks of the Xen forces. The Gargantua is a twenty foot tall blue creature with an armored shell, two vestigial arms, two functioning arms, and one large eye. Their main arms have pincers that can open to emit jets of blazing heat. They only appear a few times, but you will remember them.

  • Ambiguous Robots: Their seemingly metallic skin and built in weapons makes one wonder. They actually share a few traits with Combine synths.
  • Cyborg: Possibly. It does look pretty mechanical. Special mention goes to its built in weapons, glowing machine-looking eye that changes colors, and armored metallic skin. Not to mention the way they explode.
  • Death from Above: How one is taken out in Forget About Freeman; Freeman calls in an air strike on it, and the HECU aircraft, not knowing who sent the signal, are happy to oblige. Cue exploding Gargantua.
  • Kill It with Fire: They have flamethrowers built into their arms.
  • Made of Iron: Bullets just bounce harmlessly off their skin. It takes a TON of explosive or electrical damage to actually put them down, more than the actual M1 Abrams tanks in the game. Even more so in the mod Black Mesa (a recreation of Half-Life 1 in HL2's engine), where there is absolutely no conventional way to kill them, even with all the explosives the player can carry; they can only be taken down with scripted sequences.
  • Meaningful Name: Gargantua, as in it's an absolute behemoth.
  • Mini-Boss: They serve this role whenever they appear in the original Half-Life; they're very tough, and half the time are meant to be taken down in scripted sequences to boot, but don't last as long and aren't as powerful as the actual bosses, of which there were only three (the Tentacle, the Gonarch, and the Nihilanth).
  • Natural Weapon: They can open their arms to release streams of fire/plasma/something that's powerful enough to actually reduce a human to Ludicrous Gibs rather than just burn them. They're also fond of simply crushing their enemies, or shooting a weird energy beam by stomping on the ground that can seek out targets and, again, gib them.
  • Puzzle Boss: Every one you meet is intended to be taken out using the environment in some way. You can kill them with weapons, but it requires almost your entire inventory of explosives to do so.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: They sport these.
  • The Juggernaut: Bullets don't do a damn thing against it what with its metal carapace, and even if its still susceptible to both energy weapons and all explosives it's going to take a lot of ammunition to bring it down. It also still says a lot when the only things to one shot it are very strong discharges from a power station or a direct hit from a mortar strike, both instances being very coincidental.
  • Walking Tank: Notable because they actually resemble a giant version of the primary Xenian heavy infantry unit, the Alien Grunt. Both are bipedal, both have backwards jointed legs, hoofed feat, red eyes, multiple sharp teeth, and two arms ending in weird hand-less ends that open up. See for yourself. This the only real hint we get it in-game that they're part of the Xenian military rather than just wild animals... well, that and the fact that they don't attack sentient Xenians the few times its possible to get Gargs and Vortigaunts in the same room. The same doesn't apply for Xenian wildlife.

Alien Controller

  • Airborne Mook
  • Cyborg: Not inherently obvious on the in-game model, but early model renders show them to be immensely mechanical.
  • Dying Race: According to Marc Laidlaw, they became either this or just outright extinct after the death of the Nihilanth.
  • Energy Ball: Their main method of attack.
  • Levitating Lotus Position: They strike this pose of the "hands closed together" variety whenever they launch their energy bolts at you.
  • Made of Iron: Despite being squishy looking, Controllers can take more damage than even the fully armored HECU soldiers, and much more than the Vortigaunts. This is likely because they have a weaker, invisible version of the Nihilanth's psychic shield, as they share many other abilities with him and do not visually wear any armor.
  • Mini Mook: They resemble the Nihilanth in many ways, but according to the Nihilanth himself, they're not of the same species. They look like hybrids of Nihilanth and vortigaunt, so maybe they're an artificial crossbreed species.
  • Mook Lieutenant: According to Laidlaw, the Controllers are basically conduits for the Nihilanth's psychic control of the Vortigaunts, and as a result are the highest ranked "generic" aliens on Xen.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Just like the Nihilanth, Vortigaunts, and Alien Grunts.
  • My Brain Is Big: Their Head:Body ratio is even higher than the Nihilanth's
  • Power Floats: They float around rather quickly, making them hard to hit with several weapons.
  • Psychic Powers: Similar to the Nihilanth, though much less powerful.
  • Shock and Awe: Via ball lightning, unlike the Vortigaunts' charged beam.

Alien Aircraft

  • Ambiguous Robots: Similar to the Gargantua
  • Airborne Mook
  • BFG: The powerful energy weapon they have built into their bellies, which in various scripted sequences is seen doing stuff like disintegrating rather thick rock formations and reducing an Osprey to scrap in less than a second of sustained fire.
  • Death from Above: Averted; they'll never attack targets on the ground.
  • Final Boss: One is the final boss of Decay.
  • Flying Seafood Special: Hence why they're commonly called "Manta Rays" by fans.
  • Gentle Giant: When encountered on Xen, they're completely harmless, and are pretty much the only moving thing that WON'T attack you. On Earth, however, they act as a dropship for the Xenian forces and attack HECU aircraft.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Can take as much damage as a tank and fly at speeds that at least exceed Mach 1, evidenced by the shock waves they create.
  • Made of Iron: You only actually fight one once, at the end of Decay. It takes as much damage as a tank to put down, though that may just be its Final Boss-ness in action.
  • Natural Weapon: A laser-like weapon built into their belly that they can fire downward. It bears some resemblance to the weapon used by Combine Gunships when spawned by the console.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: They appear to have a teleporter built into their bellies, allowing them to drop alien soldiers from Xen.

Alternative Title(s): Half Life 2, Half Life 1, Half Life Opposing Force, Half Life Blue Shift


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