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Nightmare Fuel / Half-Life

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Doctor Freeeemannnnnn...
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Valve Software's attempt at an FPS narrative, namely replacing the generic A Space Marine Is You (battling for the fate of the universe, natch) with a Badass Bookworm who seemed to be stuck in the middle of a bad situation, made players much more sensitive to the atmosphere than before. And with each release, Valve has been making atmosphere an increasingly bigger part of the experience.


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    Series-wide 
  • All headcrabs count as a form of unleaded Paranoia Fuel, due to their tendency to show up absolutely anywhere. Hiding in alleyways, skulking in storerooms, lurking in air vents, clinging to the underside of your chair as you surf the Internet...
    • This is prevalent enough that it's actually lampshaded in Half-Life 2's second chapter; when Barney turns the lights on in the HEV Suit room, he's immediately ambushed by Lamarr, Dr. Kleiner's pet headcrab.
  • Barnacles... You suddenly find yourself being lifted into the air and looking up to see that red, bloody maw. Just seeing their "tongues" hanging around is Paranoia Fuel. It becomes Nightmare Retardant if you're feeling sadistic by feeding the said monstrosity with a poor and defenseless scientist.
  • G-Man. There is just something unsettling about him... Basically, he looks and sounds like a creature doing an unconvincing job at pretending to be human.
    • It's the pauses. "Rise and... shine, Mr. Freeman. Rise... and-shine." *shiver*
    • What's really interesting is how G-Man's pauses make it sound like he's stuttering sometimes... but it's never a scared stutter. G-Man is never scared, and is always in control. The stutter further shows how inhuman he is.
    • G-Man's ability to suspend Freeman's freedom adds to his eerieness. He can pull you out of the world and hide you away in pitch darkness too. It wasn't until the Vortigaunts intervened to oppose him that his grip on you was restricted; however, G-Man was/is able to whisk you away if the Vorts are heavily occupied.
    • Also, in the first game and its expansions, if you use noclip to reach the areas he appears in and try to attack him, not only does he not respond, but if you hit him with the crowbar he produces a metallic sound effect in response. Seriously, is he a freaking T-800 or something?

    Half-Life 
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"The truth...you can never know...the truth....."
  • Imagine yourself in Gordon's shoes, or even that of a normal Black Mesa employee, as you're hunted down by horrific alien monstrosities or by merciless Marines. It makes the game a little more unsettling when you think about that.
  • After the Resonance Cascade, you wander for a bit, find a dying guard and a zombie. You naturally take the guard's gun and proceed. Avid fans of the game will remember this, but upon progressing to the next room and making a few right turns, you'll see a scientist in a vent screaming and being dragged into a vent. Then gibs. However, the noises proceeding the gibs are that of a headcrab. These tiny creatures couldn't rip a person apart, must be an oversight, you may think. But, headcrabs turn people into zombies. Zombies have their chests ripped open. No one really knows how that happens—do the bodies decompose? Do the victims rip themselves open under the parasite's control? It's all speculation. All that's known is that it happens ultimately when a headcrab catches your head. Well, it's clear the headcrab that was definitely in that vent couldn't gib the scientist himself, so you're left to wonder...what is happening in there?
    • In addition, it seems that the zombies actually rip their chest apart with its claws so they can devour their food. Just watch a zombie when it's crouched down next to a corpse, it is eating the corpse by stuffing chunks of it in his chest. Oh, and by the way, in the Half-Life 2 session of this page, we've mentioned how zombies hosts are pretty much still alive...
    • Not just alive, but aware. Someone extracted the sounds the zombies made..."Oh god, help me.."
    • Take a closer look at the zombies when you get the chance, particularly at the headcrab over their head. The former human's skull is visible through the headcrab's body. And what's even more grotesque? The Gonome, Opposing Force's showcase of what the next stage of zombification looks like, have their skulls even more deformed.
  • Don't forget about the Ichthyosaurs from the first game. These underwater dinosaurs would swim at rapid speeds towards you. Not to mention that, in a particularly annoying bit of realism, most of your guns don't work when submerged.
    • It depends on the power of the computer you're running it on, but they seem to move... jerkily and there is a glitch where you can make them jump out of the water... and they still chase you. Sleep tight.
  • The underwater sections of Half-Life; low visibility, the potential yield of the average Xen monstrosity lurking in it...
  • Nihilanth. The fact that he's basically a humongous floating fetus with a head four times the size of his body, plus his scream of "FREEEEEEEEEEEMAAAAAAAAAAAN!" when you finally reach him...
    • Then there's all that creepy shit he says to you telepathically throughout the entire time you're on Xen (can be seen here).
  • Its level design isn't looked on kindly, but, good lord, Xen. Once you're through that teleporter, there's no going home - and you're in an incredibly hostile alien world that's a prime source of Nightmare Fuel - it consists of small islands suspended in a great void of complete emptiness. The Alien Sky doesn't help. And inside, it became even more freaky, with Alien Geometries. The level design may not have been great for gameplay, but it does have atmosphere.
    • The trees. Good God, the TREES.
    • There's also that ambient sound in the background going on in the alien Grunt factory and just before meeting the Nihilanth. It sounds like a mixture of alien growls and high-pitched screams. Topping that off is where you can hear it the clearest: In a red-violet-lit room at the top of the factory, with a spiraling path over one bottomless pit, and dead scientist with their ammo remain next to the stored grunts. Is that Hell enough for you?
  • That one final red teleporter just before meeting the Nihilanth is pretty damn scary as well. It appears in the one area of Xen where the skybox is entirely black, it has what look like alien torches around it, and you can hear a reprise of the people you met back in Sector C talking to you, as if Gordon's having a flashback of the incident just before going in.
    • However, you could treat it as Nightmare Retardant if you pretend it's just the cover to a metal album.
    • It becomes Nightmare Fuel again, though, when you hear the line "Take him out of there. Shut down the equipment and someone get him out." You never hear that once in the game until you get near the portal, bringing into question just what the hell is going on.
  • Blast Pit. You hear the banging noise before you get to see what's causing it, and that echoing metallic sound is with you throughout the whole level. And how about those moans? Or the "death sound" that comes after you successfully ignite the rocket engine.
  • The section with all the conveyor belts and large vats of questionable substances. Not very scary... until you notice that there are other things besides you being flung onto the conveyor belts. They're body parts.
  • The Gargantua is pretty damn scary; it's huge, has a glowing red eye, is surprisingly fast, and will incinerate you on first contact. While the aged graphics make it less horrifying, its sheer presence makes the player want to rethink their path. Not to mention when they're chasing you. Who here didn't look back when in the garage in Surface Tension, when they knew there was a huge monster chasing them?
  • On A Rail. Throughout the level, you occasionally hear distant sounds that are best described as the screams of the damned. The music doesn't help either, giving the level an undertone that suggests that all of your allies have already been rounded up and murdered, their killers (both Xen and the HECU) know you have eluded capture and death, and they are hunting for you.
  • "They're waiting for you Gordon... In the Test Chamber..."
  • Imagine this: You're a scientist working at Black Mesa, during which the resonance cascade happens during your shift and you're stuck in an isolated area with a small team of scientists. You wait for the military to arrive, but they don't come for a long time. Then, the door opens, and a man in an armored suit is standing in the doorway. Your hopes soar, thinking that you might make it out and live to see another day... before the man turns his gun on your fellow scientists and kills everyone without hesitation. But it wasn't a military soldier that killed you, it was Gordon Freeman. explanation 
  • As if the normal Valve Vanity Plate of a man with a valve in his eye or the back of his head wasn't creepy enough, the game was originally going to use a vanity plate of a man in a factory, willingly inserting a valve into the side of his head. Said logo animation was done entirely in the GoldSrc engine, as a way of testing the engine's capabilities, and its files can still be found within the game.
  • There is a variable that dictates if a human is gibbed, there's a 5% chance their skull will fly directly at your face. If Gordon wasn't already traumatized by the incident itself and the grotesque maiming of his co-workers, getting hit in the face with the skull of a man he potentially just blew up in self defense oughta do it.
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    Opposing Force 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/pit_worm_rising.jpg
  • Imagine this: You, a US Marine who has gone through hell and back, have been left behind by the evac chopper and are desperate to get the hell out of dodge. Thankfully, after some trekking, you come across what looks like friendly reinforcements in the form of the Black Ops, who are still managing to hold out effectively against the alien hordes. And then, they suddenly open fire on you when you try to greet them. Worse, they've also been torturing several of your comrades for intel, leaving them to bleed to death. Sure, the HECU kind of had it coming after gunning down numerous Black Mesa personnel, but it's harrowing to see just how much the US government considers Shephard and the rest of the HECU as expendable just for failing to manage a disaster they had no idea on just how to contain.
  • Adrian Shepherd's eventual fate. Trapped on an aircraft floating through some empty other dimension - for all we know, for eternity, as this fate is designed to preserve him. ...And I Must Scream indeed. One can only hope he's in stasis and not cognizant.
  • The "We Are Pulling Out" chapter. The chapter starts after you jump onto a Black Mesa tram after the Resonance Cascade has already happened. You then proceed to ride the tram to the surface, while the all-too-familiar automated voice relays its horribly chopped and distorted message (also, there's Vortigaunts on the way up that will attack you if you don't shoot them). A short time later, after spending a few minutes with an incredibly socially awkward security guard, you reach the Osprey on which you and your fellow soldiers will leave. As you head towards the helicopter, the G-Man shuts the giant steel exit door before you can leave, forcing you to stay behind in the overrun hellhole while your comrades leave without you. That bit just really gives you the chills, and it just makes you wonder what the G-Man's real intentions are.
    • Believe it or not, the G-Man does seem to have good intentions. If you stick around the area after the tiltrotor flies off for a half a minute, you'll hear a pop and see a bright flash. The tiltrotor that took off just now, the one that Shepard could've very well been on if the G-Man hadn't intervened, exploded no less than 30 seconds after it took off.
  • The entirety of the game can be a bit creepy because it feels a bit more..... disjointed than Half-Life because you woke up just as the Marines were pulling out, and you spend most of the game by yourself. It can get to the point that you feel like the last man in Black Mesa.
  • The final boss area can be very eldritch and strange in nature, where once you enter the elevator you come across a wind - shaft and walls covered with a strange biomass. Eventually, you find this massive monster that looks like the Cthulhu himself.
  • Foxtrot Uniform is infamous among fans of the game. A large portion of the chapter takes place inside dark underground tunnels, completely pitch black if it weren't for night vision. If that wasn't bad enough, these tunnels are crawling with Voltigores, giant Race X aliens that take a lot of punishment before they go down. Oh, and they charge at you too. You'll be out of M249 ammo before you can even notice it.
    • The worst part is that those with an unpatched version of the game cannot save it at all during the chapter, as for some reason, the save file will corrupt and trying to load it will simply crash the game at every attempt. That's right, the whole long segment must be done in one go, without saving at all.
  • Race X, a group of aliens that are not native to Xen, and just happen to be taking advantage of the dimensional vulnerability the resonance cascade caused. Gearbox even canonically acknowledges how out of left field they are, as the Black Mesa staff have no idea what they even are.

    Half-Life 2 
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There is a reason why we don't go to Ravenholm anymore...
  • Picking up a baby doll in a decrepit playground at the very beginning of the game will produce the sound of what is either children happily screaming or terrified children screaming. Coupled with a near-by guy saying "I'm glad there are no kids around to see this" kinda gives you an "Oh crap" moment of realization.
  • What might be a small bit of Fridge Horror, but the Combine soldiers have absolutely no idle animation unless scripted to, whatsoever; they're jarringly rigid in such a realistic-for-its-time game. Considering that they're all transhuman cyborgs, this could be far creepier than it first appears to be. Additionally, their glowing goggles and the Source AI's slight datedness (resulting in them often staring into walls when idle) just gives them a real Uncanny Valley.
  • Stalkers are mutilated, forcefully cyborged vestiges of human beings, who are completely dependent on their mechanical limbs, and forced into service to alien rulers. Alyx prays that the stalkers don't remember who they were, and they are also implied to be immortal. They'll continue to live as long as they're refueled and properly maintained. Knowing how brutally efficient the Combine are, that's almost a guarantee. Most of the stalkers' internal organs have been removed, and they are dependent on some kind of saline solution provided by the Combine for survival. Other than that, however, they can work in just about any hazardous environment. In Episode One, if you kill one of them, the Stalkers will start attacking you with laser beams.
  • The long-legged "fast" headcrabs, which produce skeletal, inhumanly dexterous Personal Space Invader zombies which will stop at nothing to maul you, all the while slobbering like dogs. And the way they scream when they are jumping at your face from the building across the street. Oh, and there's the little fact that they are missing all of their skin, along with most of their organs and quite a bit of muscle, the head nothing but a skull. And then, near the end of "Anticitizen One", the game starts throwing Fast Zombies at you that are on fire.
    • And even before you come into their line of vision, Fast Zombies will hunt you down no matter how large the distance between the two of you is. They're essentially organic, zombified T-800s.
    • After Grigori gives Freeman a shotgun, he is immediately ambushed by half a dozen fast zombies, partially to inform the player that yes, they can leap at you from across buildings, partially to make them crap their pants. Soon after that the player must then wait for one of the series' Ridiculously Slow Elevators, at which point several more of them attack. If you're smart and close the door to the room, realizing they can't open it, the proceed to crash through the skylight.
    • The introductory vision of the Fast Zombies may be one of the scariest moments in Half-Life, ever: the salivating dog sound comes, followed by approaching thumps of the zombies' leaps and bounds. You look around and then you see the shadow of the Fast Zombies leaping across buildings with the full moon behind them. You just KNOW they are coming for you.
    • The encounter waiting for Grigori's cart ride to the church where Fast Zombies keep arriving and climbing up to your roof. Just hearing the sound of creaking drainpipes is enough to make your skin crawl. *K-TANG K-TANG K-TANG K-TANG K-TANG K-TANG* (Just as a footnote, anything in the Half-Life universe that makes a clanging noise can't be good. Ever.)
    • Another nasty encounter with a fast zombie is in the chapter "Sandtraps" when you have to go through a drainpipe to enter Nova Prospekt only for a Fast Zombie to smash into you and send you flying back onto the cliff that you had only previously just climbed and yes even worse the force from the Fast Zombie's smash can be enough to push you right off the cliff into the instant killing Leech infested water below... Double Jeopardy. Oh, and for good measure, Valve designed that particular zombie as a Call-Back to the original game where the end of a similar climbing sequence has a normal headcrab waiting to jump out of a drainpipe and eat your face.
  • Not to mention the original zombies now screaming and moaning in their human voice... along with the ability of the damn headcrabs to jump off of killed zombies... ugh. Oh, and when you set them on fire? Shudder.
    • If you listen to the "classic" zombies, their babble gives the very disturbing implication that the victim is still sufficiently aware of his predicament to scream things that sound like "Dear God, help me!" and "Why why why?" The headcrabs not only execute Grand Theft Me, but the leave enough of you intact for you to know what it's doing to you!
    • Headcrab zombies on fire make a disturbing "human dying in agony" sound, especially chilling if you are the one who set the zombie on fire, initiating the torture and death of the underlying innocent human. Apparently, for headcrab zombies, the human consciousness is gone but the part that feels pain remains. In fact, if you play a headcrab zombie's cries backwards, you can hear the human crying out in agony, begging somebody to kill him. A sample is here. With that in mind, their death grunts almost sound like sighs of relief. Eugh.
    • The even scarier venomous black headcrabs, which reduce your health to 1 whenever they bite you, hiss like rattlesnakes, attach themselves in groups of four to a corpse, which attacks by hurling them at you and cannot even be killed by a single hand grenade.
    • The developer commentary points out that black headcrabs are specifically their favorite ambushers, because though they were terrifying (to the point that play testers would waste ridiculous amounts of ammo in a manic attempt to kill them), they were physically incapable of killing the player. Understandable, since getting smacked by one and then having fast zombies bearing down on your ass is NOT a fun experience.
    • Black headcrab zombies have a more subtly creepy noise: If you have the sound high, or headphones in, and somehow manage to get close to one of those things without it detecting you, you'll discover that it makes a soft, wet, labored breathing sound when idle. Slightly off-putting at first, until you realize that, in spite of being a poison-bloated corpse covered in oversized rattlesnake-parasite-things, with all of the flesh over its spine stripped off and presumably eaten, there is still something alive under there that has to breathe. Also, poison zombies laugh and moan when they die, presumably upon realizing their suffering is over.
    • The creepiness gets rapidly sucked out if you watched Aaahh!!! Real Monsters and quickly regonize the "Howie scream", used for the Black Headcrab and the Fast Headcrab Zombies. Also, the Black Headcrab Zombie's pain sound is actually a Horse noise from Ed, Edd n Eddy.
    • Also when you have the notarget cheat enabled around the Poison Zombies...the headcrabs are just moving up and down and up and down...almost like, their sucking on the poor bastard
    • The poison headcrabs get worse in the modification Smod if you have Call of Duty style health enabled. Getting hit by a poison headcrab creates an absolute Interface Screw, leaving you even more vulnerable to any other enemies around.
    • Often times, a black headcrab hits you and you are flung at high speed. Off a high rooftop or platform. *Crack!*
    • When you finally escape Ravenholm, exiting the tunnel, breathing that fresh, City 17 air, recovering that ammo from the crate - OHSHITPOISONHEADCRABDIEDIEDIE
    • In a spectacular troll move, in the creepy sewer area you go into an alcove and they see fit to dump about 4 Poison Headcrabs on your head with a screech... and they're all dead. Fuck you Valve.
  • Father Grigori may be helpful and overall act awesome, but the chapter ends on a bittersweet note. You get out barely alive, but are left to see Father Grigori fend off massive hordes of zombies in a fight that he'll ultimately lose against and be mauled to death—and join their mindless, screaming ranks. Then when you got out, you took a moment to yell a bit and take in some fresh air and DAYLIGHT. Just a moment... before some damned hellhole creature hurtles at you and kicks your health down to 1. Oh, and then there are the snipers...
    • If you stay around for a little while, to see what happens to Father Grigori, you will continue to see a wall of flames, and headcrab zombies struggling to it, while bullets fly through the fire and hit the headcrab zombies, who drop dead one by one. You expect the shooting to go on forever. It doesn't.
    • Even though you're fighting in a graveyard, you can't even give him a decent burial.
      • Just as a last footnote: Word of God is that Grigori's fate (alive, dead, in-between, etc.) is whatever you, the player, want it to be.
  • The mine, filled with an unholy amount of infinitely respawning headcrabs, with that horrible chattering the poison ones make and watching the fast ones sprint about on their gangly limbs. The solution? A Han Solo-esque sprint 'n' scream across the bridges and into the pool of water.
  • As the player is trying to reach Barney (who is pinned down by snipers), the path goes down to the basement. It is flooded to knee-level. A Resistance soldier asks for help. The wounded soldier, when the player gets there, says, "We came down here looking for shelter. Little did we know the place was infested!" With sounds of splashes and moans coming from all around you, you suddenly become aware of the fact that you are surrounded by zombies.
  • The oceans are filled with millions of writhing, carnivorous lampreys which swarm around you, screeching and stripping your flesh off.
  • Half-Life 2 will bring back lovely memories for veterans - during the teleportation accident, Gordon is plunged into a random pool somewhere. An Ichthyosaur comes charging at him from the gloom, and opens its mouth, about to eat him, when he teleports away again. Its original role was to keep the player out of the water, but that was replaced by those leeches.
    • This is also one of the carryovers from the beta content, in which Xen wildlife beyond just Headcrabs, Barnacles and Vortigaunts would've been strewn across the world. Think about that for a second: beyond the leeches in the oceans, that means there's also probably more Ichthyosaurs, or even worse out in the ecosystem of Earth. All because of the Black Mesa Incident, even if the Combine were ever fought off entirely somehow the entire world is permanently damaged and filled with highly dangerous creatures that put any of our top predators to shame and wiped out entire platoons of the U.S. military in an isolated circumstance alone.
  • The Combine Advisors, giant alien slugs equipped with some bionic attachments. If that wasn't creepy enough, they also have Psychic Powers, which are used as an Interface Screw in Episode One and Episode Two.
  • Manhacks. Just the noise.
    • Even the sound aside, the very concept of Manhacks is chilling. Flying circular saws that come at you in swarms, spattered with blood from previous victims?
    • Original design documents called for the "Manhack Arcade" location. In other words, some of those Manhacks would be controlled by arcade machines being played by your fellow humans, who would have no idea they were actually killing people.
  • The zombies have nothing on Antlions. Guards in particular.
    • Via quirk of the Source engine, Antlion Guards can actually fling Striders with their ramming attack. Whether this is hilarious or even more disturbing is up for debate.
    • Then there's the part in Episode Two when you have to go into a Guardian's nest and run around its tunnels, with the Guardian possibly right behind you. It turns into a running game where you're terrified and rush to the nearest checkpoint as you hear the thundering of the Guardian's feet behind you.
  • Throughout Half-Life 2 the player finds several rotting bodies in various places. Not just dead people, but actually rotting corpses. Their flesh is a pallid blue, their clothes are degrading, and worst yet, their face looks like it's been burnt to a crisp. The eyeballs are gone, their hair has been torn off, and their teeth are chipped and barred. Think that's the worst? Many time you will also find bodies that have been completely immolated, leaving nothing but a charred crisp with burnt fat at the edges. The mod Minerva Metastasis even has a gas-chamber in one of its levels with the above-mentioned bodies strewn about with blood liberally splattered on the walls.
    • One particularly infested area in Ravenholm has a small, easy-to-miss passage containing a corpse and a pistol. Even worse, there's a mattress, implying the poor soul had been living there for quite some time, hearing everything.
    • Idling in Ravenholm for a period of time gives you a slight chance of hearing some indistinct noises that sound like they're from quite a distance away. If it's really quiet, or the volume is turned up enough, you'll be able to hear it clearer. It's screaming. Women, men, children, just screaming.
    • The zombie corpses are also disturbing, with their claw-like hands, their bent-back heads, and their mouths wide open in a frozen scream.
  • One of the Striders' attacks involve impaling an enemy with one of their legs and later shaking it off like something off a person's shoe.
  • The G-Man sighting in Half-Life 2's level "Anticitizen One", in which he appears on an unplugged television standing in a rowboat with a crow on his shoulder. It would be goofy if the music accompanying it didn't make it horrifying. Oh, and for good measure, it blows up if you stay near it or move it.
  • The sewer with the burnt corpses and the creepy music.
  • The toxic tunnels under City 17 in "Anticitizen One". You have to cross the radioactive waste by placing tires, crates etc. with your gravity gun and hopping from one flimsy platform to the next. This is nerve racking enough, without the fact that the zombies are apparently immune to radioactive waste. The first time you jump off down onto a tire, only to have a headcrab zombie rise up two feet away... terrifying enough that you normally leap backwards into the fatal green sludge. Even on the 3rd attempt the sudden moans of zombies behind you often causes a wild spraying in all directions with whatever gun is in hand.
    • What really sets up the ominous atmosphere of that area: the room is barely lit up only by fire and the headlights of a truck cab, then there's the music. It could easily match Ravenholm in terms of creepy atmosphere.
  • Those moving walls. Their gigantic, foreboding appearance, their tendency to begin moving with no warning except an unearthly groan (that sounds suspiciously like the Ravenholm motif), ready to crush you underneath them. Not to mention the implications that wherever the Combine place them, they will steadily move outwards, destroying everything in their wake until they transform the entire region into barren wastelands...
    • A section between the chapters Nova Prospekt and Entanglement had you escaping a room before the walls crushed you. It's especially creepy when you hear a droning track playing. Even better? They originally intended for that track to be looping ambiance near the walls.
  • The 50 second track that plays upon first entering the zombie-infested town of Ravenholm is enough to make even the most hardcore players soil their pants. The fact that the first thing you see when the track begins to play is a mutilated zombie corpse hanging from a tree doesn't make the whole thing any easier.
  • Looking into the beta leak of Half-Life 2 is pure nightmare fuel when you look at the circumstances. The world wouldn't of even had the lakes and waters the player travels through for all we know, it would've been one giant desert wasteland with masks being a necessity for anyone out there. More horrific entities would've wandered the environments, including Xen wildlife becoming a part of Earth's ecosystem. The cities would've been darker, grittier, and more explicit displays of violence by the Combine would've occurred, such as the Manhack Arcade where 'entertainment' for the citizens is really controlling manhacks to murder dissidents. Even Breen was creepier, only known by the title of the 'Consul' and looking more like a man in charge of the world rather than a doctor in a formal suit.
    • And this isn't getting to things like children being forced to work in factories, more explicit Combine fusions of cybernetics and human, the Cremators (though it's vaguely implied via an easter egg and burned corpses around the game world that they may still exist), and Combine Assassins inexplicably frozen inside the Borealis.
    • Exploring the beta maps in general can be a pretty unnerving experience. Many of them are complete enough to look like actual places, but have werid, empty rooms, or are more devoid of life than they should be, leading to a sort of Uncanny Valley effect. Going into a dark hallway, you never know if an enemy is lurking, if there's simply nothing, or if you're going to fall out of the world.
  • If one stops long enough to think about it, the Combine themselves (or itself). From what few scraps of information we have about the Combine beyond their rule over the planet, all one can glean is that this is not your standard alien empire. Their control over portals, their mastery over the symbiosis between flesh and machine, and even the architecture of the Citadel paint a harrowing picture of an incomprehensible vastness beyond known dimensions, one that defies description for human minds. In the simplest possible terms, the Combine is what a H. P. Lovecraft being with imperialist intentions would be, and it's enough to give our limited intelligence's a sobering chill.
    • The Advisors, the slug-like creatures portrayed as the real overlords behind the Combine, are highly-implied to simply be host bodies for whatever beings are actually running the show. It may be that the hosts allow whatever incorporeal form their occupants have to live uninhibited by our atmosphere, environment, or even dimension. Worse still, it may be that the Advisors are simply the only forms the Combine can take that someone - say, Doctor Breen - can look upon without being driven completely insane.
    • Speaking of Doctor Breen, we manage to hear a crumb of information of the true origins, form or nature of the Combine - it's hard to tell which - as we interrupt a conversation between him and Eli. It does little to ease the mind.
      "Carbon stars with ancient satellites colonized by sentient fungi. Gas giants inhabited by vast meteorological intelligences. Worlds stretched thin across the membranes where [the] dimensions intersect... Impossible to describe with our limited vocabulary!"
    • The Combine managed to conquer the Earth in just seven hours.
    • There's also just the imagery of Earth itself after 20 years of Portal Storms and Combine rule. The environment is in absolute ruins, with Xen wildlife having killed off most native animals and toxic waste piling up in many areas. The oceans have not only dropped by several meters thanks to the Combine draining them, but they're practically barren aside from the Leeches. Even if there are a few pockets of wilderness still intact, most of the world is no doubt a huge wasteland. It's almost enough to make you wonder, even if the resistance drive the Combine off, what is there left for them on this dried up husk of a planet?

    Lost Coast 
  • According to the developer's commentary, the developers purposefully designed certain areas of the stages to be distinctive "arenas" by making them large, open areas. They believed this would make the player feel exposed. It does.

    Episode One 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/stalker_alyx.jpg
Meet the Stalkers
  • The Stalker Car sequence. Nothing quite like waking up to see a thrashing half-human face screaming and gurgling at you. And of course poor Alyx was pinned to the wall by one...
  • Episode One introduced the Zombine, a zombified Combine soldier, a tougher, slightly slower version of the standard zombie (although it did sprint occasionally) with zombie flesh bulging out from the seams of its combat armor. While its inclination towards pulling out a grenade and charging the player waving it above its head is unsettling, it is the deeper implications that really freak you out. Unlike other zombies, shooting the headcrab off does not reveal the grizzled, bloodied face of the human victim but instead only the soldier's lower jaw fused to the top of the spine. Despite having no remaining brain or even head beneath, the Zombine moans and cries have a distinct synthesizer edge to them. Listen closely and you can make out the disrupted, mutilated calls of the former solder. Groaning a muffled 'medic' when shot, informing allies of 'biotic' (Combine jargon for antlions) when milling around, and gurgling out 'grenade!' when they start their suicide run. All horrible, but consider that the transhuman nature of the soldiers means the Zombine likely automatically broadcasts these cries to any still non-zombified soldiers in the area. If the Overwatch soldiers are still human enough to still feel terror, one can imagine the terror of hearing the squad conversation over his comm channel slowly being replaced by a Zombine cacophony as the soldiers fleeing City 17 fall one by one to the headcrabs...
    • Listen to their audio clips here. It's made all the more creepy if you consider that it's either the headcrabs tying to talk through the body but can only repeat the last words said by the deceased, or the soldier is still alive and trying to contact his squadmates.
      • "In-fest-a...*groan* -tion..." "perimeter is...*shuddering breath* not secure" "Necro-tics... inbound" "they're inside" "over...run" "help...me"
      • "SHIT....MEDIC."
      • Also, the last thing it'll say before pulling out a grenade and going kamikaze is "Bouncer". "Bouncer" is what Combine units will scream if they in any way see a live grenade. The Zombines are taking out a threat, and they are still warning the others.
      • Also, Zombines have no head. Boom goes the headcrab and it's just a mandible. One explanation (at least on a wiki page) is that their radio is actually where the vocal cords are, hence the above statement that the soldiers are always broadcasting what they're saying, no matter what.
    • An alternate interpretation as well can be that there is a computer controlling the Combine soldiers mostly and their brain is barely used for anything more than storage of information and the various sensory processing aspects of it.
    • I've heard some say it's because the force of whatever knocked the headcrab off tore off most of the soldier's head off as well. Makes sense when you think about it because a headcrab would have to apply extra force to get through the soldier's mask in order to properly latch onto his head, probably crushing their skull under all the force, which is even more disgusting when you think about it.
  • The City 17 Underground in the "Lowlife" chapter of Episode One. Like Ravenholm before it, it serves absolutely no purpose other than having the player in tears, and it works. The majority of the level is in complete darkness (as in you literally can't see your hand in front of your face) without using Gordon's Ten-Second Flashlight, and the place is swarming with Headcrab Zombies, which will actually spawn faster if the flashlight isn't activated. As a small relief only a few zombies are encountered at any one time... until the last part that is, in which the player must wait for another of the series' notoriously slow elevators while an unending horde of zombies crawl out of the darkness. There are few things worse than a Fast Headcrab Zombie which was completely invisible a second ago leaping at you from nowhere and clawing at your face while a nearby Zombine decides to become a suicide bomber.
    • "Alyx, normally I love working with you, but goddamnit! Stop making zombie noises behind me when we're heading into headcrab territory!"
  • Immediately following the ending of the first game, where the Citadel's Dark Fusion reactor was destroyed, City 17 faces the lingering threat of a Dark Energy Flare. Throughout the game, the damaged citadel is surrounded by a red vortex of cloud. A constant reminder that the entire structure is going into meltdown and it's going to take the entire city with it. Keep moving, whatever you do. And even then, you just barely escape.
  • When Gordon enters the Citadel's core, the HEV suit's voice warns him, "hazardous radiation levels detected." Throughout the level, you can hear the Geiger counter clicking away like mad.

    Episode Two 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/ep2_outland_advisor_rebel.jpg
Ouch...
  • You witness the Combine Advisors telekinetically hold someone in the air while sucking the guy's brains out. Oh, and just to cap off the aforementioned sequence? It twists the rebel's corpse in half, and tosses it aside like an empty soda can.
    • Ugh. Not to mention that the appendage that they use to do the brain sucking is remarkably disturbing itself, they use it on Eli Vance! It's then that you realize just how deep into this mess Gordon has gotten himself.
  • In Episode Two near the end of the mine, there's a rotting corpse sitting in an armchair. With a shotgun lying next to him and a large splatter on the wall behind him. Give it a moment to sink in... It's easy to miss with all the weapons and corpses lying around and blood splatters being part of the scenery.
    Vortigaunt: A poignant scene. An eternity's repose. It brings peaceful thoughts, does it not?
  • Valve seem to have a game of oneupmanship going on in Half-Life 2 and the subsequent episodes, whereby they try to top whatever terrifying enemy they pitted you against last with something even worse. The Zombine was bad but, ladies and gentlemen... the Hunter. The manner in which it stalks you at the beginning of Episode Two - at one point you flick a switch, you turn around and it's there, staring in at you through the window before calmly shuffling off. Creepy, even before it shishkebabs Alyx and leaves both you and her to die by degrees. And then the game lets you forget all about it before about 5 of them attack you at once. They are horrible in a way the much bigger Striders aren't; they flush you out with flechettes, they get in your face and remind you how puny you are in comparison to the Combine's creations, with their gait and their horrible grating shrieks.
    • They're kind of like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park. Compact, quick as lightning, and absolutely deadly. Making the comparison even worse are the parts in the game where you are ambushed by them, or moments where it is as simple as hearing them in the distance, mixed in with the background noise. You might not be able to see them, but they're around, somewhere...
    • The second (third?) time Hunters are encountered has them as support for a Combine ambush of Gordon and Alyx. As if what appears to be an entire platoon of Combine soldiers trapping you in a confined space and sending waves in after you while their comrades constantly fire at you from outside isn't bad enough, Hunters soon crash into said confined space and do everything in their power to turn you into Ludicrous Gibs (to quote Alyx: "Three at a time; it's too much!"). The next time they're encountered is after the game is "kind" enough to give you a false sense of security, having them storm into the previously-safe White Forest and re-introduce them brutally killing a pair of rebels right in front of you, and the area in which they're fought is specifically designed to ensure that no matter where the player goes, the Hunters can always find them.
    • A mention ought to go as well to the true first time you see them, which happens so fast it's easily missed by most players, even when they know it's happening. You exit the mines with Alyx, and you get to a small hillock, at which point you hear an animal-sounding noise, like a chirping hoot, but it's distorted and electronic. If the player is fast enough, they can actually see the Hunter that made the noise sitting on a roof, before crouching down and scuttling away. The animation itself could be called funny if we had any idea where it was going...
  • You are crawling under the gunfire of the Combine's wall mounted autogun when all of a sudden you hear the hideous screaming of the Fast Zombie. It is then you realize that these fast moving monstrosities don't need legs to keep up with you. Not too far from there you see one of these legless things get shot up by a Combine Soldier following slowly behind it. This happens a mere few feet away as its skinless corpse lies motionless. (And according to the commentary, this sequence was added as comic relief.) And you hear zombies on fire everywhere.
  • You are trying to get the car across the bridge, you encounter a dumpster that shakes and growls like a Fast Zombie. You throw in a grenade. Problem solved, right? He throws it back.
    • And in that same spot, at the beginning. Oh God. That poison zombie hacking and wheezing, and it's still a shock when you reach it. Not to mention that one hallway that has a couple zombies in it, not bad... And then the lights turn off.
  • You're in the car with Alyx being chased by the Combine. Amidst the chaos around you, you spot the form of a Fast Zombie running across an overpass. Odd. You speed toward a ramp and as you make the jump he makes his... onto your car. It blocks your view of the road. The headcrab starts to come off revealing its skeletal face. Alyx kicks the zombie off and you bank a hard right to avoid hitting a wall. You wish that Alyx had kicked the Damn thing off sooner...
  • That farmhouse on the road in "Under the Radar". Early in the chapter, you see smoke off in the distance. Getting closer, you see it's a crashed Advisor pod, mangled almost beyond recognition. Nearby, there's a farmhouse and a barn. When you get closer, all of a sudden the screen distorts weirdly. It's like the encounter in the Citadel in Episode One, but less hostile, more probing. You expect an Advisor to come cresting a hill or out of the hole in the roof of the barn, but nothing happens. You have to look for it yourself, and it's terrifying. Nothing Is Scarier, indeed.
    • Then you actually find the damn thing. The area itself is dimly lit and decaying, giving off a creepy atmosphere in and of itself. The body of the dead rebel doesn't help either. Alyx finds the life support energy ball, and you knock it away with the impression that you'll kill the Advisor in its sleep. Wrong. An alarm sounds, and you and Alyx are grabbed and suspended in mid air as the pod opens up. There's the Advisor, awake, alive, and pissed.
  • Doctor Freeeemannnnnn...
  • The G-Man programs Alyx with post-hypnotic suggestion to deliver a message to her father that nearly gives him (and the player if he's familiar with the first game) a heart attack. "Prepare for unforeseen consequences." We also learn that the G-Man provided the crystal that started the whole mess in the first place, which inspires the question of for how long and how much the G-Man has been controlling Alyx.
    • The G-Man's epic return in general is this. Not only is he no longer imprisoned by the Vorts, he is fully unleashed and just a little pissed for what's happened. Props to Valve for leaving his return foreshadowed by cameo appearances up until the moment too.
    • Keep an eye on Alyx when she delivers the G-Man's message. Eli and Kleiner just got finished debating if they should try to rescue the technology stranded on board the Borealis, or destroy it. Eli is muttering to himself about not letting "another Black Mesa" happen, when there's a barely audible hum and Alyx clutches her head. The G-Man appears on the TV screens you were just watching Mossman's transmission on, and Alyx adopts a completely blank, almost robotic expression as she delivers her message. As if that wasn't bad enough, it's implied she had no idea what she said afterwards.
  • Recovering the nectar from the Antlion's nests. Freeman has to go through the caves entirely by himself, which means battling an abnormally large amount of antlions, stepping on their grubs (which are freaky and nasty by themselves) and topping it all off with the most nerve-wracking moment of Half Life history. Since you stepped on many Antlion larvae on your search for the nectar, you pissed off the Antlion Guardian, a stronger and deadlier variant of the Antlion Guard, which you cannot kill otherwise you fail your mission. This means you have to run from the Guardian across very narrow, claustrophobic tunnels while it is charging after you and right behind you at all times. The only way to save yourself from it is by hiding under small holes in the walls where you have to crawl through some more fugly grubs, come out, run down the claustrophobic and dark cave tunnels again with that thing after you, over and over again. The cherry on the top, though? The last time you have to do this, you have to bash your crowbar against wooden planks that are blocking your way to an elevator. This means you come out of your safe spot, run to the elevator, slowly whack the wooden planks with your crowbar and run back to your safe spot before you are hit by the very angry Antlion Guardian. It is absolutely terrifying.
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    Mods 
  • Black Mesa, the Fan Remake of the original Half-Life, has its own page.
  • Cry of Fear, a standalone horror modification of the original Half-Life, is riddled with this in every corner you'll encounter.
  • The Hidden, a Half-Life multiplayer mod. All but one of the players are part of a SWAT-ish team hunting down an knife-wielding escaped fugitive. Unfortunately, some questionable experiments have given Subject 617 superhuman speed, strength, and senses, along with the ability to cling to walls, leap down hallways, see people's auras through solid matter, and feed on human flesh. Oh, and he's invisible. There's nothing like wandering alone through a derelict apartment building at night, rounding a corner to find the rest of your squad hanging from the ceiling like slaughtered cattle, before a voice directly behind you hisses "Turn around..." Whoever's playing as The Hidden is given in-game voice taunts purely to scare the beejesus out of the opposing team, to the extent that some players will snap and start firing wildly at the slightest hint of noise or movement...or else crawl into a corner and hide.
  • Half-Life: Echoes is a rather well made fan mod of the original game that takes the GoldSrc engine to it's absolute limit and focuses on the G-Man with the UI text playing out as if it was an observation by him or whoever his employers are.
    • Remember Mr. Friendly, the cut alien enemy that would literally rape the player to death? He appears in this game. After being concussed by a zombie tossing a barrel, you catch a glimpse of him tackling said zombie out of view before tearing it apart. Your crowbar fell out of reach and you make your way around the confined tunnels before falling into a red, dimly lit corridor with him chasing after you to the other end. Getting caught makes the screen go blood red as you die and... It's safe to assume what happens to Candidate #12. Either that or... being devoured by the said beast.
    • There's a certain part where you'll encounter a scientist spazzing out, screaming "Get it off me! Get it off, GET IT OFF!" before being shredded by a horde of Snarks coming out of his body in a gruesome detail just like if it was in Alien.
    • The end of the game is rather chilling. After a section of the facility collapses with Candidate #12 crawling through a portal, he arrives at dormitory building well away from the main facility that shows the G-Man stopping the Kingpin from abducting Alyx before saving her himself. The sound of several Carter Gents air raid sirens going off along with Alyx's crying is rather chilling the first time as it's very obvious what happens next.

    Meta 
  • Someone composed a timeline video that compiles the events of the main 3 Half-Life games into one systematic video. It's as awe-inspiring as it is disturbing.
  • "Epistle 3" by Marc Laidlaw (taken by many to be a plot summary for the unreleased Episode Three) is chock full of this. The Borealis is stretched thin between dimensions thanks to the Aperture technology on board the ship, Dr. Breen's consciousness has been placed in an Advisor body that begs Gordon and Alyx to kill it, Alyx kills Mossman when she tries to beach the ship, and she and Gordon are ultimately committed to ramming the Borealis into the Combine overworld on a suicide mission. Or at least that's what would have happened had the G-Man not extracted Alyx, leaving Gordon to his demise. Thankfully the Vortigaunts save Gordon, but not before he gets a glimpse at the Combine overworld, which is described as a massive Dyson sphere, and how the Borealis "would register as less than a fizzling matchhead as it blew itself apart" on its surface. The implication being that the Combine are so powerful and so vast in their scope that they're impossible to defeat entirely. Worst of all is the ending makes it ambiguous as to whether the Resistance was successful in driving them off Earth.

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