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| General information
- Nihilanth slaves and foot soldiers (Half-Life)
- Resistance members (Half-Life 2)
| Individual information
- Charged electrical attack (35) (Half-Life)
| Game information
- monster_vortigaunt (Half-Life)
- npc_vortigaunt (Half-Life 2)
| Voiced by
- "Your song we sing and shall sing for eternity. No matter the consequences of this struggle."
A Vortigaunt, scientifically referred to as Xenotherium subservilia, formerly known as Alien Slave or Xen Slave, and affectionately known as "Vort" by its allies, is a sapient alien found throughout the Half-Life series.
Long before the events of Half-Life occur, the Vortigaunts' homeworld was invaded by the Combine, forcing the entire species (excluding the ones enslaved by the Combine) to flee to Xen. When the Black Mesa Incident occurred, their master Nihilanth viewed the rift that opened as their chance to escape, and directed the Vortigaunts in the invasion of Earth. Following the death of the latter, they have, as a species, chosen to ally themselves with the human-led Resistance in its bid to overthrow the Combine rule of Earth.
In appearance, a Vortigaunt is roughly humanoid with two legs and two arms, but has an additional arm protruding from its chest. This extra limb is a feature also found in other bipedal, sapient species from Xen, including the Alien Grunt and the Nihilanth. This similarity, along with other shared features such as red eyes and back-jointed legs, is strongly suggestive of a common ancestry with other intelligent Xen life forms. Apparently, this third arm is used for feeding, as both Vortigaunts and Alien Grunts are often seen bending over slain victims, feeding on it. Vortigaunts have mottled green-brown skin, sharp teeth, and clawed hands. Vortigaunts have a slightly hunched posture, and their faces are dominated by a large, single eye with a maroon sclera and a heterochromic red-yellow iris with a yellow pupil, surrounded by three smaller eyes. They also have a navel and four nipples, suggesting not only that Vortigaunts are placental (give live births), but also that they might be a species that are very similar to Earth mammals. Another interesting feature of the Vortigaunts is that they have no tongue or teeth on their lower jaw, yet they can speak English fluently, albeit with a strange accent and some sort of speech impediment when using S's and R's.
 Intelligence and culture
A Vortigaunt in the City 17
Vortigaunts are very intelligent and social creatures. Throughout the Half-Life series, they can be seen in pairs or groups, and are capable of developing intelligent strategies. When faced with a superior enemy, Vortigaunts will often run away, and if possible, group together with other Vortigaunts to form a stronger force.
Vortigaunts "communicating" over a corpse in Black Mesa's Lambda Complex.
Brief glimpses into the Vortigaunt culture can be gained by occasional speeches given by them in Half-Life 2, and in scenes during the original Half-Life. In the original game, Vortigaunts were enslaved by the Nihilanth and used as workers and drone soldiers. Based on comments by the All-Knowing Vortigaunt, it seems that the species has endured slavery for many generations ("We have endured these chafing bonds for eons, yet a single moment of further servitude seems intolerable!" as he says) and enforced servitude appears to have formed the bedrock of Vortigaunt history and culture up to the events of the first Half-Life. In Half-Life 2, Vortigaunts make occasional references to their species' culture. Vortigaunts have many traditions, including an apparent oral tradition of passing down poetry and songs from generation to generation.
 Communication and the "Vortessence"
Vortigaunts possess their own native form of vocal communication, which, in Half-Life 2, is referred to as "flux shifting," and can be heard in rare instances when two Vortigaunts are engaged in conversation. This method of communication likely involves frequencies which are not discernible to the human ear. According to the Vortigaunts, flux shifting cannot be understood by "those whose Vortal inputs are impaired," which may suggest that other inaudible components are involved, perhaps explaining why it is incomprehensible to humans. One of the most fantastic and enthralling examples of flux shifting is during the aftermath of the first Hunter attack in Half-Life 2: Episode Two, when the Vortigaunt that saves Alyx Vance calls out over an immense distance to communicate with its kin, using two short but apparently highly descriptive calls.
By the beginning of Half-Life 2, Vortigaunts have learned to speak at least one human language, which, in the English language version of the game, is predictably English (in some international versions of Half-Life 2, Vortigaunts speak the appropriate language for the country of the game's release; e.g., in the French language version of the game, the Vortigaunts speak French). However, the Vortigaunts' use of English is slightly strange, as they often use verbose sentence structures without contractions. The Vortigaunts encountered in-game also tend to refer to characters by adding "the" before their name, such as "the Freeman" or "the Alyx Vance".
Vortigaunts believe in a binding life-force which they call the "Vortessence". Due to their use of this force, which remains untapped by humans ("We are a tapestry woven of Vortessence. It is the same for you if only you would see it," as said by the All-Knowing Vortigaunt), the Vortigaunt species can communicate with one another telepathically. They believe Vortessence is the fabric of the universe, made of "vortal cords," of which everything is woven (and therefore everything is connected). The Vortigaunts are able to read and control this force for their electrical powers, nearly hive-mind telepathy and, likely, their ability to take power from objects. They can use their powers coupled with "the extract" of Antlion larvae to bring the nearly dead back to life (however, it is shown in Episode Two that they cannot do this alone).
It is also suggested that death is not permanent for a Vortigaunt, and that they might have the ability to "reincarnate" into a new body after death ("What seems to you a sacrifice is merely, to us, an oscillation. We do not fear the interval of darkness," as said by the All-Knowing Vortigaunt).
 Behavior and skills
In Half-Life, Vortigaunts are common enemies in both Black Mesa and Xen. While they usually attack aggressively, they often become timid when injured, preferring to run away rather than risk further combat and possible death. They are also able to heal themselves by using Healing Chamber if they become damaged. There is one area in Xen that houses a small number of peaceful Vortigaunts; however, if one is attacked they will become aggressive. Vortigaunts have two modes of attack: an energy attack in which they fire powerful green lightning-like energy beams that require a vulnerable period of "charging-up" before being unleashed, and, when close to opponents, a claw attack. Significantly, in Half-Life all of the Vortigaunts wear green collars and wrist bands. Later events reveal these to be a means by which they are controlled by a remote master, the Nihilanth. Vortigaunts often act as support for Alien Grunts, making the Vortigaunts more likely to be able to use their attack, as the player is usually concentrating on killing the tougher Grunts. Throughout the game, the Vortigaunts can be heard taunting the player with what sounds like the word "die", and shouting a word that could be perceived as "Gordon" when the player approaches.
In Half-Life 2, their electrical attack is far more devastating, as it tends to kill whatever it hits immediately and knocks the target back a considerable distance. Only objects with significant mass can resist being knocked back, such as the Strider (which appears to be fully immune to the beam) and Antlion Guards. These attacks occur twice during the single player game: when Gordon's view is restricted by rubble and when the Vortigaunt extracts Bugbait from the Antlion Guard. It is also suggested that Vortigaunts can siphon an opponent's life-force with their energy beam attack, as they are heard saying phrases like "Give over your essence!" or "Empower us!" during some of their attacks in Half-Life 2. In the Half-Life expansion Decay, the player plays as a Vortigaunt in a bonus mission, and the beam attack does indeed 'steal' life-force from enemies.
The extent of the Vortigaunts' powers are revealed fully in Episode Two, where a group of Vortigaunts use it to defend an underground outpost from a massive Antlion attack. It is shown to be powerful enough to kill Antlions and Zombies, and causes a shock wave strong enough to knock over other nearby foes. Freeman's Vortigaunt companion uses this ability to aid him in his attempt to raid an Antlion nest.
Furthermore, as was revealed in Episode One and Episode Two, Vortigaunts, under certain circumstances, are capable of manipulating space and time to an impressive degree. In Episode One, the Vortigaunts show the ability to teleport, and possibly use a limited form of time travel. In Episode Two, with the aid of a larval extract from an antlion nest, a group of Vortigaunts are capable of healing Alyx after she sustains near-fatal injuries from a Hunter.
Vortigaunts first appear in the chapter Anomalous Materials, during the Resonance Cascade. Several Vortigaunts teleport in from the ceiling of the test chamber, disappearing as they near the floor (one will remain if the crystal is removed from the Anti-Mass Spectrometer). A few moments later, when Gordon Freeman is briefly teleported to Xen, he appears in a dark room, with four Vortigaunts standing in a half-circle around him; however, they do not attack him. Later on, in Unforeseen Consequences, they can be found as standard enemies, and remain so for the rest of the game.
Vortigaunts first appear in the Introduction, when Adrian Shephard blacks out and regains consciousness. Later, in Welcome To Black Mesa, a Vortigaunt is found dead and on its back, with a Combat Knife stuck in it. Afterwards, Vortigaunts appear throughout the rest of the game as somewhat uncommon enemies, most likely due to the expansion's focus on Race X.
Vortigaunts are relatively common enemies in Blue Shift and Barney Calhoun regularly encounters them as he fights to escape Black Mesa.
In the official co-op expansion Half-Life: Decay, players who manage to obtain an A rank on all of the regular missions may unlock a bonus mission titled Xen Attacks, where both players play as Vortigaunts. Although short on story, the mission gives some unique insight into the Vortigaunts' role in the Black Mesa Incident. The players control "Drone Subjects" R-4913 and X-8973, two Vortigaunts sent to Earth by the Nihilanth. Both Vortigaunts are able to regain health by damaging objects or enemies.
An enslaved Vortigaunt janitor in Half-Life 2
In Half-Life 2, Gordon Freeman meets up with the Vortigaunts again. This time, however, they are eager to assist in overthrowing the Combine. In the time between the two games, the Vortigaunts have been freed from their former master, and most remaining on Earth have joined the human Resistance against the Combine. The game also reveals that the Vortigaunts are capable of using their electrical attack productively, in the form of a blue energy stream that can recharge batteries, power electronic circuits, fuse objects together and even power up Gordon's HEV suit.
The Vortigaunts credit Gordon Freeman with their freedom, and hold him in high esteem as "The Freeman" (as it was Freeman who slew the Nihilanth and freed the Vortigaunts). However, not all Vortigaunts have been freed. In the first chapter of Half-Life 2, Point Insertion, it is possible to catch a brief glimpse of a Vortigaunt working under the Combine. Wearing a collar and armbands similar to those worn in Half-Life (with an additional band around the waist), the Vortigaunt is shown slowly and meticulously using a push-broom to sweep dirt and garbage in the City 17 Trainstation while being watched by a Metrocop. When exploring Nova Prospekt, the player comes across a dead Vortigaunt, wearing collar and armbands, sitting in a restrained chair. Interestingly, this occurs in block A2 about which Overwatch had directed shortly before: "De-service all political conscripts in block A2 - prohibit external contact." It appears that the Vortigaunt had died during electrical torture by the Combine, which would explain Alyx Vance's comments that the Resistance's only knowledge of Nova Prospekt is through telepathic communications from Vortigaunts taken there for torture or interrogation.
A group of Vortigaunts hold back the G-Man
at the start of Episode One
. The scene mirrors the Vortigaunts seen during the Resonance Cascade in Half-Life
In the beginning of Half-Life 2: Episode One, a group of Vortigaunts free Gordon from the G-Man and save Alyx from certain death after the explosion of the Citadel's Dark Fusion Reactor, teleporting both of them to the relative safety of the center of City 17, just outside the Citadel—revealing the Vortigaunts may be more powerful than previously speculated, even to the point of challenging the G-Man. Strangely, the Vortigaunts appear purple-colored and semi-translucent during this scene.
Vortigaunts play a much larger role in Half-Life 2: Episode Two. After a Hunter mortally wounds Alyx and traps Freeman under a collapsed building, a Vortigaunt saves the former from being eaten by an Antlion. The Vortigaunt then stabilizes Alyx's condition and carries her to an underground Resistance outpost, where, with the help of three more Vortigaunts, they beat back a heavy Antlion incursion. A Vortigaunt then accompanies Freeman in a quest to harvest the larval extract of the Antlions to save Alyx's life. The Vortigaunt proves a valuable companion, as it kick-starts generators by giving them an electric jolt, its lightning attack damages and knocks over nearby Antlions, and it also charges up Freeman's HEV suit on occasion. Eventually, Freeman is able to access the Nectarium, where the Vortigaunt harvests a small quantity of the larval extract. Both Gordon and the Vortigaunt travel back to the outpost and begin a ritual to heal Alyx.
After the Vortigaunts begin the ritual, they begin to turn purple-colored and semi-translucent just as in the beginning of Episode One.It is at this point the G-Man reestablishes contact with Freeman. He states "...but I had to wait until your... 'friends' were otherwise occupied...", suggesting up until then the Vortigaunts had somehow been keeping the G-Man at bay. The Vortigaunts are unaware of the intrusion, and they never mention the G-Man, nor the service they rendered Freeman and Alyx at the beginning of Episode One.
The Vortigaunt then accompanies Freeman and Alyx a little further on before heading back, mentioning that he and his cohorts are occupied with searching for Combine Advisor pods. Another Vortigaunt, given the name Uriah by Arne Magnusson, aids Freeman briefly later on in the Episode at White Forest.
For gameplay purposes, if Gordon strays too far from Alyx during the course of Episode Two to some specific place where she cannot reach, the screen briefly shows the text 'The Freeman must proceed with the Alyx Vance, else our struggle is doomed to failure. Those who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to an endless Vortal Loop.', after which the game will reload the most recent save (referencing that those who continue to leave Alyx will keep reloading the game).
 Known Vortigaunts
This is a list of all the sentences said by the Vortigaunts during Half-Life 2, as well as some from both Episodes, most notably the All-Knowing Vortigaunt.
 In English
- "All in one and one in all."
- "All we have is yours."
- "Calm yourself!"
- "Comes a man? It is! The Freeman!"
- "Communion of the Vortessence. And that other: a deeper mystery. No deeper than the void itself."
- "Could you but see the eyes inside your own, the minds in your mind, you would see how much we share."
- "Far distant eyes look out through yours."
- "For a brief time you joined with us. You are one. Between the worlds."
- "How many are there in you? Whose hopes and dreams do you encompass?"
- "How often have we slipped our yoke, only to find it choking us again."
- "If you are truly the Freeman, we salute you."
- "Is this the Freeman we see before our eyes?"
- "Let this war end in either total victory or our extinction. No further compromise shall we allow."
- "No pit is complete without a Freeman coming out of it."
- "Node and nexus, feed upon this life!"
- "Our cause seems hopeless."
- "Our life is worthless unless spent on freedom."
- "Our purpose is mutual."
- "Perhaps we will serve you better here."
- "Something secret steers us both. We shall not name it."
- "That sharp spur of hope has not dulled to this day. For once the lesser master lay defeated, we knew the greater must also fall in time."
- "The Combine will pay in kind for their depravity."
- "The way ahead is dark for the moment."
- "There is more to the Freeman than meets the eye."
- "There is no distance between us. No false veil of time or space may intervene."
- "This is more than anyone can bear, but we will persevere."
- "Undeserving of consciousness."
- "Unity of purpose, the shattering of common shackles, a single road we tread."
- "We are a tapestry woven of Vortessence. It is the same for you if only you would see it."
- "We are still here."
- "We are there still, in observance of your final stroke."
- "We are you, Freeman. And you are us."
- "We bear witness to the bright eternity of the Nihilanth's demise. You leap, you fall, we see you flash beyond the barriers."
- "We call you sib, although your mind and meaning are a mystery to us."
- "We cannot forget those whose cords you cut. Forgiveness is not ours to bestow."
- "We cannot read the Freeman's optical buds."
- "We dedicate ourselves to your purpose."
- "We deem this company inviolable."
- "We fear we have failed you."
- "We have dreamed of this moment."
- "We have endured these chafing bonds for eons, yet a single moment of further servitude seems intolerable!"
- "We have lost all dear to us."
- "We have survived darker times."
- "We have survived worse across the ages."
- "We know you."
- "We never dreamed to meet you in corporeal form."
- "We remember the Freeman. We are coterminous."
- "We see you still in Black Mesa. Clearly we see you in the Nihilanth's chamber."
- "We serve the same mystery."
- "We take our stand beside you, here, upon this miserable rock."
- "We will put aside Black Mesa... for now."
- "What seems to you a sacrifice is merely, to us, an oscillation. We do not fear the interval of darkness."
- "While our own lay scattered at your feet, you severed the vortal cord that bound the Nihilanth to life, and to us."
- "With you beside us, a talisman of victory, the day of freedom draws nigh."
- "You have brought us grief and jubilation beyond measure."
- "You humans, always in the qualidity."
- "You must remember us from Black Mesa."
- "Your bright face obscures your darker mask."
- "Your companionship is greatly belabored."
- "Your mind is opaque."
- "Your song we sing and shall sing for eternity. No matter the consequences of this struggle."
 In Vortigese
- "Our finest poet describes it thus: Gallum galla gilla ma."
- "We are mindful of the words of our greatest philosopher: companum gannennen vorgenot!"
- "Ah ghurrrr..."
- "Chur lung gong chella gurr...
- "Churr galing chur alla gung..."
- "Ga la lung..."
- "Lung gah..."
 Behind the scenes
- In Half-Life, Gordon Freeman was originally to win the Vortigaunts over as allies on Xen, then lead them to outright rebellion. This plan proved impractical but was reused for Half-Life 2, although Vortigaunts are benign when first met at the start of the Half-Life chapter Interloper, until a Controller forces them to attack.
- In the playable Half-Life 2 leak, Vortigaunts have a voice closer to that of their Half-Life voice, very similar to that of Yoda in Star Wars.
- Friendly fire was also originally to be authorized on Half-Life 2's Citizens and Vortigaunts, like with the Black Mesa Personnel in Half-Life. The feature can be experienced in the playable Half-Life 2 leak; upon being hit, Vortigaunts will answer things like "You have given me no choice but to eliminate you," "Let me return your gift," "This pains me," or "Now, I unmake you," although they do not fight back. This is also heard in the final version when attacking Metrocops just after Alyx and Gordon are separated at Black Mesa East. Furthermore, Joe was originally to say "Hey, stop that! The Vorts are on our side, now!" if the player would harm the nearby Vortigaunt in the boxcar.
- In the playable Half-Life 2 leak files, a texture of a burned Vortigaunt body can be found, suggesting that burned Vortigaunt corpses were also to be seen, along with Citizens', during the course of the game.
- Towards the end of Half-Life (in the chapter Interloper), there are many Vortigaunts working. Although they are aware of Gordon's presence (they sometimes even outright stare at him), they do not attack him, possibly as a way to rebel against the Nihilanth. Later on, they resume their normal behavior in the presence of Alien Controllers.
- It is interesting to note that despite the Vortigaunts' entity name being
alien_slave in Half-Life and its expansions, the entity name
monster_vortigaunt will also spawn them. The game files refer to them as
islave, though it is unknown why.
 Concepts and screenshots
Concept art of an Alien Slave eating a scientist and using its central arm, and another concept art of its side.
One of the two previous concept art images, colored.
Same art with a different background.
Close-up view of an Alien Slave in a Half-Life demonstrational map.
Dead Alien Slave in the same map.
An Alien Slave attacking in the same map.
Full view of an Alien Slave in the same map.
Burnt Vortigaunt corpses in Uplink.
Early hi-res model render.
Half-Life: Decay viewmodel.
The model used during the reviving process of Alyx Vance in Episode Two.
 List of appearances
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