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| General information
| Alternate names
- Nihilanth slaves (HL)
- Resistance members (HL2)
| Individual information
- Electrical bolt (10/10/15) (HL)
- Minor Rake (8/10/10)
| Game information
- monster_alien_slave_dead (HLOF)
- monster_vortigaunt (HL)
- npc_vortigaunt (HL2)
| Voiced by
- "Our life is worthless unless spent on freedom."
Vortigaunts, also known as Alien Slaves, and affectionately known as Vorts by their allies, are a hive-minded, energy-wielding, sapient alien race found throughout the Half-Life series.
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. 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 (in the original game, five) smaller eyes. They have two noses on each side of their head as small tubes.[a] 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. Unlike other aliens, they don't eat human corpses. They're seen cooking Headcrabs in Half-Life 2, first in a cave over a fire, and later in a kitchen at Black Mesa East.
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 Vortigaunts, 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!") 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. 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.
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 the 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."), 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.").
 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 shackles. 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.
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. They can be seen using their electrical attacks several times in the game. When charging up the generators in the Black Mesa East, which can be seen during the elevator ride to Eli's Lab, later when they're defending the facility against the Combine. Finally, when the Vortigaunt extracts Bugbait from a dead 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. 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. They also appear in the expansions as regular enemies. In Decay, the players can find a dead Vortigaunt with his collar and shackles removed and connected to a machine in the Alien Quarantine Labs.
In Half-Life for PlayStation 2, the players are able to play the game as a Vortigaunt in two game modes: Xen Attacks, which is a bonus mission for Half-Life: Decay, and in Alien Mode, which allows the player play through Half-Life as a Vortigaunt.
An enslaved Vortigaunt janitor in Half-Life 2
In Half-Life 2, it is revealed that Gordon Freeman inadvertently liberated the Vortigaunts by killing their master, Nihilanth. Rather than fall under the dominion of the Combine, the Vortigaunts 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". 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 shackles 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.
When exploring Nova Prospekt, the player comes across a dead Vortigaunt, wearing collar and shackles, 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.
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 in 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 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).
 Notable Vortigaunts
 Related Achievements
|Discover the hidden singing Vortigaunt cave in chapter Water Hazard.
 Behind the scenes
- Originally known simply as Alien Slaves, the alien species was eventually given the name of "Vortigaunt" during the development of Half-Life. Although never mentioned during gameplay, this title was first revealed in the Prima strategy guide for the game. Additionally, the in-game monster entity has two internal designations in the code: the generic "
monster_alien_slave" along with "
- In Online Gaming Review's early Half-Life Monster of the Week Feature preview, Vortigaunts were given the taxonomic designation "Xenotherium subservilia." They were described as being highly subservient creatures bred to be unquestionably loyal to its masters. They had an indiscriminate diet, choosing to abstain from even the lowly Chumtoads, as they were only afforded the scraps from battlefield remnants and whatever little else they could scavenge. Vortigaunts are said regularly groom Alien Grunts, their most common masters, and dine on the ectoparasites gathered in this process. When ordered into combat, they fight with a fervent vigor heedless of their own personal risk as they fear the wrath of their superiors more than their enemies. They are commonly sent first in battles as cannon fodder or bait. Outside of the eye of their masters, Vortigaunts would act remarkably cowardly and choose to flee from hostility, becoming virtually harmless. They were thought to be of low intelligence, seemingly being incapable of independent thought and their original survival instincts being altered by their masters. Nonetheless, it was still apparently necessary for its overlords to implement slave collars on all units to keep any chance of rebellion under control.
- 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.
- Originally, the Vortigaunts could get caught by Barnacles in Half-Life. The animations can be found in Half-Life: Day One files.
- The Vortigaunts could resurrect dead Vortigaunts using their beam attack in Half-Life. The unused code can be found in the Half-Life SDK.
- There are unused animations showing the Vortigaunts getting electrocuted through their collar around their neck when they don't obey their masters.
- The Vortigaunts have an unused melee attack called Major Rake (clawrake), which is a duplicate of their claw attack in the code, but stronger. The damage values (25/25/25) can be found in the skill configuration file (
skill.cfg). Even though it's unused, the values (10/20/25) were changed for the Dreamcast port.
 Half-Life 2
- City 17 was originally to be filled with Vorti-Cells, Combine devices used as stations siphoning power from trapped Vortigaunts.
- A Vortigaunt was supposed to remove the Tau Cannon from the Scout Car and give it to the player at the Lighthouse Point. There is also an animation showing Vortigaunt firing the gun.
- There is a Vortigaunt who's been tortured to death in Nova Prospekt (map
d2_prison_03). According to David Speyrer, he was alive, late in the development of the game, and was sitting in his cell. The player could let him out, and fight alongside him. The leftover files can be still found in the map.
- Stephan Grothgar voices Vortigaunts in German, Tony Beck in French, and Diran Meghreblian in Russian.
- Robin Williams expressed interest in voicing the Vortigaunts, but scheduling conflicts prevented him from playing the role.
 Other works
- In a reply to a statement by Doug Lombardi (in PC Zone, September 2005 issue), Marc Laidlaw revealed that long before the events Half-Life, the Vortigaunts had a homeworld, that was invaded by the Combine, forcing them to flee to Xen.
- The Vortigaunts are mentioned in Marc Laidlaw's BreenGrub, a fan fiction story set in the Half-Life universe.
- Towards the end of Half-Life (in the chapter Interloper), there are many Vortigaunts working in the mines. Although they are aware of Gordon's presence (they sometimes even outright stare at him), they do not attack him. Later on, they resume their normal hostile behavior while in the presence of Alien Controllers.
- In the Half-Life mod Point of View, one can play as a Vortigaunt during the Black Mesa Incident.
- The Vortigaunt's smoother, shinier and slug-like appearance originally introduced in Half-Life 2: Episode Two was added into Half-Life 2 and its episodes in The Orange Box 2010 update.
- Despite being part of the Resistance, some Citizens still distrust the Vortigaunts, as can be heard in a rebel safe house during Episode One.
- Vortigaunts are referred to as Vortigons in text messages leftover by the developers in a test map "
hl1devteste" included in Half-Life: Source. The messages are: "Use this turret to kill Vortigons." and "Vortigons should spawn here with effects. When one dies, another will spawn 5 seconds later."
 Concepts and screenshots
Concept art for the Vortigaunt.
Another version with a different background.
Cycler[b] Vortigaunt in a technology demo.
Vortigaunt's electrical attack.
Vortigaunts communicating over a corpse.
Vortigaunt workers in the mines.
Burnt Vortigaunt corpses in Uplink.
Dead Vortigaunt with its collar and shackles removed in Decay.
Vortigaunts healing Alyx.
Opposing Force, High Definition version.
Unused burned skin on leak model.
The model used in the intro of Episode One.
 List of appearances
- ↑ The name of the textures used for the tubes are:
Nose1.bmp, for the side of the tubes, and
Nostrils1.bmp, for the holes on the tubes. In Half-Life 2, the tubes use the flexes used for the nose of human characters.
- ↑ The cycler is an entity (in this case, a
cycler_alien_slave) that allows the player to display and cycle through the different animations of a model. Shooting a cycle will cycle it to its next available animation. Using a cycler will cause it to pause its animation.
Combine OverWiki has a list of quotes for Vortigaunt
Combine OverWiki has more images related to Vortigaunt
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Half-Life, entity name:
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Half-Life SDK,
- ↑ Half-Life, filename:
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Chuck Jones' personal website
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 Half-Life Prima Guide
- ↑ Worldcraft, Game Data File (
- ↑ Half-Life 2 Prima Guide
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Half-Life 2
- ↑ Half-Life 2: Episode Two
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 Half-Life
- ↑ Half-Life 2: Episode Two, chapter This Vortal Coil
- ↑ Video on Youtube
- ↑ "Marc Laidlaw Vault" on Steam Users' Forums
- ↑ Half-Life, chapter Anomalous Materials.
- ↑ Half-Life 2, chapter Nova Prospekt.
- ↑ Half-Life 2: Episode One, chapter Undue Alarm
- ↑ Half-Life - Monster of the Week feature on Online Gaming Review (archived)
- ↑ 19.0 19.1 Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar
- ↑ Looking Back... Half-Life 2: Episode One on Computer And Video Games (October 19, 2006) (archived)
- ↑ The Final Hours of Half-Life 2 on Gamespot (November 12, 2004) (archived)
- ↑ Mailbag on Planet Half-Life (July 7, 2006) (archived)
- ↑ Worldcraft, Half-Life Entity Guide (