||Warning! This article contains spoilers.
It might spoil your gaming experience when first playing the related game(s). Read at your own risk!
||Warning! This article has yet to be cleaned up to a higher standard of quality, per our Cleanup Project. It may contain factual errors and nonsense, as well as spelling, grammar and structure issues, or simply structure problems. Reader's discretion is advised until fixing is done.
You can help clean up this page by correcting spelling and grammar, removing factual errors and rewriting sections to ensure they are clear and concise, and moving some elements when appropriate.
Please notice the administrators before removing this template, or you will be blocked.
| The Combine
| Political information
| Type of faction / organization
Cross universe/dimensional empire
| Head of Government
| Societal information
| Capital / Headquarters
See Combine weapons
See Combine technology
| Game information
- "We should thank Our Benefactors for giving us respite from this overpowering force. They have thrown a switch and exorcised our demons in a single stroke. They have given us the strength we never could have summoned to overcome this compulsion. They have given us purpose. They have turned our eyes toward the stars."
- ―Wallace Breen
The Combine, referred to as "Our Benefactors" in propaganda, is the title of an immense and powerful interdimensional organization, composed of a variety of both allied and enslaved species.
The Combine is a vast empire, spanning multiple parallel universes. The empire is inhabited by an unknown number of sentient species, and is possibly governed by a race of artificially evolved Advisors of the Combine Overworld. The Combine empire expands by invading worlds and exploiting their dominant species as it sees fit. By manipulating these species through methods including bioengineering and implantation, the Combine creates races of super-soldiers uniquely adapted for the particular environments of the conquered worlds. This process results in a highly mobile and adaptive military force which is able to respond to any threat and crush any opposition. The reasons behind the Combine's imperialism remain unknown throughout the series.
When pronouncing the word "Combine", vocal stress is placed on the first syllable. The name is pronounced COM-bine, as in combine harvester, as opposed to the verb form com-BINE, as in "to join together or unite." Dr. Breen refers to the Combine Soldiers and Civil Protection as The Transhuman Arm of the Combine Overwatch in Nova Prospekt, verifying that "Combine" is an accepted name of the empire, even by the empire itself.
Until recently, it was speculated that the Combine possibly controlled Xen during the first Half-Life game, based on the similarities to some practices and technologies used by the Nihilanth. However, Valve's marketing director Doug Lombardi stated that the Combine had, in fact, invaded a different homeworld from which Nihilanth's race was forced to escape. The defeated Nihilanth sought refuge in Xen, where the Combine could not (or would not) follow.
"We had a glimpse of the larger threat when we were working on Half-Life. In other words we knew that once you cleared out the Nihilanth, you were going to discover something worse beyond it. We knew that some immense threat had chased the Nihilanth and its creatures out of their own world and into Xen, from which location [i.e. the world beyond Xen] they were all too glad to seize the opportunity to continue on to Earth with suppression through the Citadels. But the exact nature of the threat was left to be solved in Half-Life 2."
The Nihilanth and the Combine are now established as former enemies who had knowledge of each other. When contacted, Marc Laidlaw provided more information:
"I'm pretty sure Doug was restating something I'd told him; I [am not] clarifying it, since it's the foundation on which the series continues. What we saw in HL1 was the very end of a long struggle between the Combine and the last of the Nihilanth's race ... The Nihilanth's "world" (if it could be said to have) was long since in the past as far as the Nihilanth was concerned; Xen was their final retreat, and they had their back to the wall, as it were, when the fissure appeared that let them spill into our dimension. Xen itself is sort of a dimensional transit bottleneck—an area of continual contention."
Subsequent to the invasion of Nihilanth's unnamed homeworld, Earth became the Combine's most recently known annexation. It was acquired following Earth's surrender at the end of the Seven Hour War. Following the standard Combine process, members of Earth's dominant species were modified to form a new arm of the Combine military. While these soldiers are primarily used as a permanent Combine garrison on Earth, in-game dialogue suggests that units of the transhuman arm of Overwatch are deployed across the Combine Empire. One line of dialogue supporting this theory contains a threat toward soldiers with "permanent off-world assignment" should they fail to complete their objectives.
 Combine on Earth
 Invasion of Earth
- See also: Seven Hour War
Following the Nihilanth's demise, the Combine were able to use the portal storm that was occurring at the time to continue on to Earth, where it launched a massive invasion that culminated in the Seven Hour War. Statements made by the G-Man suggest that the human race was unable to mount any effective resistance to the Combine armies, and that Earth's military forces were almost instantly overwhelmed. Former administrator of the Black Mesa Research Facility, Dr. Wallace Breen, negotiated a surrender on Earth's behalf and was therefore appointed the administrator of the Combine's forces on Earth - the Overwatch.
 Combine dominance on Earth
The Combine rules Earth from giant towers known as Citadels, the most important being in City 17 where Dr. Breen runs his administration. At the end of the game, as Doctor Breen attempts to teleport off of Earth using the dark fusion reactor, a massive portal is created and, through it, several buildings that resemble Citadels are visible.
At the start of the game, the Combine appear to have almost complete dominance of the remaining pockets of civilized Earth, and do not identify who Gordon Freeman is. However, Doctor Breen immediately informs a Combine Advisor of Freeman's appearance during a teleport accident, in which Gordon Freeman appeared in Doctor Breen's office for a brief amount of time. Only a few handfuls of rebels, loosely organized in a ragtag resistance, are secretly opposing the Combine. Gordon Freeman's actions after his return eventually inspire a massive insurrection against the Combine in City 17, which results in a full-scale street war between the citizens and the Combine forces.
The reasons behind the Combine's desire to control the Earth are unknown, other than the absorption of Earth's resources, the use of human teleporter technology and the enslavement and exploitation of its dominant species - the humans - for either menial work or military service, considering that "permanent off world assignment" is threatened to soldiers who fail in their attempts to kill or capture Gordon Freeman throughout the game.
 Suppression Field
A symbolically empty playground in City 17
The Combine, since gaining dominance on Earth, imposed a suppression field on the population. The suppression field's main effect is to bring the human birth rate down to zero by prohibiting certain protein chains important to embryonic development from forming, effectively ensuring that the humans currently alive will be the last generation. Doctor Breen addresses this issue to the people via a broadcast during the early levels of Half-Life 2 as the response to a letter written to him by a "concerned citizen" and claims that the field will be deactivated once the humans prove they no longer need it. During the game, Resistance members occasionally make humorous remarks about the suppression field, such as "When this is all over, I'm gonna mate." It was initially thought that the suppression field somehow prevented human sexual urges, mainly due to Dr. Breen's statement that it was suppressing "the urge to reproduce," but this statement may in fact be referring to the suppression field's physiological effects causing human "urges" to diminish rather than to stop outright. In the end, Combine propaganda may actually reflect the Combine's thoughts about human reproduction; they may indeed actually believe that they are there to help humans.
In Half-Life 2: Episode One, it has been revealed by Dr. Isaac Kleiner during his transmissions throughout the city that the suppression field has been disabled with the near destruction of the Citadel. He says that everyone who has escaped City 17 "should do their part" in the re-population of the human species "before the Combine attempt to restore their dominion." When Alyx Vance hears this, she remarks "Is Dr. Kleiner really telling everyone to...get busy?" Eli Vance would jokingly give Alyx and Gordon a similar suggestion, claiming to want grandchildren.
 Mind control and memory replacement
Comments at the trainstation at the start of the game suggest that the Combine have been drugging (if not outright poisoning) the populace through their water supply. One citizen remarks "Don't drink the water...they put something in it, t-to make you forget. I don't even remember how I got here." This is not mentioned outside this one piece of dialogue; but the idea is reinforced by the numerous soda machines stocked with "Dr. Breen's Private Reserve", which freely dispense water in a standard 12-ounce can.
The insinuated reason for this supposed mind control is so that humans forget why they hate the Combine, and will willingly accede to their (and Breen's) demands, and to create a fresh new template (the human's mind) for forced re-education.
In addition, a Combine radio transmission to Civil Protection officers states: "Reminder, memory replacement is the first step to rank privileges." This could explain why none of the CPs are able to join the Resistance after the Uprising (apart from Barney Calhoun, who was a double agent for the Resistance to begin with;) their memories may either forbid them from harboring any negative thoughts toward their Combine overlords or program them to believe that the Combine must be protected. However, Barney suggests the opposite when, during Episode One, he states that "now it looks like we're gonna have to cut a path through every chickenshit Metrocop who's having second thoughts about defending City 17!". What this could mean is the Combine presents an illusion of free will by promising privileges to CPs willing to give up their memories, despite their loss of humanity, and the possibility that the Combine just takes CPs into Nova Prospekt without their knowledge.
Information about forced memory replacement can be found in the games data files, specifically this model (right) named "soldier bed", seen later inside the Citadel during Episode One. This model closely resembles that of concept art in Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar. The machine itself consists of Combine emitters and equipment, attached is an arm-like device holding a human body. Lastly, a shell-like apparatus envelops the head; containing three different screens and panels. Accompanying this model is a small group of sounds resembling harsh subliminal messaging; this video/audio messaging system explains the military training used by normal post-human individuals.
This model, in addition to several bizarre sounds of voices in the data files, suggests that this "brainwashing" memory replacement is an important part of the transhuman operation. The process of erasing memories, Combine propaganda, and eventually, memory replacement results in a soldier incapable of rebelling against the Combine influence, as well as enabling transhumans with no military background training to become part of the Overwatch forces.
 Human genocide
Graffiti sprayed near Black Mesa East
and other places (such as Matt
's home), with a Combine (or possibly Resistance, or even a recycled Conscript
) soldier holding a baby next to the word 'Caste'.
There are many evident acts of genocide or at least random killing perpetrated by the Combine throughout the game. In Route Kanal, a refugee base is raided, and a few members of the base are lined up against the wall and shot just as the player arrives. The town of Ravenholm was shelled with the intention of killing all the residents, and throughout the Highway 17 chapter, the player encounters numerous bodies in the houses of the coast including some that have been burnt by the Combine in a bonfire (though these may also have been zombified humans). Towards the end of the game, Eli Vance explains to Breen that he has witnessed "genocide and indescribable evil." That being said however, the Combine may not want to completely exterminate the human race, but rather enslave it for exploitation. If they wanted to exterminate humanity they would have done it already, and as such may want to preserve the human population in major urban areas, possibly for zoological study.
 The absence of children
It is obvious that the children are missing in Half-Life 2 and its episodes. The main reason is the placement of the Suppression Field by the Combine right after their victory at the end of the Seven Hour War. Given that the Combine have been occupying Earth for nearly twenty years, the humans that Gordon sees throughout the game are possibly the last humans born naturally.
Evidence such as the ghostly laughs and screams of children that can be heard in the playground outside one of the apartments in the first chapter, a crying couple that can be seen shortly thereafter, the fact that the player doesn't see any children in the most human-populated areas, remarks by Resistance members such as "I'm glad there's no kids around to see this," and the presence of discarded toys such as baby dolls can be seen during the game, but they are only reminders of the past. There are no children anymore.
According to Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, the children were present in the early stages of the game development, in an area of City 17 called the Combine Factories. Adults and children were to work in this area closely watched by Metrocops and Combots. In the Cremator Factory, children were building Cremators. As the concept of human reproduction being disabled by the Suppression Field evolved, children finally got cut with the whole area, along with the Cremator.
- See also: Combine Factories
 Branding Citizens as "Anticitizens"
The term "Anticitizen" is used by the Combine to designate a person as a threat to their control, similar to a "public enemy". The Combine use the term 'anti citizen' because the behavior of Anticitizens is the opposite of that of Citizens (or at least, the Combine's definition of a Citizen as a person under their rule who does not resist them). Each Anticitizen is given a number representing how dangerous they are to the Combine, and ranked in descending order. Gordon Freeman is Anticitizen One, and thus the living being who poses the most danger to the Combine. However, in Nova Prospekt, the dispatcher addresses the player as "Anticitizen Freeman", which leads to speculation that Anticitizens are designated not only by numbers.
 Depletion of Earth's resources
The draining of Earth's oceans is easily the most striking sign of the Combine's rule on the planet.
It is evident at several points in the game that the Combine are depleting Earth's natural resources. One of the official Half-Life 2 descriptions details how Gordon Freeman must return to "an Earth infested with aliens and being picked to the bone." One of the most noticeable signs is that Earth's ocean levels have dropped dramatically. This can be seen during the coastal chapters Highway 17 and Sandtraps, and the waterways of City 17 in Route Kanal and Water Hazard. The coastline is littered with boats and ships resting on what was previously the seabed, and there are various docks and piers that are no longer standing in water, but instead standing on the old seabed. At the beginning of Highway 17, Gordon arrives at a harbor which is now a considerable distance from the water's edge. Indications of the previous sea level can be judged by moss which had previously gathered on harbor structures at the edge of the water, but which now lie several feet higher than the ground level. It is mentioned in the book Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar that this massive, planet-wide water drainage is accomplished through the presence of a giant Combine "drain," actually a teleporter, which sends the water to other Combine-enslaved planets.
More generally, parts of the game world are flooded with parasitic headcrabs and toxic waste, making them generally inhospitable to human life. Infrastructure is either decaying (as with Highway 17, which is in a state of incredible disrepair and littered with old rusting cars) or rendered completely useless (as with Nova Prospekt, where the traditional prison area is mostly flooded and run down, if not outright destroyed by the explosion at the end of the chapter Entanglement). Animals are rarely seen inside and outside of City 17, suggesting that most if not all animal species have been driven to extinction or are critically endangered; though, strangely, birds are the only animals that are seen in Half-Life 2. The Fisherman in Lost Coast comments that there's no fish left to eat, only Leeches which devour anyone who steps into the ocean, posing a further threat to humanity.
Additionally, City 17 itself is being devoured, as Combine Walls spread outward from the Citadel, consuming the city's buildings. It is unknown whether the Combine are purely using this method to destroy the city, or whether they're actually gathering raw materials from the city's structures. Because of all of the above factors, even if Combine rule ends, extensive rebuilding, cleanup, and Xeno-extermination would have to take place to make the planet habitable again. Even then, it will not be the same as before the Combine invasion, as most of Earth's species have been driven to extinction by Xen lifeforms.
During the development of the game, the Combine originally had a huge industrial facility which was referred to as the Air Exchange, which gradually absorbed Earth's air and replaced it with chemicals and other murky gases which were harmful to humans, but most likely ideal for an environment that the Combine master race could inhabit. It was up to Gordon Freeman to travel to the Combine Air Exchange after the prison levels. Gordon's actions at the Air Exchange were to trigger the human insurrection against the Combine in City 17, but as the level was dropped, this was instead made to happen due to Gordon's actions at Nova Prospekt.
The Combine heavily relies on imagery through logos, symbols, and propaganda posters to assure their influence on Earth and remind its residents of their presence. Combine units - humanoid and Synth - also bear insignias, logos, and other markings. Many Combine posters are also scattered around City 17 and its sector (including the Coast, Nova Prospekt, etc.). Most of the time they include two common Combine symbols, with variants in color and image backgrounds. The Combine imagery is quite abstract, and the intended messages can be very subtle.
Breencasts are regular broadcasts made by Dr. Wallace Breen, delivered to the populace of Combine controlled towns and cities via private televisions and, more commonly, large video monitors mounted on walls in public places such as town squares and railway stations. As the messages simply loop, it is possible that all announcements are pre-recorded.
 Combine Technology
 Combine teleportation
Despite the highly advanced technological capabilities of the Combine empire, the Combine seem to lack considerable skills in teleportation. Dr. Mossman explains that the Combine can only teleport from one universe to another, but not to different locations within the same universe. The teleportation method used by Dr. Kleiner and Eli Vance (and by the other Black Mesa scientists and even Nihilanth before and during the Black Mesa Incident) does this, which is why the Combine wants their knowledge of teleportation. Dr. Mossman actually helps the Combine build a teleporter with such capability in Nova Prospekt, but it is destroyed during Alyx and Gordon's escape. The Combine gain little in the end.
The Combine's method of teleportation requires a large amount of power and huge machinery to perform, as seen at the end of the game where Dr. Breen attempts to escape from the Citadel using a Combine teleporter. This teleporter requires an entire reactor, called the dark fusion reactor to power it, while the teleporters designed by humans require only small amounts of power and very little machinery in comparison. Xen teleporters seem to require even less machinery - sometimes even none at all - and even less power. This is because Xenian teleporters use Xen as a "dimensional slingshot," bouncing off of one universe to another, and from one location in a certain universe to another in the same universe. Combine teleporters cannot, instead having to "tunnel" straight through dimensions to the target universe. One advantage Combine teleporters may have is the ability to jump to any universe at will, instead of being limited to an adjacent universe (or possibly even only in and out of Xen) like humans and Xen creatures.
The lacking teleportation ability of the Combine may also explain its interest in locating the Aperture Science vessel, The Borealis.
 Combine military technology
The Combine largely relies on the technological growth of others. Technology and resources are assimilated for Combine use. The Overwatch utilizes Earth's small arms, armored personnel carriers, trains, helicopters, etc. Examples of this with other species are the Strider and the Gunship. Nova Prospekt, while a Combine stronghold, has only a little evidence of occupation. The building itself and its coastal defenses are just recycled human structures, thrown together almost hastily.
Combine Soldier fighting Antlions
along the Coast.
 Humanoid Combine
The primary military force of the Combine on Earth is the humanoid Combine Overwatch (referred to by Doctor Breen as the "Transhuman arm of the Combine Overwatch", although he could be referring to the entire Combine military presence on earth as the Overwatch and the ranks including modified humans are the transhuman arm.): humans who have been modified into "transhuman" (or "post-human", as referred to by Dr. Kleiner) cyborgs. They are the most frequently encountered foes throughout Half-Life 2. This could also be another possible reason why they are called the Combine, because they are a "combination" of humans and alien technology. It is important to note that the Civil Protection foes are not hybrids and are in fact, human.
- Civil Protection: The quasi-thoughtpolice that patrols the cities, monitor the public airways, and conduct randomized raids. Since little modification is involved, some Resistance members, such as Barney Calhoun, join Civil Protection in order to go under cover to investigate Combine activity and tip off would-be victims.
- Overwatch Elite: The Elite soldiers of the Combine Overwatch. They've undergone extensive modifications and are seen protecting the Citadel or occasionally leading squads of regular soldiers.
- Stalker: Mutilated, drone-like slaves that are created from dissident Citizens and captured Rebels.
 Combine Synth Technology
Synths are creatures that, over a course of imposed evolution and adaptation by the Combine, have come to fit a particular niche in the Combine military. Once self-replicating organic creatures that spread across different worlds, they were enslaved and assimilated into the Combine to become the backbone of their military.
Various types of Synth have been brought over to Earth by the Combine, but other types of Synth are likely to exist, as the total number of different Synths is unknown. It is likely that Synths were the primary forces used by the Combine during the Seven Hour War, as the human-derived Combine units, as well as technology such as hunter-choppers and APCs, would have only been developed after the Combine's rule on Earth had been established.
- Dropship: Primary troop and weapon transport of the Combine.
- Gunship: Assault aircraft that usually fight in groups of two for protection.
- Strider: Large ground assault weapons used by the Combine. Walks on three incredibly long legs, towering over the battlefield.
 Combine inorganic combat technology
The Combine, since gaining dominance on Earth, has invented a large number of devices and machines, some of which are offensive, and others which are used in the day-to-day policing and surveillance of the general populace. A majority of the Combine's technology present on Earth is actually nothing more than human technology re-interpreted and manufactured by the Combine using its own materials. Helicopters, automated gun turrets and wheeled vehicles are all examples of human technology re-engineered by the Combine.
- APCs: The main mode of transport of Civil Protection, are a common sight within the cities. They are armed with a missile launcher and a mounted pulse rifle.
- City Scanner: A flying security camera and scout that takes pictures of enemies and relays their location to its command center. Also "dive-bombs" its target if subject to enough incoming fire. Occasionally used as a spotter for Striders.
- Hopper: A programmable explosive mine that hops into the air and explodes when approached by anything it identifies as an enemy.
- Hunter-Chopper: Piloted by two members of the Overwatch, this vehicle is primarily used to track down solitary members of the Resistance, or small groups of Resistance soldiers. Heavily armed and armored, it features a pulse cannon and missile launcher, and can saturate an area with mines.
- Manhack: Essentially a flying, autonomous circular saw.
- Rollermine: A ball-shaped 'mine' with a rudimentary targeting system that, once activated, follows anything it identifies as a threat and subjects it to electric shocks.
 Static Combine property
A common trait of Combine structural engineering seems to be making most of their creations resemble imposing, fairly featureless monolithic constructs, save for the odd irregular patterns that dot their surface. On the other hand, some seem to be unnecessarily complex, featuring inefficient use of open space, while others exhibit properties that defy conventional physics.
- The Citadel - The large building looking after City 17 and Combine forces.
- The Depot - A Combine building looking after prisoners at Nova Prospekt.
- Razor Trains - Combine trains made to transfer Combine Troops, supplies, and prisoners to locations.
- Smart Barriers - Large, mechanized walls, which slowly move outwards, destroying any structures in their paths.
 Behind the scenes
- Originally, the Combine were to twist Earth's buildings to make them their own. This resulted in some odd designs, such as the Citadel interior being made out of ceramic tiles. This design was cut, and replaced with the familiar blue metal used by the Combine in the final games.
- The map combine_gallery_002 shows another concept in which pieces of Combine material were to be attached to the Wasteland rock formations, hinting at the possibility that the Combine originally were to have some sort of mining activity on Earth.
The name "Combine" is used in the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey, referring to the partly imaginary powerful force that controls everything. The name implies the mechanistic way in which the Combine manipulate and process individuals.
 List of appearances