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Combine Advisors, sometimes simply known as "Advisors" by the Resistance, "Shu'ulathoi" by the Vortigaunts, and Overseers, are the masterminds behind the Combine occupation of Earth, and are commonly speculated as being the master race of the entire Combine empire.
The Advisors are large, pale, grub-like creatures with no discernible facial features, save a gas mask-like device attached to their front end as well as a cybernetic eyepiece on the left-hand side of the faceplate. Advisors possess a long, prehensile proboscis, which they use to feed. They do this to humans by plunging the proboscis deep into the back of the neck. Exactly what they feed on from humans is unknown, though given the position it is most likely blood or spinal fluid.
Each Advisor wears a skintight olive-green body suit that covers all but both ends of their bodies, with a collar around their "necks" adorned with golden glyphs. Some Advisors also have a pair of spindly black robotic arms strapped to their back that are capable of grabbing and lifting an adult human. In Episode Two, Advisors are seen grabbing humans, both living and dead, and plunging the proboscis deep into the back of their necks.
Combine Advisors have a wide range of odd vocalizations, from robotic growls and groans, to loud shouting noises and screeching. Besides their technological prowess, the Advisors also possess incredible psychic powers.
As was stated in Raising the Bar, Combine Advisors were once a race not unlike humans. Over time, they began to use technology to improve their quality of life. Eventually, however, they became completely reliant on this technology, and evolved into their current 'grub-like' form.
Under normal circumstances the Advisors seem content to live in artificial seclusion. During the Combine control of Earth, a number of them lived within the City 17 Citadel and ruled the planet through the medium of Dr. Breen, who was more or less their puppet. They subsisted in pods during this time, reliant on life support systems for survival. None of the citizens of City 17 or even the Resistance seem to have been aware of their existence; the outward face of the Combine on Earth was Dr. Breen and his transhuman minions, and the Advisors seemed happy to retain this facade.
During the events of Half-Life 2, it becomes obvious through the increasingly panicked Breencasts that the Advisors have grown to suspect both Dr. Breen's motives and his usefulness to them. One is shown communicating telepathically with Breen as he pleads and bargains for rescue. With the apparent death of Breen, the Advisors seem to have taken control of the Combine on Earth directly. In Episode One, they are shown preparing to evacuate themselves from the damaged Citadel while their soldiers and other minions are ordered to push the Citadel's dark fusion reactor into a meltdown state, in order to send a portal transmission to the Combine Overworld. This indicates that they are of a high position in the known Combine hierarchy, as their minions have no chance to evacuate once the reactor begins to detonate, whilst their escape pods ensure they can flee to a safe distance, outside the city limits.
Following their escape of the Citadel, the Advisors seem to have gradually abandoned their life support systems; they have, in the words of the Vortigaunts, begun to "hatch", implying that the Advisors are undergoing some sort of metamorphosis, or perhaps the Vortigaunts are simply poetically describing their abandonment of the comfort of life support. The Advisors in Episode Two do seem to cope with living outside of life support. During Episode Two, Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance shut off the life support systems of one, but it is evidently too late to kill the Advisor they are attached to. During the events of Episodes One and Two, they are shown to have a keen interest in Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance, frequently appearing on screens and in the open, monitoring their progress and dispatching Combine Soldiers to apprehend them. This is probably due to the fact that they are carrying a data packet containing Judith Mossman's transmission from the Borealis and, more importantly, the contact code for the Combine Overworld.
Combine Advisors possess considerable telepathic and telekinetic abilities. They are able to communicate telepathically with Dr. Breen, as demonstrated near the end of Half-Life 2, and launch psychic attacks to ward off unwanted attention. Such attacks take the form of mostly harmless visions which warp the perceptions of those affected, and also appear to cause severe headaches.
Advisors also possess telekinetic abilities, allowing them to manipulate multiple objects with considerable force. They can completely immobilize several adult humans, crush a metal barrel, fracture a human skeleton with ease, and pull wooden planks off of buildings to use as protection. They presumably also levitate themselves with telekinesis. When they take to the air, loose dust and debris can be seen whirling around them, possibly as a side-effect of the force that levitates them, though this was only added as a method to prevent the player from firing upon them. Though they are able to concentrate on multiple independent objects, they cannot maintain their abilities under immense pain.
It is theorized that the impaling tongue appendage may be a way to extract information directly from a human's brain, similar to that of the "Brain Bug" from the loose film adaptation of the novel Starship Troopers. This can be inferred by earlier dialog between Dr. Kleiner and Eli Vance concerning what would happen should Dr. Judith Mossman be captured by the Combine. The possible ramifications of Eli's death include the Combine acquiring Eli's knowledge of the Resistance and possibly his knowledge of portal technology, but this has not been confirmed yet and is pure speculation. However the Resistance had no knowledge of Advisors, and Kleiner's statements refer to a longer period of experience than the short time the Advisors have been active. Their tongue can be used to kill creatures by driving it straight through the neck demonstrated on Eli and a Rebel in Episode Two.
Behind the scenes
- When viewing earlier versions of the Advisor in the modelviewer, they appear to have another attack which uses their mechanical arms. There seems to be a small amount of this at the end of Episode Two when they confront Eli Vance.
- In Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, Ted Backman mentions that the immense, worm-like form of the Combine Advisor was inspired by the work of Frank Herbert, most likely the images of the Spacing Guild Navigators from the Dune novels and the original 1984 film.
- The Half-Life 2 Prima Guide states that the Advisor is a Synth, which is likely incorrect, as the Prima Guides feature other mistakes.
- The Advisor might be partially based on the Kingpin concept, due to the similarities to the Kingpin's second design and the concept of psionic attacks.
- The shaft seen in the Citadel in Episode One where the Advisor leaves is one of the oldest concepts created for Half-Life 2. An early WC mappack map ("
proto_citadel_advisor.vmf", last edited on October 12, 2001) features a prototype version of it.
- Several different texture colors can be found in the Half-Life 2 leak files. They include yellowing tones, red, blue or green. It is likely that the Advisor were to come in only one color and that these files are only experimentation.
- In the first map of Riding Shotgun chapter, one of the screens shows an Advisor inside a wooden house. It is possible that it is the same Advisor that can be seen in Episode Two trailer due to similarities in the interior of the wooden house to the place in the trailer.
- In the final map in Half-Life 2: Episode Two, if the player uses noclip, they can fly behind the hangar. There are two idle advisors here. They can be damaged with weapons, causing them to actually play a sound (actually the Gunship's pain sound) and an animation. (If they are killed, the end cutscene will be broken.) This shows that Valve has already scripted the Advisor, possibly to be used in Half-Life 2: Episode Three. Another hint is the console command sk_advisor_health 1000.
- During the beginning of a scene in Half-Life 2: Episode One, the Advisor can be heard "speaking" while it is on a screen, just before Combine soldiers come out. This is actually the sound of Vortigaunts from the original Half-Life slowed down. If this is indeed the Advisor speaking this suggests that they speak the same language as the Vortigaunts, although this is most likely just recycling old sounds.
- An unused particle system "advisor_psychic_shield", found within the Episode Two game files, suggests that Advisors were to be seen using some kind of an energy shield.
- Spawning the Advisor in Half-Life 2: Episode Two crashes the game, most likely because the Advisor only appears when scripted.
- The plasticine model and the unused textures of the juvenile Advisor seem to show underdeveloped arms and legs, as well as eyes. This fits to the idea that they were once similar to humans.
Placeholder made of three Advisors used for the Combine Big Momma Pod in the Ravenholm caves in the leak.
An Advisor appears on a screen in Episode Two.