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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 tendril that protrudes from their front which they use to kill creatures by driving it straight through the skull as demonstrated on Eli and a dead Rebel in Episode Two. Using it, they are able extract information and memories from the minds of their prey, "courtesy of a brain-stem savaging" said to be "too disgusting to contemplate."
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 stated by Ted Backman, 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.
Behind the scenes
- 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.
- Alternate skin variants can be found in the Half-Life 2 leak files. They include yellowing tones, red, blue or green. The Half-Life 2 model is almost identical to the leak version, save from an alternate camera texture and a different blue tone on the balls located on top of its body.
- 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.
- 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 map pack map (
proto_citadel_advisor, last edited on October 12, 2001) features a prototype version of it.
- 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 play a sound (actually the Gunship's pain sound) and a flinching 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.
- 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.
- A juvenile version of the Advisor was designed for Episode Two but cut from the final game.
- Commentary from the first Advisor encounter in Episode Two as well as Episode Three concept art suggest that the Advisor will return in the next Half-Life game, around the Borealis and on Xen.
Early Barn Advisor model in the Episode Two trailer.
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.