Aerial Assault Synth
3 (Easy), 5 (Normal), 7 (Hard) RPG hits
The Combine Gunship, often simply referred to as a Gunship, is a powerful, autonomous Combine aircraft that combines aspects of an airplane and a helicopter with Synth technology. It is one of the empire's main aerial combat units and the primary force of the Airwatch.
Gunships are powered by an array of different jet engines on their underside and maneuver using a rear fan with insect wing-like blades. Compound eyes that bear a close resemblance to those of a dragonfly are positioned directly behind the Gunship's pulse gun; in addition, the chassis itself has one large exposed compound eye on either side. Like most Combine Synths and vehicles, the Gunship is invulnerable to small arms fire and can only be damaged by Energy Balls and heavy weapons, such as rocket-propelled grenades. Because of this weakness, Gunships will give any incoming explosive a priority over enemies and will attempt to shoot them down. When confronting Energy Balls, they try to dodge them.
Although lacking the Hunter-Chopper's explosive mines and rockets, the Gunship surpasses its aerial counterpart in maneuverability and accuracy with its pulse turret.
Gunships are generally used to patrol Combine Cities with their sensors or attack enemies not normally accessible to ground forces or in remote locations where air power would be more convenient. In urban environments or when protecting important facilities such as the Citadel dark fusion reactor, Nova Prospekt's outer defense, or the Overwatch Nexus, Gunships are deployed in pairs in which one Gunship protects the other from missile attacks. However, when deployed to oversee vast spaces such as the Coast, only one unit is present at a time.
A Gunship can first be seen in the chapter Point Insertion flying above the tenement buildings while Gordon is being chased by Metrocops. It is not encountered in combat until the chapter Highway 17, in which Gordon is given the RPG launcher and defends New Little Odessa from the Synth's attack. Units also appear near the Dock 137, and at the Bridge Point, just after Freeman deactivates the Force Fields in order to proceed further.
At the end of the battle of Lighthouse Point, another Gunship is encountered by Gordon and must be taken down to proceed. Two more of these aerial Synths are fought simultaneously in the chapter Sandtraps, just before he enters Nova Prospekt. Another one appears near the Overwatch Nexus and is later fought on the building's rooftop after Gordon deactivates the Suppression Device. During the last major street war battle near the Citadel's walls, a Gunship flies over the battlefield but does not stay around to be fought.
During Freeman's journey through the Citadel in a Combine Prisoner Pod, Stalkers are seen working on several Gunships. Later, a squadron of these Synths flies out of the Citadel as Gordon travels to Breen's office. The final two Gunships are encountered when he reaches the Citadel fusion reactor's core.
A Gunship is encountered in the chapter Urban Flight in which it can be seen before entering the Hospital and during the fight with Zombies and Combine Soldiers. When Gordon steps into the building's attic, he is attacked by the aerial Synth. After several hits with the RPG launcher, the Gunship crashes into the roof in a ball of fire.
Destroying a Gunship with the RPG requires a unique strategy. Since Gunships concentrate their fire on any incoming missile and attempt to shoot them down, the laser designator should be used to guide the missile in unpredictable loops and rolls on its way to the target to make it as difficult as possible for the Gunship to hit the missile. Ideally, the player should perform evasive maneuvers with the missile until it gets close, and then steer it around the Gunship and hit it from behind. It is also sometimes possible to fire straight up at a Gunship directly above Gordon and hit its belly before it has time to recognize the threat.
Gunships are one of the toughest enemies, and dealing with them presents a number of problems, doubly so if there are other enemies in the vicinity at the same time. Since it takes three to seven hits to destroy one (depending on difficulty), the player can only effectively fight one if they have a steady source of replacement ammunition for the RPG. It is also important to have plenty of overhead cover to use in between volleys of gunfire from the vehicle. Gunships will always prioritize missiles over any other target, potentially allowing them to be utilized as diversions while Gordon can get away to safety and/or resupply.
Gunships can be damaged by any explosive: SMG grenades, fragmentation grenades, RPG launcher rockets, or explosive barrels. Each of these takes fixed chunk of Gunship's health depending on difficulty level: 34% on Easy, 21% on Normal, and 15% on Hard.
|Where Cubbage Fears to Tread (5G)|
|Defend Little Odessa from the Gunship attack.|
|One Man Army (5G)|
|Destroy six Gunships in Half-Life 2.|
|Half-Life 2 (cut)|
|Kill both Gunships in the Nova Prospekt courtyard.|
|Half-Life 2: Episode One|
|Destroy the Gunship in the Hospital attic.|
Behind the scenes
As seen in Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, early Gunship concepts were quite machine-like, while the final version depicts a more ambiguous, synthetic look. During early playtesting, Valve found that the Gunship would accidentally consider rockets fired at it as the more interesting enemy and try to shoot them down. This played so well that the RPG vs Gunship battles were reworked into a game of cat and mouse. Furthermore, Nova Prospekt was originally to feature a Gunship factory, called the "Gunship Bays", located at the foot of the Depot. The concept was heavily trimmed down and later reused in the Half-Life 2 chapter Our Benefactors, where Gunships can be seen mounted on the walls, being serviced by Stalkers.
According to Scott Dalton, Valve designed the Episode One Hospital Gunship battle to create a dynamic evolving experience while still keeping the player within a constrained area. Initially, the attic appears straightforward and provides plenty of cover. As the environment gets progressively more damaged, combat becomes more challenging; players are increasingly open to enemy fire, and the path to the rocket crate becomes more difficult to navigate. As the roof breaks apart, however, the Gunship also becomes more visible and therefore easier to hit, keeping things relatively in balance.
Further investigation with the use of external programs reveals more behind-the-scenes information. The entity names of the two Gunships fought in Nova Prospekt are 'Penn' and 'Teller', after the comedy and magic duo. The Gunship does not fly independently, unlike the City Scanners, but instead exclusively follows path tracks set in the game;
info_target_gunshipcrash entities are used to suggest spectacular crashing points for defeated Gunships. In the Half-Life 2 model viewer, the Synth's "dragonfly" eyes can be seen to possess the ability to extend downwards and sweep left and right.
As seen at New Little Odessa (in "
d2_coast_03") and during the City 17 uprising (in "
d3_c17_07") in the Half-Life 2 leak, the Gunship was also to fire a beam similar to that of the Strider with its belly cannon. While the cannon is still visible on the final model, this weapon is never seen demonstrated in-game, though it can be used in Hammer. In N.L.O., the Gunship fires its cannon to the shack where the "RPGGuy" is hiding, exploding the shack and killing him, allowing Freeman to grab the RPG. During the City 17 uprising, a Gunship attacks the bridge set beyond the plaza where Alyx gets captured in the final game (she just remains hidden there for no apparent reason in the leak). In the final game, the bridge is already destroyed, while in the leak, it is destroyed under Alyx and Gordon's very eyes. Originally, the Gunship was also to launch projectiles, as seen in the leak model files.
Earlier and more completed Gunship Bays in the WC mappack map "
Gunship firing at Freeman after the Bridge Point Force Fields are deactivated.
A Gunship patrolling Overwatch Nexus.
Gunships being serviced by Stalkers at the Citadel.