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Medium assault and recon Synth
The Hunter, originally known as the Mini Strider, is a fast and efficient Synth used by the Combine as a scout, for closer assault work and assassination missions, as well as bodyguard duties. The Hunter is first seen in Mossman's message in Episode One, but not encountered directly until Episode Two, wherein it is a prominent enemy.
The Hunter's body is somewhat rounded in shape, with a shiny, metallic blue-green exoskeleton encasing it, and three muscular legs, similar to those of a horse, attached to the sides and back of the body. On either side of the Hunter's body are what appear to be two pairs of compound eyes, and a pair of vertically aligned fléchette launchers on the Synth's front. Located directly underneath the launchers are two small limbs tipped with metal blades for impaling targets. Behind those and on the back are two oval shaped orifices.
Similar to Antlion Guards, Hunters are heavily armored, and take reduced damage from most forms of small arms fire. They are also highly mobile, able to easily move out of the way of projectiles. However, Hunters are vulnerable to blunt force.
Like all Synths, Hunters possess a number of vocalizations, all of which are shrill, fierce, and slightly electronic. They also appear to secrete some sort of light grey fluid when shot.
Hunters do not appear to be well-suited to urban combat situations, as most of their tactics which rely on speed, range, and maneuverability are strongly impaired in close quarters. If multiple Hunters are deployed in the same mission area, they tend to use pack hunting tactics such as flanking and suppression fire.
One of the Hunter's most important role is to provide an escort for the Striders, as seen in the Silo Defence battle at the end of Episode Two. While helping to suppress the rebels who are attempting to stop the Striders, they prioritize Strider Busters that are launched, making killing Striders far more difficult.
Although possessing less firepower and armor than their larger tripodal cousin, Hunters are far more quick and agile. A Hunter will normally attempt to engage opponents at medium range, allowing it to fire fléchette rounds with great accuracy. Since the fléchettes move slowly compared to bullets, the Hunter has trouble against long distance enemies, but can cover ground quickly. Hunters can be also seen using a special instant-kill move where they leap on their unaware target and crush their spine.
Hunters are resourceful and quick-thinking Synths, employing a number of useful tactics to increase the chance of hitting a target - for example, making use of splash damage, and closing distances with a charge.
The Hunter's main weapon is the fléchette launcher, which fires large, fast dart-like projectiles, capable of vaporizing biological matter with a few hits, with a small spread that do large damage upon a direct hit and additional, albeit small, splash damage within a small radius if the fléchette hits a solid object. Hunters are very accurate, as they utilize deflection - aiming ahead of a moving target - and aim at a point near the target, shifting aim towards it.
The Hunter can also use its body as a ram to break down walls, doors or vulnerable foes. While the Synth is charging, it cannot turn quickly, but if it hits, it can do a large amount of damage. Finally, if the foe is in reach and the Hunter is not charging, it uses the talons on its legs to slash the opponent. Again, this does a large amount of damage and may even send the enemy flying.
Hunters have also occasionally been seen unleashing all its ammo in a shotgun-style blast at a target just before death, in the hope of taking its killer with it.
 Half-Life 2: Episode One
 Half-Life 2: Episode Two
Gordon Freeman encounters Hunters in combat in the Outlands, in the forested open spaces outside of City 17. The first Hunter is seen near the Victory Mine, when it manages to ambush Alyx Vance and impales her in the back. Later, they are encountered while scouting or patrolling areas, as well as being part of various Combine forces attempting to intercept Alyx Vance and Gordon Freeman on their way to White Forest.
In the chapter Our Mutual Fiend, a Rebel radio operator exaggerates his combat ability by declaring that people in the city fought Hunters with their bare hands: "We used to wrestle Hunters to the ground with our bare hands! I used to kill ten, twenty a day, just using my fists!"
Hunters are used during the second Combine offensive against White Forest. Here, they are seen acting as escorts for the incoming Striders, clearing out smaller targets and firing upon any Magnusson Devices launched at the larger Synth.
While Hunters are quite resilient to gunfire, they are considerably more vulnerable to blunt force. A several well aimed hits from the Gravity Gun-launched tractor tire, barrel or a log is sufficient to kill one. If an object fired with the Zero Point Energy Field Manipulator has a fléchette protruding out of it, and it hits a Hunter, the tripodal Synth will vaporize upon contact. The Muscle Car can also be used to kill Hunters if used to ram the creatures with sufficient force. They may sometimes anticipate this, however, and jump out of the way.
Hunters can be also brought down easily with the RPG or Submachine Gun grenades. A direct hit from the Overwatch Standard Issue Pulse Rifle's secondary fire - the Energy Ball launcher - is capable of disintegrating a Hunter, as a rebel giving a lecture to some City 17 conscripts in White Forest Base points out. If explosives or the Pulse Rifle's secondary fire are not available, firearms such as the shotgun or the Magnum can also be used. This is not an effective tactic as it consumes large quantities of ammunition very quickly and requires that the player stop fighting momentarily to reload. Another weapon effective against Hunters is the Crossbow, however due to the reload time after every shot, this tactic should only be used if the player has sufficient cover to duck behind.
While Hunters are generally very accurate at firing fléchettes, if one uses basic dodging tactics while employing small arms fire to destroy them, the creatures will have a good deal of trouble hitting. However, if moving predictably (or not moving), a Hunter will quickly kill the player, since fléchettes do a large amount of damage with a direct hit.
If Gordon is hiding, Hunters try to shoot nearby explosive barrels to flush him out, just like Overwatch Snipers.
 Related Achievements
|Half-Life 2: Episode Two|
|Meet the Hunters (10G)|
|Survive the Hunter ambush with Alyx.|
|Kill a Hunter with its own flechettes.|
 Behind the scenes
The Hunter was inspired by threat displays of mantis shrimp, the carapaces of tiger beetles, and the raptorial limbs. They were originally intended to be vulnerable only to blows from objects launched at them with the Gravity Gun. Later, Valve changed this as they redesigned the Hunter; however, they are still more vulnerable to physics damage than all firearms but the .357 Magnum. As seen in the second Episode Two trailer, Hunters were originally armed with a pulse cannon.
A voice line (
ep_02.reb_hunters07) gives the Hunters' height as 3 feet and 2 inches. However, this is likely just because it rhymes and sounds good, as the full line is "Eyes of blue and three feet two. and they appear much larger than 3'2" (approximately 96.5 centimetres) in game.
In Episode One, after typing "
give npc_ministrider", the predecessor of the Hunter appeared. On top of cosmetic differences, the mini-strider didn't shoot fléchettes. It was vulnerable to explosives and energy orbs, and could be taken down by normal weaponry. The mini-strider can no longer be spawned in Episode One because of the removal of the "npc_ministrider" entity.
According to The Orange Box Prima Guide, the Hunter is a mutated Strider. In regards to this matter, Marc Laidlaw stated that the description "seems wrong... but possibly Ted Backman did think of them as modified Striders and I just never heard him say so."
According to Matt T. Wood, one of the team's main goals for the Hunter was to make the player feel vulnerable whether hiding or not. The Hunter arena before the secondary silo in White Forest became their test-bed for improving the Hunters' close-combat behavior. A classic combat space, featuring multiple exits and many possible paths, the team tuned it for a strong cat-and-mouse gameplay experience. While players have many options for escape, the map is designed so that Hunters will never completely lose them - but always be able to pursue and flush the player out of hiding. Due to this, they are reprogrammed to focus on the player and will briefly ignore other NPCs.
Concept art in a Wasteland-like setting, with human bones at its feet.
A Hunter shooting its pulse cannon at a Rebel in the second Episode Two teaser.
 List of appearances
- Half-Life 2: Episode One (First appearance) (Video only)
- Half-Life 2: Episode Two (First identified as Hunter)
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 The Orange Box Prima Guide
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 The Art of the Video Game
- ↑ RPS Interview: Episode Two’s David Speyrer on Rock, Paper, Shotgun
- ↑ Source code and configuration files of Half-Life 2: Episode Two
- ↑ Marc Laidlaw on the Orange Box Prima Guide enemies' characteristics (December 27, 2014)
- ↑ Half-Life 2: Episode Two commentary