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- "Attention ground units. Anticitizen reported in this community. Code: lock, cauterize, stabilize."
- ―Overwatch Voice[src]
Using a female voice, it speaks to the Civil Protection units via their communication radios and to everyone through unseen intercoms in a particular area as local public address systems (in City 17, Nova Prospekt and the interiors of the Citadel). She will usually issue warnings of resistance infiltration or instructions to nearby units in a distinctive flat, clinical tone. Her disjointed speech, similar to that of telephone banking systems, and ability to apparently broadcast to more than one location at once suggests that she is an artificially intelligent computer system.
Her role, while small, offers significant insight into the inner workings of the Combine, as she uses a type of medically-inspired Newspeak to describe resistance activity in the context of a bacterial infection and treatment. Some of her announcements also display the coercive and violent tactics used by the Combine to ensure conformity.
- She announces the threat of "permanent off-world reassignment" to various people (usually Overwatch personnel but this tactic has also been seen being used on citizens) as punishment for either mission failure or not informing on potential "anticitizens". Doctor Breen attempts (and fails) to use this threat on Alyx and Eli Vance at the end of Half-Life 2.
- It is announced near the beginning of Route Kanal that "inaction is conspiracy", thus encouraging local residents to turn in Gordon Freeman, who is just beginning his insurrection. As proof of this, food credits are deducted from humans as punishment for what is termed "permissive inactive coercion".
- Freeman is progressively referred to as "staph infection" and "malignant". Instructions are issued to CPs to "inoculate", "shield", "clamp", "contain" and "pacify". His implicit citizenship (he could not be a legitimate citizen, as he has been presumed missing or dead for some time) is revoked due to his "multiple anti-civil violations." In this case, Freeman is addressed as "individual," and as such declared "malignant." When the Overwatch soldiers are introduced and the resistance movement is in full rebellion, she euphemistically orders the soldiers to "treat" and "amputate" rebels.
- It is announced around half way through Route Kanal that the "judgment waiver" is in effect, stating that "capital prosecution is discretionary", and that sentencing is at their own discretion effectively allowing Civil Protection officers to deal with humans as they see fit.
- At Nova Prospekt, turrets are referred to as "sterilizers" in keeping with the medical theme, and Combine attention starts with a focus upon an "exogen breach," presumably the Antlions present in the complex, a large portion of whom are under Gordon's control.
- At the start of Gordon's run-ins with Civil Protection, he is referred to indirectly as a "miscount" when a building he enters is raided and he is not identified as a resident, and, as such, making him a threat ("Attention residents: miscount detected in your block. Cooperation with your local Civil Protection will result in full ration reward." Gordon is awarded "Anticitizen" status during the chapter Route Kanal ("Individual, you are charged with multiple anti-civil violations - Anticitizen status approved") and is referred to as "Anticitizen One" by the Overwatch starting roughly around Water Hazard, and retains this designation throughout the rest of Half-Life 2 and Episodes One and Two. As Gordon advances into Nova Prospekt, the Overwatch Voice begins to refer to him alternatively as "Anticitizen Freeman" as well as "Anticitizen One", However, this change of habit only happens during the course of Nova Prospekt.
Interactions with Combine units
Whether or not the transmission is intended for receipt and processing by the Overwatch Voice, Overwatch Soldiers use a code phrase to signal that some force has broken through their guard. The last soldier in the unit will call "Outbreak! Outbreak! Outbreak!" over the radio the moment the second-to-last soldier is killed. They also have notification phrases such as "Overwatch, request reserve activation!", "Overwatch, be advised, we have heavy resistance!" and "target Freeman sighted".
In Episode One, the tone of the Overwatch Voice changes drastically. Inside the Citadel, her voice is slowed down, looping and is generally confused and detached; she issues long strings of nonsensical directives that are clearly being ignored by the soldiers still present which adds to the feeling that the Citadel's functions are failing. All of her statements, such as "Warning bypass detected" and "Deploy, diagnose, deploy, diagnose, present singularity, present singularity" are reused from City 17 broadcasts, some Citadel broadcasts, and some are possibly from Nova Prospekt. However, when Freeman goes through a confiscation field beyond a red evacuation room, which supercharges his gravity gun, she does manage to declare an alert, the same as when Gordon falls from a pod into a similar field during Half-Life 2 ("Security alert, unregistered weapons detected; confiscation field engaged. Security alert, counter-resonance singularity device detected. Confiscation field failure, Deploy, diagnose, dissect."). The nonsensical directions continue during and after this event though. Later on in the course of events when the Citadel destabilizes again, the dispatch for Civil Protection units remains the same as in Half-Life 2 which could mean that Civil Protection have a separate dispatch system. The Overwatch Voice's citywide broadcasts are only encountered during the Urban Flight chapter while the player is in the area outside the hospital. The Overwatch Voice is still repeating its unintelligible messages which seem to be coming from the Citadel itself as they are very faint 'in the distance' from the Citadel's general direction.
In Episode Two the Overwatch Voice is first heard during the chapter To The White Forest, specifically right after Alyx's video conference with her father and Arne Magnusson is disrupted and the signal drops out.
The Overwatch Voice seems much colder and more imposing in Episode Two, speaking in short, fragmented sentences during the few times it is heard, e.g. "Anticitizen One engaged. Vance subprime engaged. Expunge. Mandate removal of active signature imprint. Cauterize and expunge." This behavior could be attributed to the destruction of the local Citadel or alternatively, with the Combine Advisors taking direct control of the Combine forces after Dr. Breen's (possible) death, that the Advisors are simply much less subtle in their intentions and the Overwatch reflects this. In Episode Two, its lines are also shown in the subtitles, while it is not in previous episodes.
Behind the scenes
- The Overwatch Voice is provided by Ellen McLain. She is also the voice for GLaDOS from Portal, and the Announcer in Team Fortress 2.
- Along with the Breencast, the Overwatch Voice is the informal successor to the Black Mesa Announcement System. The Aperture Science Announcement System is their equivalent for the Portal series.
- The speaker's voice and tone are reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451, where a PA announcement uses almost the same voice and tone. Parallels can also be drawn with the telescreen news announcer in the 1984 film version of Nineteen Eighty-Four, who serves a similar role and is somewhat similar to the Overwatch Voice in terms of voice. There are also similarities with the MFP dispatcher from the film Mad Max.
List of appearances
- Half-Life 2: Episode Two subtitles