Not to be confused with Voltigore.
Vortigaunts, also known as Alien Slaves and affectionately referred as Vorts by their human allies, are a hive-minded, energy-wielding, sapient alien race found throughout the Half-Life series.
Vortigaunts are very intelligent and social creatures. Throughout the the series, they can be seen in pairs or groups. In appearance, a Vortigaunt is roughly humanoid with two legs and two arms, but has an additional arm protruding from its chest. This extra limb is a feature also found in other bipedal, sapient species from Xen, including the Alien Grunt and the Nihilanth. This similarity, along with other shared features such as red eyes and back-jointed legs, is strongly suggestive of a common ancestry with other intelligent Xen life forms, which are said to be all from the same world, and is the reason why the Nihilanth had a particular ability to control them. Vortigaunts have mottled green-brown skin, sharp teeth, and clawed hands. They have a slightly hunched posture, and their faces are dominated by a large, single eye with a maroon sclera and a heterochromic red-yellow iris with a yellow pupil, surrounded by three (in the original game, five) smaller eyes. They have two noses on each side of their head as small tubes.[a]
 Behavior and skills
Vortigaunts are slow and fairly easy to kill, usually not posing a large threat. They appear in groups and often act as support for Alien Grunts. They have a powerful long-range electrical attack, able to summon electricity from their hands in the form of green lightning-like electrical beams. They need to charge up briefly and can't move before their attacks, leaving themselves vulnerable in this period. They also attack with their claws in close range.
If severely injured, they become frightened and will choose to run away from its opponent rather than fight. It will continue fleeing unless cornered, in which case it will only defend itself by clawing its foe. However, if the enemy turns his back, the Vortigaunt will still use its electrical beam to attack from behind.
In the Xen Mines, Gordon comes across a number of Vortigaunts which, despite being aware of his presence, are not aggressive towards him unless attacked first. They do, however, resume their normal hostile behavior while in the presence of Alien Controllers. Here, they are also able to heal themselves by using Healing Chamber if they become damaged.
 Half-Life 2 and its episodes
In Half-Life 2, their electrical attack is far more devastating, as it tends to kill whatever it hits immediately and knocks the target back a considerable distance. They can be seen using their electrical attacks several times in the game. When charging up a transformer to repair it in the Black Mesa East, which can be seen during the elevator ride to Eli's Lab, later when they're defending the facility against the Combine. Finally, when the Vortigaunt extracts Bugbait from a dead Antlion Guard. They are also capable of using their energy, in the form of a blue energy stream to power up electrical devices, fuse objects together and even charge Gordon's HEV Suit. Although not seen in the game, they can punch and kick enemies in close combat.
In Episode Two, Vortigaunts can perform takedowns on Antlions and Zombies. When surrounded by Antlions, they use their concussive blast attack to dispel and knock over Antlions nearby, and let the player kill them.
Vortigaunts, under certain circumstances, are capable of manipulating space and time to an impressive degree. In Episode One, a group of purple-colored Vortigaunts use their ability to teleport and rescue Alyx. Time has come to a complete halt and Alyx is frozen in this scene. They also free Gordon from the stasis and shown blocking the G-Man from interfering using a blue energy shield. In Episode Two, with the aid of a larval extract from an antlion nest, a group of Vortigaunts are capable of healing Alyx after she sustains near-fatal injuries from a Hunter.
Vortigaunts are common enemies featured in Half-Life and its expansions. Described as low-caste aliens, they are used as slave workers and drone soldiers in the military forces. They first appear in the chapter Anomalous Materials, during the Resonance Cascade. Several Vortigaunts teleport in from the ceiling of the test chamber, disappearing as they near the floor. A few moments later, when Gordon Freeman is briefly teleported to Xen, he appears in a dark room with four Vortigaunts standing in a half-circle around him; however, they do not attack him.
In Decay, a dead Vortigaunt with its collar and shackles removed is found in the Alien Quarantine Labs. These items are connected separately to machinery testing its electrical capabilities. In the PlayStation 2 version, the players are able to play the game as a Vortigaunt in two game modes: Xen Attacks, which is a bonus mission for Decay, and in Alien Mode, which allows the player play through Half-Life as a Vortigaunt.
In Half-Life 2, Vortigaunts return as allies. It is revealed that Gordon Freeman inadvertently liberated them when he destroyed their masters, Nihilanth, during the Black Mesa incident. Rather than fall under the dominion of the Combine, the Vortigaunts joined the human Resistance against the Combine, after being persuaded by Eli Vance, who was the first human being to make peaceful contact with them, and earned their trust.
The Vortigaunts credit Freeman with their freedom, and hold him in high esteem as "The Freeman". However, not all Vortigaunts have been freed. In the chapter Point Insertion, it is possible to catch a brief glimpse of a Vortigaunt working under the Combine. Wearing a collar and shackles similar to those worn in the original game (with an additional band around the waist), the Vortigaunt is shown slowly and meticulously using a push-broom to sweep dirt and garbage in the City 17 Trainstation.
When exploring Nova Prospekt, the player comes across a dead enslaved Vortigaunt, sitting in a restrained chair. Interestingly, this occurs in block A2 about which Overwatch had directed shortly before: "De-service all political conscripts in block A2 - prohibit external contact." It appears that the Vortigaunt had died during electrical torture by the Combine, which would explain Alyx Vance's comments that the Resistance's only knowledge of Nova Prospekt is through telepathic communications from Vortigaunts taken there for torture or interrogation.
At the beginning of Episode One, a group of purple-colored Vortigaunts rescue Alyx from the destruction of the Citadel's Dark Fusion Reactor and free Gordon from the hands of the G-Man, and teleport both of them to outside of the Citadel.
Vortigaunts play a much larger role in Episode Two. After a Hunter mortally wounds Alyx and traps Freeman under a collapsed building, a Vortigaunt saves the former from being eaten by an Antlion. The Vortigaunt then stabilizes Alyx's condition and carries her to an underground Resistance outpost, where, with the help of three more Vortigaunts, they beat back a heavy Antlion incursion. The Vortigaunt then accompanies Freeman in a quest to harvest the larval extract of the Antlions to save Alyx's life. The Vortigaunt proves a valuable companion, as it kick-starts generators by giving them an electric jolt. Eventually, Freeman is able to access the Nectarium, where the Vortigaunt harvests a small quantity of the larval extract. Both Gordon and the Vortigaunt travel back to the outpost and begin a ritual to heal Alyx.
After the Vortigaunts begin the ritual, they begin to turn purple-colored just as in the beginning of Episode One. It is at this point the G-Man reestablishes contact with Freeman. He states "...but I had to wait until your... 'friends' were otherwise occupied...", suggesting up until then the Vortigaunts had somehow been keeping the G-Man at bay. The Vortigaunts are unaware of the intrusion, and they never mention the G-Man, nor the service they rendered Freeman and Alyx at the beginning of Episode One.
The Vortigaunt then accompanies Freeman and Alyx a little further on before heading back, mentioning that he and his cohorts are occupied with searching for Combine Advisor pods. Another Vortigaunt, given the name Uriah by Arne Magnusson, aids Freeman briefly later on in the Episode at White Forest.
The game over messages appears to be written from the perspective of Vortigaunts.
 Further reading
 Intelligence and culture
Unlike other aliens, they don't eat human corpses. They are seen cooking Headcrabs in Half-Life 2, first in a cave over a fire, and later in a kitchen at Black Mesa East.
Brief glimpses into the Vortigaunt culture can be gained by occasional speeches given by them in Half-Life 2. Based on comments by the Vortigaunts, it seems that the species has endured slavery for many generations and enforced servitude appears to have formed the bedrock of Vortigaunt history and culture up to the events of the first Half-Life. In Half-Life 2, Vortigaunts make occasional references to their species' culture. They have many traditions, including an apparent oral tradition of passing down poetry, songs, and philosophical sentences from generation to generation.
 Communication and the "Vortessence"
Vortigaunts possess their own native form of vocal communication, which, in Half-Life 2, is referred to as "flux shifting," and can be heard in rare instances when two Vortigaunts are engaged in conversation. According to the Vortigaunts, flux shifting cannot be understood by "those whose Vortal inputs are impaired."
In Half-Life 2, Vortigaunts now demonstrate the ability to vocalize in human languages. However, the Vortigaunts' use of English is slightly strange, as they often use verbose sentence structures without contractions. The Vortigaunts encountered in-game also tend to refer to characters by adding "the" before their name, such as "the Freeman" or "the Alyx Vance".
Vortigaunts believe in a binding life-force which they call the "Vortessence". Due to their use of this force, which remains untapped by humans, the Vortigaunt species can communicate with one another telepathically. They believe Vortessence is the fabric of the universe, made of "vortal cords," of which everything is woven (and therefore everything is connected). The Vortigaunts are able to read and control this force for their electrical powers, nearly hive-mind telepathy and, likely, their ability to take power from objects. They can use their powers coupled with "the extract" of Antlion larvae to bring the nearly dead back to life (however, it is shown in Episode Two that they cannot do this alone).
 Related Achievements
|Discover the hidden singing Vortigaunt cave in chapter Water Hazard.|
 Behind the scenes
In Online Gaming Review's early Half-Life Monster of the Week Feature preview, Vortigaunts were given the taxonomic designation "Xenotherium subservilia." They were described as being highly subservient creatures bred to be unquestionably loyal to its masters. They had an indiscriminate diet, choosing to abstain from even the lowly Chumtoads, as they were only afforded the scraps from battlefield remnants and whatever little else they could scavenge. Vortigaunts are said regularly groom Alien Grunts, their most common masters, and dine on the ectoparasites gathered in this process. When ordered into combat, they fight with a fervent vigor heedless of their own personal risk as they fear the wrath of their superiors more than their enemies. They are commonly sent first in battles as cannon fodder or bait. Outside of the eye of their masters, Vortigaunts would act remarkably cowardly and choose to flee from hostility, becoming virtually harmless. They were thought to be of low intelligence, seemingly being incapable of independent thought and their original survival instincts being altered by their masters. Nonetheless, it was still apparently necessary for its overlords to implement slave collars on all units to keep any chance of rebellion under control.
They have an unused melee attack called Major Rake (clawrake) which is a duplicate of their claw attack in the code but stronger. Code found in the Half-Life SDK reveals some cut abilities and behaviors. Vortigaunts could resurrect dead Vortigaunts using their beam attack. They also had a "bravery" check in which, if they were in the presence of numerous dead Vortigaunts, they would instead opt to flee instead of fighting.
 Half-Life 2
In Half-Life 2, the Vortigaunts are voiced by Louis Gossett Jr.. His interpretation of the alien Jeriba Shigan in Enemy Mine that made him seem ideally suited to tackle the role. According to Bill Van Buren, casting the Vortigaunt was a fun challenge. They were getting some really bad audition tapes, so they gave the casting agents some additional direction. They wanted somebody speaking human language, but not human. Van Buren gave the examples of Vincent D'Onofrio as Edgar in Men in Black and Gossett as Jeriba Shigan in Enemy Mine. Then they got a call from Gossett, and he was interested in the part. Gossett's voice lent itself to a mystical and mysterious characterization of the Vortigaunt. Robin Williams also expressed interest in voicing the Vortigaunts, but scheduling conflicts prevented him from playing the role.
Vortigaunts were to play a large role in Half-Life 2. City 17 was originally to be filled with Vorti-Cells, Combine devices used as stations siphoning power from trapped Vortigaunts. The small number of Vortigaunts in City 17 was a result of a lack of resources needed to fully develop the urban combat. The developers instead decided to involve the creatures far more substantially in the sections of the game taking place outside the city.
Vortigaunts had the ability to destroy grenades with their electrical beams in a special defend mode. They could stomp Headcrabs and crush them with their feet. The crushed Headcrabs were to use a special squashed version of the creature. The Tau Cannon was apparently supposed to be removed from the Scout Car by a Vortigaunt. An unused animation shows an individual firing the gun. According to David Speyrer, the Vortigaunt who's been tortured to death in Nova Prospekt, was alive late in the development of the game, and was sitting in his cell. The player could let him out, and fight alongside him. The leftover entities that can still be found in the map indicate that this sequence would feature the Tau Cannon.
 Half-Life 2: Episode Two
In Episode Two, the Vortigaunts are voiced by Tony Todd. In his reading, the team heard new possibilities for a Vortigant "who is more of a mystic martial artist." With new attack animations and companion behavior, they worked with Todd to build the Vortigaunt into a powerful ally, "a full-on alien ass-kicker." As noted by John Guthrie, the team, however, didn't want to make them too powerful as that would take away from the player's fun, but also wanted him to be a good ally to have around. One solution was the shock attack where the Vortigaunt would stun a group of Antlions, so that the player could finish them off.
According to the series' writer Marc Laidlaw, one of the most important goals with Episode Two was to expand on the Vortigaunts as characters. As such, Valve added new behaviours, new animations, and new audio to the Vortigaunts. In the developer commentary, Danika Wright noted that turning the Vortigaunt into an expressive character was a challenge for animators, given that they don't have a "traditional face". To bring out their personality, the animators concentrated on shifting bodyweight and broad hand gestures. Most importantly, where human characters tend to move their heads a lot for emphasis, the developers concentrated Vortigaunts' performances on expressive spinal motions. Their smoother, shinier and slug-like appearance originally introduced in Episode Two was later added into Half-Life 2 and Episode One in The Orange Box 2010 update.
Some of the Episode Two locations were designed with Vortigaunts in mind. According to Doug Wood, during the development of the Antlion battle in the Victory Mine, Valve was careful to make it fairly easy for the players to sit back and enjoy watching the Vortigaunts clear the room of Antlions during the last wave. The developers wanted to show off the Vortigaunts' new abilities and get the player excited about the role they were going to play as active allies in the struggle against the Combine. According to Jason Brashill, after a new model was created for the generator, the developers decided to exploit the Vortigaunt's natural relationship with electricity by having him charge the generator in a similar way he charges Gordon's suit. They were then able to use generators as "Vortigates" throughout the level to indicate areas the player could enter only with a Vortigaunt's assistance. According to Leslie Hall, as the Vortigaunt's dispel attack that takes out a swarm of Antlions looks most impressive when seen from above, though that's not a perspective the player gets very often in the Antlion tunnels, the team designed the exit from the battle at a overrun Resistance outpost in the Victory Mine purely to give the player a view from above so the Vortigaunt could put on a show. According to Ted Backman, making the Overwatch Sniper Rifle found near the Muscle Car bridge visible and accessible to the player required the team to come up with a way to make the rifle usable only with the Vortigaunt's help.
Originally known simply as Alien Slaves, the alien species was eventually given the name of "Vortigaunt" during the development of Half-Life. Although never mentioned during gameplay, this title was first revealed in the Prima strategy guide for the game. Additionally, the in-game monster entity has two internal designations in the code: the generic "
monster_alien_slave" along with "
monster_vortigaunt". Vortigaunts are also referred to as "Vortigons" in text messages leftover by the developers in a test map "
hl1devteste" included in Half-Life: Source. Furthermore, the name "ISlave" appears in the game files. The name "Vortigoth" is also referenced in the Episode Two source code.
In Half-Life 2, the Vortigaunts are voiced by Tony Beck in the French, Stephan Grothgar in the German, Javier Alcina in the Spanish, and Diran Meghreblian in the Russian dubs. The Vortigaunts are mentioned in Marc Laidlaw's BreenGrub, a fan fiction story set in the Half-Life universe. The cancelled Half-Life expansion, Hostile Takeover, was planned to have an energy weapon called "Vortigaunt Gun".
According to Marc Laidlaw, the first Half-Life movie treatment pitched to them clixamed with a tearful reunion between enslaved Vortigaunts and their Vortiwives and children. A Vortigaunt plush with a Santa hat was designed by Dhabih Eng and released at Valve Store in December of 2006.
 In modding
 Concepts and screenshots
Vortigaunt in a Healing Chamber.
Burnt Vortigaunt corpses in Uplink.
Vortigaunts in a conference room in Opposing Force.
The HUD used when playing as a Vortigaunt.
Alyx and the Vortigaunt outside the Victory Mine.
Half-Life Alpha version.
Half-Life: Day One version.
PlayStation 2 version.
High Definition version.
Decay arms viewmodel.
Unused gib model.[i]
 List of appearances
 Main games
- Half-Life: Opposing Force
- Half-Life: Blue Shift
- Half-Life: Decay
- Half-Life 2
- Half-Life 2: Episode One
- Half-Life 2: Episode Two
- Half-Life: Day One (First appearance)
- Half-Life: Uplink (Non-canonical appearance)
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar
- Source Particle Benchmark (Game files only) (Non-canonical appearance)
- ↑ The name of the textures used for the tubes are:
Nose1.bmp, for the side of the tubes, and
Nostrils1.bmp, for the holes on the tubes. In Half-Life 2, the tubes use the flexes used for the nose of human characters.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Chuck Jones' personal website
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Half-Life Prima Guide
- ↑ Half-Life, entity name:
- ↑ Half-Life, entity name:
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Half-Life 2 Prima Guide
- ↑ Marc Laidlaw on the Vortigaunt slaves
- ↑ Half-Life 2: Episode Two Prima Guide
- ↑ Marc Laidlaw on the time between Half-Life 2 and Episode One
- ↑ The Eli Vance was our first collaborator.
- ↑ We have endured these chafing bonds for eons, yet a single moment of further servitude seems intolerable!
- ↑ Our finest poet describes it thus: Gallum galla gilla ma.
- ↑ Your song we sing and shall sing for eternity. No matter the consequences of this struggle.
- ↑ We are mindful of the words of our greatest philosopher: companum gannennen vorgenot!
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 Half-Life 2
- ↑ We are a tapestry woven of Vortessence. It is the same for you if only you would see it.
- ↑ Half-Life - Monster of the Week feature on Online Gaming Review (1997) (archived)
- ↑ 18.0 18.1 Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar
- ↑ Half-Life, skill configuration file (
- ↑ Half-Life SDK (
- ↑ Half-Life 2: Raising The Bar, page 153
- ↑ 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 22.5 22.6 22.7 Half-Life 2: Episode Two commentary
- ↑ The Final Hours of Half-Life 2 on Gamespot (November 12, 2004) (archived)
- ↑ 24.0 24.1 Looking Back... Half-Life 2: Episode One on Computer And Video Games (October 19, 2006) (archived)
- ↑ 25.0 25.1 Half-Life 2 leak
- ↑ 26.0 26.1 Half-Life 2 files
- ↑ Half-Life 2 (
- ↑ Use this turret to kill Vortigons. / Vortigons should spawn here with effects. When one dies, another will spawn 5 seconds later.
- ↑ PC Zone magazine, Issue 184
- ↑ Interview with Marc Laidlaw on ComputerAndVideoGames.com (July 17, 2007) (archived)
- ↑ News on official Steam website (December 1, 2006)
- ↑ Vortigaunt plush toy on Valve Store (archived)