Not to be confused with Voltigore.
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Vortigaunts, also known as Alien Slaves, and affectionately known as Vorts by their allies, are a hive-minded, energy-wielding, sapient alien race found throughout the Half-Life series.
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. Vortigaunts 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] Another interesting feature of the Vortigaunts is that they have no tongue or teeth on their lower jaw, yet they can speak English fluently, albeit with a strange accent and some sort of speech impediment when using S's and R's.
 Intelligence and culture
Vortigaunts are very intelligent and social creatures. Throughout the Half-Life series, they can be seen in pairs or groups, and are capable of developing intelligent strategies. When faced with a superior enemy, Vortigaunts will often run away, and if possible, group together with other Vortigaunts to form a stronger force. Unlike other aliens, they don't eat human corpses. They're 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, and in scenes during the original Half-Life. In the original game, Vortigaunts were enslaved by the Nihilanth and used as workers and drone soldiers. 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. Vortigaunts are not typically seen wearing clothing, although several are observed wearing lab coats and chef's clothing in the course of Half-Life 2 and its expansions.
 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," which may suggest that other inaudible components are involved, perhaps explaining why it is incomprehensible to humans.
By the beginning of Half-Life 2, Vortigaunts have learned to speak at least one human language, which, in the English language version of the game, is predictably English (in the international versions of Half-Life 2, Vortigaunts speak the appropriate language for the country of the game's release; e.g., in the French language version of the game, the Vortigaunts speak French). 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).
It is also suggested that death is not permanent for a Vortigaunt, and that they might have the ability to "reincarnate" into a new body after death.
 Behavior and skills
In Half-Life, Vortigaunts are common enemies in both Black Mesa and Xen. While they usually attack aggressively, they often become timid when injured, preferring to run away rather than risk further combat and possible death. They are also able to heal themselves by using Healing Chamber if they become damaged.
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.
Vortigaunts have two modes of attack: an energy attack in which they fire powerful green lightning-like energy beams that require a vulnerable period of "charging-up" before being unleashed, and, when close to opponents, a claw attack. Significantly, in Half-Life all of the Vortigaunts wear green collars and shackles. Later events reveal these to be a means by which they are controlled by a remote master, the Nihilanth. Vortigaunts often act as support for Alien Grunts, making the Vortigaunts more likely to be able to use their attack, as the player is usually concentrating on killing the tougher Grunts.
 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 the generators 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.
It is also suggested that Vortigaunts can siphon an opponent's life-force with their energy beam attack, as they are heard saying phrases like "Give over your essence!" or "Empower us!" during some of their attacks in Half-Life 2. In the Half-Life expansion Decay, the player plays as a Vortigaunt in a bonus mission, and the beam attack does indeed 'steal' life-force from enemies.
The extent of the Vortigaunts' powers are revealed fully in Episode Two, where a group of Vortigaunts use it to defend an underground outpost from a massive Antlion attack. It is shown to be powerful enough to kill Antlions and Zombies, and causes a shock wave strong enough to knock over other nearby foes. Freeman's Vortigaunt companion uses this ability to aid him in his attempt to raid an Antlion nest.
Furthermore, as was revealed in Episode One and Episode Two, Vortigaunts, under certain circumstances, are capable of manipulating space and time to an impressive degree. In Episode One, the Vortigaunts show the ability to teleport, and possibly use a limited form of time travel. 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 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. Later on, in Unforeseen Consequences, they can be found as standard enemies, and remain so for the rest of the game. They also appear in the expansions as regular enemies. In Decay, the players can find a dead Vortigaunt with his collar and shackles removed and connected to a machine in the Alien Quarantine Labs.
In Half-Life for PlayStation 2, the players are able to play the game as a Vortigaunt in two game modes: Xen Attacks, which is a bonus mission for Half-Life: Decay, and in Alien Mode, which allows the player play through Half-Life as a Vortigaunt.
In Half-Life 2, it is revealed that Gordon Freeman inadvertently liberated the Vortigaunts by killing their master, Nihilanth. 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 game also reveals that the Vortigaunts are capable of using their electrical attack productively, in the form of a blue energy stream that can recharge batteries, power electronic circuits, fuse objects together and even power up Gordon's HEV suit.
The Vortigaunts credit Gordon Freeman with their freedom, and hold him in high esteem as "The Freeman". However, not all Vortigaunts have been freed. In the first chapter of Half-Life 2, 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 Half-Life (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 Vortigaunt, wearing collar and shackles, 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.
In the beginning of Half-Life 2: Episode One, a group of Vortigaunts free Gordon from the G-Man and save Alyx from certain death after the explosion of the Citadel's Dark Fusion Reactor, teleporting both of them to the relative safety of the center of City 17, just outside the Citadel—revealing the Vortigaunts may be more powerful than previously speculated, even to the point of challenging the G-Man. Strangely, the Vortigaunts appear purple-colored in this scene.
Vortigaunts play a much larger role in Half-Life 2: 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. A 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, its lightning attack damages and knocks over nearby Antlions, and it also charges up Freeman's HEV suit on occasion. 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.
For gameplay purposes, if Gordon strays too far from Alyx during the course of Episode Two to some specific place where she cannot reach, the screen briefly shows the text 'The Freeman must proceed with the Alyx Vance, else our struggle is doomed to failure. Those who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to an endless Vortal Loop.', after which the game will reload the most recent save (referencing that those who continue to leave Alyx will keep reloading the game).
 Related Achievements
|Discover the hidden singing Vortigaunt cave in chapter Water Hazard.|
 Behind the scenes
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.
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.
Some unused content can be found in the game files. There are animations showing the Vortigaunts getting electrocuted through their collar around their neck when they don't obey their masters. They have an unused melee attack called Major Rake (clawrake), which is a duplicate of their claw attack in the code, but stronger. The damage values (25/25/25) can be found in the skill configuration file (
skill.cfg). Even though it's unused, the values (10/20/25) were changed for the Dreamcast port. The Vortigaunt could resurrect dead Vortigaunts using their beam attack in Half-Life. Moreover, they could get caught by Barnacles.
 Half-Life 2
The Vortigaunts originally played a slightly bigger 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. Friendly fire was originally possible on Half-Life 2's Citizens and Vortigaunts, as in with the Black Mesa personnel in Half-Life. Upon being damaged by the player in the leak, Vortigaunts will respond with remarks like "You have given me no choice but to eliminate you," or "Let me return your gift," although they do not fight back. Furthermore, the Citizens were originally to say "Hey, stop that! The Vorts are on our side, now!" if the player would harm the nearby Vortigaunts. The leak files also contain a texture of a charred Vortigaunt body. Unused animations show a Vortigaunt being caught, pulled, and killed by a Barnacle. 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.
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.
In Half-Life 2, the Vortigaunts are voiced by Louis Gossett Jr.; he declared having interest in working for Valve himself. According to Bill Van Buren, who described the search for a voice actor for these creatures as a fun challenge, the team had been getting rather bad audition tapes for the Vortigaunts until they gave the casting agents some additional direction, clarifying that they "want somebody speaking human language, but not human." In Raising the Bar, van Buren gave the examples of Vincent D'Onofrio's work for Edgar in Men in Black, and Lou Gosset, Jr.'s work in Enemy Mine. Lou 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. In Episode Two, the Vortigaunts' voicing was done 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 Tony 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 opposed to just "purveyors of bugbait or Xen koans". As such, Valve added new behaviours, new animations, and new audio to the Vortigaunts. In the developer commentary for Episode Two, 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.
The Vortigaunts are mentioned in Marc Laidlaw's BreenGrub, a fan fiction story set in the Half-Life universe.
 In modding
 Concepts and screenshots
Cycler[b] Vortigaunt in a technology demo.
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
- Half-Life: Day One (First appearance)
- Half-Life: Uplink (Non-canonical appearance)
- Half-Life: Opposing Force
- Half-Life: Blue Shift
- Half-Life: Decay
- Half-Life 2 (First identified as Vortigaunt)
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar
- Half-Life 2: Episode One
- Source Particle Benchmark (Game files only) (Non-canonical appearance)
- Half-Life 2: Episode Two
- ↑ 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.
- ↑ The cycler is an entity (in this case, a
cycler_alien_slave) that allows the player to display and cycle through the different animations of a model. Shooting a cycle will cycle it to its next available animation. Using a cycler will cause it to pause its animation.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Half-Life, entity name:
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Half-Life SDK,
- ↑ Half-Life, filename:
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Chuck Jones' personal website
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 Half-Life Prima Guide
- ↑ Worldcraft, Half-Life Game Definition File (
- ↑ Half-Life 2 Prima Guide
- ↑ Marc Laidlaw on the Vortigaunt slaves
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 10.2 Half-Life 2
- ↑ Half-Life 2: Episode Two
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 Half-Life
- ↑ 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!
- ↑ We are a tapestry woven of Vortessence. It is the same for you if only you would see it.
- ↑ Half-Life 2: Episode Two, chapter This Vortal Coil
- ↑ What seems to you a sacrifice is merely, to us, an oscillation. We do not fear the interval of darkness.
- ↑ Marc Laidlaw on the time between Half-Life 2 and Episode One
- ↑ Half-Life, chapter Anomalous Materials.
- ↑ The Eli Vance was our first collaborator.
- ↑ Half-Life 2, chapter Nova Prospekt.
- ↑ Half-Life 2: Episode One, chapter Undue Alarm
- ↑ Use this turret to kill Vortigons. / Vortigons should spawn here with effects. When one dies, another will spawn 5 seconds later.
- ↑ 28.0 28.1 28.2 Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar
- ↑ Half-Life game files
- ↑ Half-Life: Day One game files
- ↑ Playable Half-Life 2 leak
- ↑ 32.0 32.1 Playable Half-Life 2 leak files
- ↑ 33.0 33.1 33.2 Half-Life 2 game files
- ↑ 34.0 34.1
- ↑ 35.0 35.1 35.2 35.3 35.4 35.5 35.6 35.7 Half-Life 2: Episode Two commentary
- ↑ Worldcraft, Half-Life Entity Guide (