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Cpl Adrian Shephard is the protagonist of Half-Life: Opposing Force, a US Marine Corporal assigned to the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit from the Santego Military Base in Arizona, where he was trained by Drill Instructors Dwight T. Barnes and Sharp. During the Black Mesa Incident, he is one of the men sent to the Black Mesa Research Facility to kill the Xen invaders and later silence the witnesses, especially a scientist named Gordon Freeman, as part of a classified mission. Early in the game, Shephard finds himself separated from his unit and ends up fighting solely for his life, aided by fellow Marines scattered around the facility and Black Mesa personnel, and in addition to the Xenian invaders confronts another alien faction, Race X, and the Black Ops, who become much more prominent enemies during the events of Opposing Force in comparison to the other games in the series. He was 22 years old at the time of the events.
The Opposing Force instruction manual features several diary entries made by Adrian Shephard prior to the Black Mesa Incident, giving some insight of his Advanced Training before the disaster and G-Man's interest in him.
- "March 3rd - Another typically hellish day at base camp... I'll be glad when this is over and I can finally get assigned a mission. There has been this really weird civie spotted at the base. Rumor is he's from some government branch looking to recruit; others say he's with some secret research group. I would jump at the chance to join. It would be cool just for the change and the adventure."
- "March 7th - I finally saw the government guy today. I am not sure he is a g-man, but he was wearing a really uptight suit and carrying a briefcase. He looked more like a lawyer or insurance agent to me. I did notice him checking me out. Several times throughout the day I spotted him just watching me during training. I wonder what he's up to..."
- "March 9th - For weeks our drills have been the same crap day after day. Today we assemble for the morning run and our drill instructor tells us we have one week to become experts at indoor strategic combat. We will be spending every day this week at the combat simulation facility. As far as I know this a specialized training not taught in boot camp. What I want to know is if this is to test our ability to adapt or if we are being readied for a specific mission? Time will tell..."
- "March 12th - The rumors have been flying since our indoor combat training began. Most of my peers are convinced that we are being primed for a mission. No one can agree on what the mission is. I have heard the name Black Mesa Facility thrown around a lot, but I have no information about the place. The rumors are that some top-secret research is going on there. Doesn't sound too exciting to me..."
- "March 15th - The rumor has been confirmed. We are being trained for a mission at the Black Mesa Facility. All I know is that the place is being used by scientists who are doing some kind of new research. I can't imagine what we would be needed for. We were told today to be ready in case it happens tomorrow. I don't know what "it" is, but the whole thing is a little strange. I kind of hope it doesn't happen; the mission doesn't seem to have much excitement potential. I'd rather hold out for something with more likelihood of combat."
Half-Life: Opposing Force
Shephard was to reach Black Mesa aboard an Osprey Heliplane designated Goose 7. With him were other soldiers such as Tower and Jackson. When the nearby Osprey, Goose 3, and his are attacked by Alien Crafts, it crashes in Black Mesa, killing most of the passengers. Shephard must then make his way through Black Mesa to be evacuated. When he arrives at the extraction point however, the G-Man prevents him from catching the last Osprey, forcing Shephard to leave the facility by other means and going through parts of the facilities not seen in Half-Life and dealing with the Race X aliens and the Black Ops, to finally defeat the Gene Worm.
Unlike the other Marines, Shephard works with the increasingly distrustful scientists and guards in order to make it out of Black Mesa alive. This is due to the fact that he never received the orders to kill them, as his Osprey was shot down before his commander could inform the squad of their mission.
Shephard and Freeman do cross paths during the game, but at that point Shephard is merely an observer to Gordon's travel to Xen - they never fight against each other at any moment. It should be noted that while Shephard witnesses Gordon Freeman's transportation to Xen, he has the option to follow him through the teleport before it collapses. However, upon doing so Shephard will find himself teleported several meters away from Gordon, away from any Xen "island", before falling through space. Doing so will produce the message "Evaluation terminated: Subject attempted to create a temporal paradox." and end the game (it actually allows Shephard to enter Freeman's timeline, that is, the original Half-Life, thus the paradox). However, since no time travel is involved in the teleportation process, it would appear this message is at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and not entirely representative of the actual in-universe event (Shephard entering the teleport and presumably due to its massive instability, teleported a few feet away from the original exit location).
The G-Man appears to take an interest in Shephard's movements, even before the Black Mesa Incident occurs: as early as three months prior, Shephard spots him in his training base. During the incident he also takes on a more active role towards Shephard than with Freeman, both directly helping and hindering him on his way through Black Mesa. For instance, at one point Shephard finds himself trapped in a collapsing room, with toxic waste quickly filling the area; the G-Man observes him until the very last moment, then opens the locked door to allow him in to safety. Later, Shephard deactivates the thermonuclear warhead brought in by the Black Ops to destroy Black Mesa, but the G-Man reactivates it. In the end, the G-Man reveals that he has successfully argued for Shephard's life, detaining him in some unknown void. He expresses a degree of respect for Shephard's abilities, even praising him for having abilities to adapt and survive against all odds, which rather reminds him of himself.
Half-Life: Blue Shift
Shephard is briefly mentioned in the Blue Shift chapter Duty Calls. When its main character, Barney Calhoun, sees a pair of marines dumping corpses into a sewer opening, he overhears one of the Marines grumbling: "Just because Shephard's team didn't make it, we have to do the crap jobs?"
Fate and possible return
At the end of G-Man's speech in the last Opposing Force chapter, Shephard is said to be "detained", followed by "Further evaluation pending". His fate is currently unknown and it is not known where and how he is detained.
He has not been seen in Half-Life 2 and its episodes, but has, however, retained a large number of fans among players of the game, who have been speculating about his return for years. In 2006 Gabe Newell has hinted that he may one day return, although it is unsure when and how.
When asked about this possible return in May 2007, Valve's Doug Lombardi did not dismiss it but stated that there were no plans of bringing him back at the moment or anytime in the future and that for example he would not appear in Portal 2: "There's nothing being built today, there's no secret Adrian Shephard project going on right now, but that's not to say we won't ever come back and tell another Shephard story. He resonated with players really, really well. When we heard the pitch for Opposing Force, he resonated with us too. So we'll see."
In 2009, series' writer Marc Laidlaw also joked on his canon status, saying that Shephard is a bit like Schrodinger's cat: he is neither canon nor non-canon, depending on whether or not the G-Man may or may not have a use for him.
Behind the scenes
Shephard's unmasked face is never shown in the game or in any other official media. However, there is a pre-release screenshot of a Marine leaping from an explosion that some fans believe is a depiction of an early version of Shephard due to a similar screenshot featuring him in the same pose and location. This theory is contradicted by statements from Gearbox designer Randy Pitchford who remarked that Shephard has always had his helmet and mask on.
When asked about the origins of the character's last name, Pitchford stated:
- "I picked the name Shephard for a few different reasons. I wanted two syllables, like Freeman. I wanted a name that was also something with literal word meaning (like "Freeman"). [Brian] Martel and I had been talking about Pulp Fiction again and there's the Sam Jackson character's bible quote about the Shepard and that word was sort of floating around in my mind at the time. I added the "h" in the middle to make the spelling unique and because I liked how it created the word "hard" as the second syllable."
- ―Adrian Shephard's last name on the Gearbox Software forums (archived) (May 28, 2013)
In Portal, the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device's acronym is "ASHPD". This bears a striking resemblance to Adrian's name (Adrian SHePharD), which led many players to speculate it is a hidden Easter egg, suggesting Shephard's involvement in Portal. In addition, completing Portal unlocks a new menu background which contains a keyboard that has all the letters in Adrian Shephard's name highlighted, and these keyboards can also be seen throughout the game. Kim Swift said in an interview that the ASHPD acronym was actually a complete coincidence and that they added the keyboard highlights after people mentioned the acronym. Valve's Doug Lombardi also confirmed the coincidence.
- As seen in the game's box art and the multiplayer model called
shephard.mdl, Shephard's model is the generic gas mask soldier, with no alterations.
- In Christopher Brookmyre's A Big Boy did it and Ran Away, Angelique de Xavier's briefing is taken over by "Captain Adrian Shepherd". The book having many references to the video game culture, this may be a direct homage.
Shephard's trunk top at Santego.
Staged screenshot of Shephard after the Black Mesa Medical Lab.
List of appearances
- Half-Life: Opposing Force
- Half-Life: Opposing Force instruction manual
- Adrian Shephard return? on ValveTime forums (March 20, 2006)
- Valve clears up Adrian Shephard Portal speculation on Eurogamer (May 18, 2007)
- Marc Laidlaw Vault on ValveTime Forums
- "Ha! Actually, I had forgotten that no one's seen our hero yet. So far we've been keeping Cpl. Adrian Shephard's helmet and face mask on. He'll be unveiled soon, though." Randy Pitchford. PC Accelerator, September 1999.
- Beyond the Box: Orange Box Afterthoughts on 1UP.com (February 6, 2008) (archived)
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