The Combine heavily relies on imagery through logos, symbols, brands, and propaganda posters to assert their influence on Earth and establish their presence to its residents. Combine units - humanoid and Synth - also bear insignias, logos and other markings. Many Combine posters are also scattered around City 17 and its sector (including the Coast, Nova Prospekt, etc.). Most of the time they include the two common Combine symbols (see below), with variants in color and image backgrounds. The Combine imagery is often quite abstract, and the intended messages can be very subtle.
Randy Lundeen stated that the team made periodic attempts to create and scatter many Combine propaganda posters throughout City 17, designed by Lundeen himself and other Valve artists. The posters were heavily relying on texts, such as the slogans "They're here for you" and "It's great to be part of the greater good" for the Metropolice and "Keep it clean... or he will" for the Cremator, as well as a welcome poster for City 17, featuring a long text split in several paragraphs. It was eventually decided that most of the posters were overused and detracted from the atmosphere, and thus were changed to be more subtle, resulting in the abstract posters seen in the final game, the propaganda being mostly spewed by the omnipresent Breencast instead.
Two very prominent symbols of the Combine can be identified: the 'Claw' symbol, and the 'CMB' symbol. They can both be seen throughout the game on Combine structures, propaganda posters, directly painted on walls, and on various Combine units.
"Claw" Combine symbol
- The first common Combine symbol, and the most striking, consists of a circle inside of a sharp edged claw shape, resembling in style the utilitarian architecture of the Combine.
- The circle inside the claw likely symbolizes domination and control. It could also be seen to symbolize the slavery of other species (the circle being a planet), the control of fertility (the circle being an egg, thus referring to the suppression field), and life and existence itself.
- The simplicity and abstractness of the symbol give it universal (and perhaps metaversal) understandability. This is beneficial to the Combine, whom often subjugate and integrate a great range of cultures and species from different worlds or universes.
- The symbol can be found on propaganda posters scattered around City 17 and its sector, behind Breen during his Breencasts, on several Synth units such as the Combine Dropship, the Shield Scanner, and the Advisor pod (in dark red for the two first ones and white for the latter), other humanoid units such as the Stalker (on the small box attached to its belt) and the Nova Prospekt Prison Guard, and on Combine interface keyboards. A variant of the symbol is also seen on the Overwatch Elite, the circle, however, replaced by a cracked human skull, the only Combine imagery that clearly indicates hostility or threat.
Behind the scenes
Undetermined sign featuring a Combine logo. It is used in the cut E3 demonstration map
e3_strider, where it is destroyed by a Strider.
Standard claw symbol, from the "dove" poster.
"CMB" Combine symbol
The second common Combine symbol reads "CMB" in the Latin alphabet, based on or the base of the name "Combine." It is likely used only on Earth. It can be found being used with the claw symbol, sometimes horizontal, sometimes vertical. Only two Combine units, the City and Shield Scanners, feature it.
"Claw" + "CMB" symbol combinations
The two common Combine symbols are often used in combination, mostly on posters.
Breencast claw + CMB symbol.
Variant, featuring Wallace Breen.
Yellow poster in the E3 2002 map "Terminal".
Blue and yellow posters in the City 17 Trainstation food hall.
City 17 logo
City 17 has its own logo, a yellow shape based on a layer of the cut "tiles" version of the Citadel. It can be found on several Combine units and devices such as the Suppression Device, the Thumper, the Sentry Gun, the Hunter-Chopper, the Watchtower, the Battery, the back of the Autogun and the APC (in grey in that case). It is likely the logo of the greater Sector 17, rather than solely the city itself, as it can also be found on the same devices located outside of the city.
Behind the scenes
- The City 17 logo was originally slightly different. Its shape was mostly identical, but it was black, with an additional red line around the middle, and the number 17 in the center, written in the font "DIN," a typeface widely used by Valve.
- It can be seen in several pieces of concept art for City 17, such as the Combine SWAT Truck, the Air Exchange tower (without number, with the red color of the small line replaced by yellow) and the stenographer's chasm worker model.
- It can also be seen on two posters/signs, such as a City 17 welcome poster from Raising the Bar, and another found in the Half-Life 2 leak files, featuring the image of a statue of Vladimir Lenin, used for instance in some WC map pack maps featuring the Manhack Arcade main entrance and inside one of the arcades, as well as in concept art for the stenographer's chasm and a Combine structure on a Trainstation Plaza shelter. The "17" from the "Lenin" poster logo is not written in the font "DIN," while the name "City 17" located under is. The welcome poster and the City 17 logo featured on it are reminiscent of the work of graphic designer Josef Müller-Brockmann, notably a poster he made in 1995 for a Beethoven concert, that inspired many artists.
- Different City 17 logos can be found on the early and retail Metrocops and the early brush Razor Train.
- As in the final game, the early City 17 logo is probably more the logo of the greater Sector 17 than the city itself, since it was to be seen on the Air Exchange tower without a number. It is also likely that any Combine-controlled city was to have the same logo, the Citadels being all the same, with only the number changing. It is unknown however how the city logos are differentiated in the retail version, the number having been removed. Although the retail Citadel is completely different than the "tiles" one, the logo shape remained.
Some sort of dark-colored ring encompasses the edge of the Advisor body suit, where the suit meets the "head." That ring bears strange golden markings which could be the evidence of an Advisor alphabet. Of note is that for Episode Two, the markings have changed with the model, and appear slightly less golden.
Civil Protection insignias and posters
Metrocops have two insignias on their uniform, only consisting of letters and numbers. The red armband they have on the right arm has "c̄17:i4" written in the font "Impact," followed by a small circle emblazoned on it, written in a squeezed "Impact" font. The first half of "c̄17:i4" refers to City 17, while ":i4" and the small circle probably refers to a particular sector, the Combine using many code names for many things, as heard in the radio transmissions and the Overwatch Voice messages. However any CP model has the same code, likely due to game limitations. At the back of the collar can be also be read "C17."
Behind the scenes
- The pre-release Civil Protection insignias are the same as the retail ones, with different colors. The human Combine Guard also had another armband / sleeve insignia, and was featured on all the cut Metropolice propaganda posters, designed by Randy Lundeen.
- Two of the three Metropolice propaganda posters are in Raising the Bar, while the third can be found in the Half-Life 2 leak files. They feature the sentences "They're here for you" and "It's great to be part of the greater good."
Human Combine Guard sleeve insignia.
Metropolice propaganda poster, with another version of the Citadel, featured in the Half-Life 2 leak files.
Consul / Metropolice propaganda poster.
Overwatch Soldiers insignias
Overwatch Soldiers have several insignias. The standard soldier has an orange triangle on the right forearm, with white unknown symbols in it. The left arm features a yellow circle with two black triangles it (it was originally featured on the Combine Super Soldier, with different colors). The Nova Prospekt Prison Guard has on its right arm the same triangle with white symbols in it, only that it is yellow, and that a yellow "Nova Prospekt" is written below in a black rectangle, again in the font "DIN," a typeface widely used by Valve. On its left arm is the claw Combine symbol, yellow in a black circle. The same rectangle with "Nova Prospekt" inside it is also on the back, bigger. Finally, the Shotgun Soldier has the same logo as the Overwatch Elite, darker and on a maroon background, and no insignia on the right arm.
Behind the scenes
Different concept art pictures for the Overwatch Soldier seen in Raising the Bar feature many different sleeve insignias, one of them featuring an early claw Combine symbol.
Overwatch Elite insignias
The Overwatch Elite insignia featured on its left arm, chest (in a grey variant, with a campaign ribbon under it) and neck guard (inside it) is the only Combine imagery that indicates hostility or threat, displaying a cracked human skull within a straightened up standard claw Combine symbol, as well as a "C17," probably different for each Combine-controlled city. While the original symbol does not portray the Combine as horrific, the Elite symbol is a deliberate attempt to show the Elites as brutal and deadly. It was possibly influenced by the Totenkopf symbol used most prominently by the Schutzstaffel (or SS), an organization in Nazi Germany which served as both political police and an elite military formation.
Synth symbols and markings
Gunships and Striders bear the same symbol on their back and head, respectively, while the Strider has maroon lines on its legs. This symbol was on the back of the Overwatch Soldier's old skin (in white) and can also be seen on the shoulder of one of the Combine Synth Elite Soldier versions. Its meaning and whether it is a Combine symbol or not or if it proves a closer relation between the Gunship and the Strider are unknown. It also appears to be inspired by the 82nd Airborne Division logo.
Behind the scenes
- Several cut enemies also bore symbols. The Wasteland Scanner bears the standard Combine claw symbol (in dark red), and other unknown markings, notably a "7" like symbol seen again in the triangle insignia featured on the Overwatch Soldier's right arm. The Synth Combine Guard has no symbols, while its predecessor, the Combine Synth Elite Soldier, has some informal symbols in some of its versions, as well as the same symbol seen on the Gunship and the Strider. The Sacktick has two markings, one on its back, one on its right front leg. Like the Strider, the Combine Super Soldier bears maroon lines on its legs, while its white version was to also have maroon lines on the arms, the number "314" on the chest, as well as two maroon triangles in a circle on the arm. The "314" number can also be found on the outfit of the Overwatch Soldier model featured in the Half-Life 2 leak, while the two triangles in a circle is used intead on the retail Overwatch Soldier model, with different colors.
- Early Strider iterations also bore miscellaneous markings, notably a maroon circle with a "Z" or a lightning bolt in the middle, and some sort of L with a small dot in the opposite angle.
- The early Combine Dropship model has a large red circle on its front, and concept art shows it with a "C17" on the side.
Citizens do not have any Combine logo on their uniforms; only a blank white tag on the chest, and a larger one on the back, also blank. Most of the previous known models bore at least one logo.
Behind the scenes
All previous Citizen models bore at least one logo:
- The first known model, "Citizen 17," the gas mask Citizen with the green outfit and apron, wears a red armband with a white "17" on it, with black numbers and letters on both sides, referred to as "identiband".
- A more recent set of two models used for the E3 2002 demo "Terminal", the E3 2002 and "City" versions; the first has on the back a distorted orange rectangle with Combine markings, the second has a red rectangle with alternate Combine markings and a black claw Combine symbol.
- Another more recent Citizen outfit is the one featured in the Half-Life 2 leak or the E3 2003 demo "Barricade", and the Half-Life 2 leak. With a cream-colored coat and green trousers, it also has a logo on the back, a worn-out dark orange rectangle, with a cream-colored claw Combine symbol on the bottom, and a cream-colored "C17" above (the same "17" as the one featured on the City 17 welcome poster), as well as a dark orange armband with also a cream-colored "C17." It has also a variant, "medic", and a second unused variant, "ammo". The first one has the same logos and armband, but they are green colored, and a blue "AMMO" is added on the back and the chest. The "medic" mostly uses the same logo colors, but with a red cross added to the back and the chest.
- The most recent of the early models, found in the Half-Life 2 E3 2004 Teaser Trailer, and the one kept in the retail game for the "corpse1" Citizen model. The corpse model has an orange square on the top of the back with a black "C17" in it (tied with straps), and a bigger orange rectangle on the chest, although it cannot be made out because of the worms, the rot and the blood. In the Half-Life 2 teaser, white is used instead of orange.
- Other cut Citizen models, the Borealis worker, the green worker and the stenographer's chasm worker also have logos: a black claw Combine symbol in an orange circle, the old City 17 logo, and a green claw Combine symbol in an orange circle, respectively. The Borealis and green workers also have the same white square on the collar, filled with abstract blueish markings.
Razor Train imagery
The Razor Train does not display any markings, but used to have some related imagery before the game's final release.
Behind the scenes
- A City 17 poster depicting a Razor Train engine can be found in the Half-Life 2 leak files. The early brush Razor Train also features a "C17" logo on the locomotive.
- Concept art showing the brush Razor Train near the Depot (based on the WC map pack map
wasteland_depot) also shows the Cyrillic letters "ЗиЛ" on the locomotive. "ЗиЛ," or "ZiL" in Arabic letters, is a Russian truck, car, bus and heavy equipment manufacturer. The Half-Life 2 truck model
truck003a.mdlis a ZiL truck.
- The early brush Razor Train locomotive also features "City 17," but it was made for the right side only.
Citadel Core logo
The Citadel Core has its own logo, as seen on one of its main access doors. Of note is that it is similar to the original City 17 logo, although the armatures in the core room itself reflect similar shapes when seen from above.
The Combine Chargers also bear several markings, mostly consisting of Arabic numerals. The Health Charger has a red cross on a white background, for easy identification, white "AIDE" and "314 - 11:43" under it, as well as the numbers "88000-001 1 08" and "0088-D" on the bottom of the device, "0088-D" being accompanied by an indecipherable text. The Suit Charger has beige colored parts, with on them the word "POWER" and "314 - 11:44" right under, interestingly being dissimilar to the Health Charger numbers from only one cipher. The numbers "88000-001 1" and "0088-D" are also present on the bottom of the device, the "08" from the Health Charger being removed.
Behind the scenes
The Half-Life 2 leak Health Charger model features "COMBINE HEALTH" instead of "AIDE."
Dr>Breens Private Reserve logos
The Combine drink, "Dr>Breens Private Reserve," or ">B," uses a simple logo only made of letters written in the Impact font, the same font used for the Metrocop armband. The complete version is on soda machines, while the simple ">B" is found on cans.
"Printed circuit" symbol
A Combine symbol seen in two pieces of concept art from Raising the Bar seem to represent printed circuit board lines or spermatozoa-like shapes in a circle. One is found in a Consul picture, while the other, more defined and geometric, can be seen on a train, with the Citadel in the back.
Manhack Arcade star
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 181
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 238
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 112
- Half-Life 2 leak
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 191
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 183
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 170
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 194
- Brockmann's Beethoven poster
- Drafts for Brockmann's Beethoven poster
- Joseph Müller-Brockmann at Design Is History
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 201
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 106
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 80
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 109
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 85
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 87
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 89
- Half-Life 2
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 221
- WC map pack
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 172
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 249