This subject is related to the Combine era.


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This subject is related to the Combine era.

For other uses, see Overwatch (disambiguation).

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Combine main symbol.svg
Combine Overwatch
Political information

Sub-Imperial military and law enforcement



Societal information

City 17


See Combine weapons

Historical information

Combine occupation

Date of establishment

Shortly after the Seven Hour War

Date of fragmentation

Partially during the events of the uprising

Date of reorganization

Shortly after City 17's meltdown

"Submit and be subsumed."
Overwatch Voice[src]

The Combine Overwatch, sometimes addressed simply as Overwatch, is the name of the Combine's humanoid police and military forces stationed on Earth.[1][2] It is also used as the suffix designation for the military and police forces in various sectors, such as Sector 17 Overwatch for City 17 and its surrounding wastelands.[3] The name also explicitly refers to the Combine's automated command and control system on Earth, encountered in the form of the Overwatch Voice.


The forces of the Combine Overwatch are assigned to distinct "sectors" designated around an urban center, though no other than the Sector 17 Overwatch is directly encountered in-game. The majority of troops garrisoning sectors are made up of Combine Soldiers, with Synths and mechanical units to assist them in a variety of tasks. They are overseen by the Overwatch Voice which acts as their immediate commander, issuing them orders and instructions to fulfill objectives on the field.

The Overwatch established many strongholds to carry out their tasks. Its main bases of operations are the Citadels located at the heart of each City, which house legions of soldiers, the Overwatch Voice's systems, as well as manufacturing and maintenance plants for Synths like Gunships. Additionally, buildings such as the Nexus act as administrative and commanding hubs for the Overwatch, while detainment facilities like Nova Prospekt and the Depot perform transhuman operations on captured humans to transform them into soldiers or Stalkers.

Half-Life 2[edit]

At the time of Half-Life 2, the Combine Overwatch controls nearly all of Earth, corralling most human survivors into the few remaining cities where they are strictly controlled, surveilled and put to work for the Combine's ends. Most of the quotidian details of work are overseen by Civil Protection, with the transhuman forces only called in to deal with heavy resistance while guarding Wasteland areas beyond city borders. The road along the coast from City 17 to Nova Prospekt is heavily patrolled by Dropships and Gunships, and Force Field checkpoints manned by squads of soldiers are placed at regular intervals to restrict access.

In Nova Prospekt, specially assigned forces designated as Nova Prospekt Prison Guards who defend the complex are encountered; later on, during the Uprising, more Overwatch troops and Synths such as Striders are deployed into urban areas to suppress the critical citizen insurrection taking place. They failed to stem the fierce Resistance offensive, however, and began to get disordered as most of their important bases were overrun. Inside the Citadel, soldiers and Elites are seen, acting as personal guards for the Interim Administrator and the Advisors.

Half-Life 2: Episode One[edit]

Due to Gordon Freeman's sabotage of the Citadel and the subsequent death of Administrator Breen, the Combine Overwatch in Half-Life 2: Episode One is now acephalous and in a state of disorganization. The soldiers encountered inside the unstable Citadel apparently didn't follow orders from the defunct Overwatch Voice anymore, and are trying to accelerate the meltdown of the reactor core to transmit a distress call to the Combine Multiverse using the power of the explosion. Some Elites are seen directly taking orders from Advisors on holographic screens.

Outside of the Citadel, the remaining ground troops of the Overwatch are still desperately fighting the Resistance forces to hamper their plan to evacuate surviving citizens out of City 17. They also face a threat from hostile wildlife such as Antlions which have breached the city after the failure of perimeter defenses. Apart from transhuman soldiers, a few Metro Cops, in their zeal to "protect the city", also participated in the street battle.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two[edit]

In Half-Life 2: Episode Two, the Citadel, along with City 17, is completely obliterated, rendering the Overwatch forces even more scrambled. Many squads are operating on their own, referred to as "autonomous units", and are in the process of being subsumed into larger troops. The incorporated soldiers and synths are predominantly engaged in the task of retrieving and escorting Advisors in their escape pods. Later they are seen marching towards White Forest in large numbers to stop the Resistance from firing their rocket. At this period they are again under the command of a new Overwatch Voice, which seems to be an incarnation of the Advisors' will.

Half-Life: Alyx[edit]

The Overwatch in the events of Half-Life: Alyx features a greatly different operating hierarchy. Civil Protection at this time is affiliated with a bureau called the "Ministry of Civil Protection", and a committee known as the "City 17 security council" is also referred to on propaganda posters. Metro Cops hold regular lockdowns and raids on residential blocks, and transhuman soldiers also participate in manhunts at times. The military forces of the Overwatch are divided into four classes, each equipped with distinct gears and weaponry. They usually operate in squads and are deployed by Combine Dropships, their main objective being to exterminate Xen creatures in the Quarantine Zone and to hunt down Alyx Vance.


The Sector 17 Overwatch is the Combine's strong arm garrisoned within City 17 and its outlining regions including The Coast and Nova Prospekt. They are believed to be the largest and most well-trained of the Combine's garrisons on Earth, sporting a colorful mix of human, transhuman and Synth units at their disposal to combat the Resistance movement.

Civil Protection[edit]

A squad of Metro Cops.

The Civil Protection of Sector 17 Overwatch is the official law enforcement organization stationed in City 17. Composed of recruited human officers, their jobs include policing the city for anti-civil activity, overseeing work operations, and generally keeping the citizens in a permanent state of fear of their overlords. They are permitted and seemingly encouraged to utilize severe beatings as a means of coercing the population into submission, often seen initiating raids of individual apartments to search for contraband material at random intervals and summarily executing citizens for malcompliance.

Civil Protection officers are ordinary human volunteers who have "willingly" joined the Combine,[4] either for more privileges, such as additional food, better living conditions, an increase in authority and status over others or out of genuine sympathy and identification with the Combine's aims. As such, they are not bio-mechanically modified in any way, unlike the two other Overwatch units. Barney Calhoun is notable for having infiltrated the Combine by joining the Civil Protection ranks as an undercover Resistance member. They are the face of the Overwatch that the player will encounter for the first four chapters of the game, after which their role becomes absorbed by the other branches.

Transhuman forces[edit]

The transhuman arm of Sector 17 Overwatch, also referred to as stabilization forces in Combine terminology, is a division of the Combine Overwatch which serves as their military ground force. Transhuman soldiers, in a more specific stance, are humans modified with Combine technology to become cybernetically enhanced. Trained in unit tactics and armed to the teeth, the soldiers of the transhuman forces are encountered throughout the game as the main faction of opposition. Additionally, a special class called the Combine Elites, who are the crème de la crème of transhuman units, are deployed either as squad leaders, special escorts or in squads of their own as shock troopers. A small number of them are garrisoned at the Nova Prospekt prison and the Depot to protect the central teleportation chamber. This branch sports a much larger arsenal than Civil Protection, ranging from conventional human designs to Combine pulse weaponry.

Although the transhuman soldiers are completely stripped of their human memories and empathy, they still demonstrate a degree of understanding of emotions and morale. For example, following Gordon Freeman's breach of Nova Prospekt, Wallace Breen addresses the transhuman arm of Sector 17 Overwatch directly via Breencast, announcing his dissatisfaction with their continuous failure to apprehend Gordon. Breen then further admits to the Combine's growing concerns about his adequacy and states that "if the transhuman forces are to prove themselves an indispensable augmentation to the Combine Overwatch", they must complete their assigned objectives with greater success. The Overwatch Voice also threatens them with "off-world reassignment" from time to time, requesting them to sacrifice their own lives to complete missions.

In Half-Life: Alyx, set five years before Half-Life 2, a different composition of units is encountered. The Overwatch at this time seems to mostly consist of low-ranking Combine Grunts, with squads sometimes being led by high-ranking Combine Ordinals along with specialized Combine Suppressors and Combine Chargers operating as complements to the squads with their respective roles. While Overwatch forces made their first appearance in a raid at the start of the game, they are first encountered as combatants at Fairview Junction. As this is likely a transition period, squads of transhuman soldiers in Half-Life: Alyx are often referred to as "protection teams." In Half-Life 2, this designation is reserved for Civil Protection, while "stabilization team" is the designation for transhuman forces.


See also: Synth

The synthetic arm of the Combine Overwatch is composed of Synth units. As their name implies, Synths are synthetic mechanical creatures recreated from scanned alien species into war machines for the Combine's application. Stationed on Earth in large numbers, they are the arm of the Overwatch used as a "show of force" for either intimidation or a genuine need for destruction. With a variety of Synth creatures at its disposal, this arm is one of Overwatch's most versatile augmentations and is capable of tackling a variety of different operations. Whether they are acting as support units for the transhuman forces or the spearhead of assaults against the Resistance, the Synth units are a fearsome sight to behold that will become a serious threat to the player in later chapters.


The Overwatch Voice often makes references to something called "Airwatch" in its broadcasts, and this term is likely the designation for the Overwatch's aerial support and surveillance units. Metro Cops regularly request Airwatch to provide area information or "tag" suspicious people; in those cases, they are possibly referring to City Scanners. Combine Soldiers would also call in Airwatch or "Skyshield" augmentation forces to provide reinforcement, and these include Gunships and Dropships. Apart from those units, Hunter-Choppers could also be part of Airwatch.

Like many of the forces of the Overwatch, air support units are given a code name and accompanying number from one to nine. These code names are ghost, reaper, nomad, hurricane, phantom, judge, shadow, slam, stinger, storm, vamp, winder, and star.[5]


When the Combine Overwatch forces are deployed against a target near one of their power bases like the Citadel or Nova Prospekt, they prefer to employ blitz tactics to take their opponents by surprise and overpower them. Scanners locate potential targets and Manhacks flush out any forces located in narrow spaces underground or indoors. However, if the opposition is well fortified and alert to any incoming attack then they will call in artillery strikes using Headcrab Shells to spread panic and confusion before pushing forward with ground troops, attempting to flank resistance fighters as they fall back.

In indoor urban environments, a favored tactic is to destroy the doors to a room using the Combine door lock's self-destruct function to create a smokescreen of flying wood and splinters, then catch their opponents in a crossfire from all sides before they regain their senses. Soldiers may also set up heavy equipment like force field projectors, sealing doorways and secure areas so that only they can pass through them.

If the opposition continues to remain stalwart against all these strategies then heavy weapons like Striders and Gunships may be called in to blow the target's cover away.

In less accessible locations such as the coast or White Forest, ground forces are usually deployed using Dropships with support from Hunter-Choppers or Gunships to suppress resistance while reinforcements land. Such locations are usually not in range of Headcrab Shell Launchers so battles tend to be more evenly matched if the resistance forces are well armed. Interestingly, the Combine does not seem to favor deploying Striders in this way despite being able to carry them on Dropships, though the terrain of the coast may simply be unsuitable or too far from the Citadel for them to be deployed in time.

List of appearances[edit]


  1. Half-Life 2 Prima Guide, page 28
  2. Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar (uncorrected proof), page 283
  3. Dr. Breen: "I have been asked to say a few words to the transhuman arm of Sector Seventeen Overwatch, concerning recent successes in containing members of the Resistance Science Team." Nova Prospekt, Half-Life 2 (Breencast Quotes)
  4. Marc Laidlaw Vault on the ValveTime Forums
  5. Half-Life 2 game files, "V_RNDNAMES" in sentences.txt