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Overwatch Soldiers (also known as Combine Soldiers by Citizens, and "Stabilization Teams" by the Overwatch Voice), are the basic transhuman infantry units of the Combine Overwatch, composing the backbone of the Combine's military presence on Earth. In contrast to Civil Protection, whose duties are to enforce order within suppressed population centres, soldiers of the Overwatch are tasked with more hazardous actions requiring skill and tact: from patrolling the treacherous borders of Combine-controlled territory to raiding Resistance-held strongholds.
As military personnel as opposed to law enforcement, Overwatch Soldiers are given access to military-grade equipment and tactical combat training, making them more formidable opponents than Civil Protection Officers.
Standard Overwatch Soldiers, like other soldier variants, wear standard-issue blue and grey camo body armor over their mid-sections with padding on their arms, thighs, and groin. Several insignias can be found on their arm pads, signifying their position in the Combine regime. Perhaps the most advanced piece of equipment found on Overwatch Soldiers are their helmets, which cover the head entirely and are equipped with air filters and radios. These helmets have glowing blue goggles and appear to be a cross between an old Soviet PMG and PBF gas mask.
Overwatch Soldiers are equipped with MP7s, shotguns or AR2 Pulse Rifles, as well as grenades. Using these standard-issue weapons, Overwatch Soldiers typically work in squads of four to six, each squad having at least one soldier armed with a shotgun and another armed with a pulse rifle. Later in Chapters 11 to 13, the squads have soldiers of four to eight, one or two being Overwatch Elites and sometimes including a shotgun soldier. The rest are usually carrying pulse rifles. During combat, soldiers make use of squad tactics and will attempt to flank enemies and provide cover for one another.
Overwatch Soldiers are initially encountered in the coastal wasteland outside Ravenholm, patrolling the highways for Resistance activity and staffing Combine outposts. They can, however, be found anywhere the Combine requires direct military action, as soldiers can be quickly transported to a desired area via Dropships. Overwatch Soldiers are also tasked with guarding high-security areas, monitoring Stalkers in the Citadel, and serving as guards in Nova Prospekt. In addition, they also serve as pilots and gunners of the Combine Hunter-Choppers.
Overwatch Soldiers are humans that have undergone extensive modifications including, but not limited to, brain and chest surgery, and implantation of various mechanical devices in the throat and around the abdomen.[source?] This procedure is carried out at Nova Prospekt and the Citadel. It is notable that in the B2 cell block of Nova Prospekt, after a few switches of a security monitor, a shirtless soldier can be seen lying on a table between two control panels. His eyes are open, indicating the soldier is not asleep, and is being prepared for clothing. There is also a noticeable hole in the soldier's neck, implying that the vocal cords are being removed and replaced by a vocoder to communicate with others. It is theorized that Overwatch Soldiers were Civil Protection Units who have shown excellent performance and have been chosen for Transmutation. It is also theorized that past military units who surrendered were recycled into Overwatch Soldiers.
Despite the extensive surgery and modifications they receive, Overwatch Soldiers still appear to have certain human characteristics - for instance, they still feel pain, and during the Nova Prospekt chapter, Doctor Breen is giving them what appears to be a morale-boosting speech, and they sometimes can be heard shouting expletives in the heat of battle, indicating that they still have human emotions to a certain extent. For example, if a grenade is thrown at a soldier taking role as a sniper, they will sometimes yell out "Shit!" before the grenade explodes. (The sound files Snipers use are reused Civil Protection sounds, however.) They do not let pain and fear hinder their performance, however. It is also noted that due to an extensive brain wipe, they have no previous memories of their human life and that they are incapable of resisting, disobeying orders, and going rogue.
When not in combat, Overwatch Soldiers are cold and unemotional. They do not speak much unless using their radio and when they do, they speak with mandatory vocabulary. Unlike Civil Protection, they do not stutter or falter when speaking such as saying "Uhh" and other words similar (there is, however, one radio transmission in Nova Prospekt where they do).
Overwatch Soldiers communicate over radios, but unlike Civil Protection officers, they are not addressed or controlled by dispatchers but instead use them to update military situations and request backup, such as saying, "Overwatch, sector is not secure" or "Overwatch, request reserve activation!". According to announcements made over the public address system of Nova Prospekt, punishments for failing to achieve objectives include "permanent off-world assignment". It was originally planned that Gordon's suit picked up radio transmissions from the Combine, though this idea was dropped in favor of simply hearing dialogue leaked from their helmets, similar to the HECU's own radio signals.
In combat, Overwatch Soldiers fire their weapons with decent accuracy. The amount of damage soldiers can take before dying is determined by the difficulty level the game is being played on. If a hostile soldier is at point blank range, they will perform a melee attack with the stock of their weapon.
Being one of the most versatile units at the Combine's disposal, Overwatch Soldiers come in several varieties:
Overwatch Snipers are soldiers armed with the mounted Overwatch Sniper Rifle. Their presence (and where they are aiming) is indicated by a blue laser sight. Aside from Gordon, they will generally shoot at anything that moves, even birds and moving props. They wear the standard blue Overwatch uniform, their audio is re-used clips from Civil Protection units.
Nova Prospekt Prison Guard
Prison Guards are tasked with guarding and maintaining the Nova Prospekt facility. These guards are almost identical to standard Overwatch Soldiers, using the same weapons and having the same stats, the only differences being their armor and voices. Their armor is dark blue and they typically have yellow goggles, although the shotgun soldiers have red goggles. The words "Nova Prospekt" are emblazoned onto the back armor as well as their shoulder.
They also speak with a lower tone from their vocoder compared to standard Overwatch Soldiers, showing the possibility of further mechanical enhancements. However, they still have the standard badge similar to their Overwatch counterparts. Interestingly, after a soldier of this kind has been killed, their allies will page them over their com-links in a deeper, more human voice, not knowing this soldier has already been killed. They also seem to use shotguns more often and they are more aggressive than normal Soldiers since the prison features more enclosed spaces than most other locations. Despite the enclosed spaces of Nova Prospekt making grenades dangerous, Prison Guards seem to use them just as much as regular Overwatch soldiers do. However, despite these minor differences, Prison Guards are largely identical to standard Overwatch troops in terms of combat behavior, regardless of the difference in weapon distribution.
Shotgun Soldiers exclusively wield the shotgun. Shotgun Soldiers can be distinguished by their brown and red uniforms and battle armor. Their helmets are slightly darker than the average Overwatch Soldier and have blood red/orange goggles. They also bear the Overwatch Elite insignia on a red shoulder pad, suggesting that they may be a branch of the Overwatch Elite, a higher ranked soldier variant, or a squad leader. In Nova Prospekt they have the same dark blue armor color and Nova Prospekt insignia on their right shoulder that a regular Nova Prospekt soldier would; however, they keep the red/orange goggle lens color and Overwatch Elite insignia on their left shoulder; both of which they would normally have outside of Nova Prospekt.
Shotgun Soldiers are also the only Combine units seen manning Combine computers. This happens when the Citadel Core is unstable. When far away enough from the trooper, he will use the computer, seemingly in an attempt to prevent the Core's detonation. The soldier will ignore Gordon, even when shot at.
Shotgun Soldiers originally only appeared in Episode 2, but have been updated into every Half-Life 2 game since.
Shotgun Soldiers are also particularly extremely aggressive and lethal to NPCs, especially when they're firing while strafing (due to the ability to fire the shotgun in semi-automatic mode when moving), even essential ones like Alyx whose rapid health regeneration usually guarantees survival on lower difficulties. They can also notably drain the player's health up to 21 damage per shot. As a result, these enemies should always be targeted at top priority. Shotgun Soldiers tend to rush recklessly even if the target is heavily armored.
- Overwatch Soldiers use a variety of squad tactics when engaging hostile targets. These tactics include flanking, providing each other with covering fire, and effective use of grenades. Always exercise caution when entering an area with structures that offer concealment (e.g., buildings and walls).
- When a soldier is injured or has to reload his weapon, he will typically try to find cover and get behind a solid object. When taking cover while in a fire-fight, be aware that the soldiers who are being engaged will most likely throw a grenade at Gordon, so be ready to throw it back at them with either the Gravity Gun or the "USE" key. If a grenade is not thrown, then it is likely that one or more of the soldiers are making their way to the player's position.
- Maintain complete 360-degree awareness of the surroundings while engaging a squad of soldiers. Also, try not to concentrate on a single soldier while being engaged; be mindful of all enemy movement. Try to keep some distance from soldiers at all times. If Gordon is right in front of a soldier, or beside him, he will resort to a melee attack. Grenades will generally make soldiers disregard everything and attempt to flee the blast radius. This is an effective way to force soldiers out into the open if they are hiding behind cover, or simply to distract them for a few seconds in order to cause some damage.
- Shotgun Soldiers, especially in close quarters combat, should be the first priority, as their shotguns are a much more significant threat than the weapons used by ordinary soldiers. Take them out from a distance, as their shotguns are much less effective at long range.
- Shotgun Soldiers have a tendency to crouch when being shot on their upper body. This can cause slower players to miss them entirely, and waste ammunition. When shot on their lower body, they will tend to retreat a few feet, while still firing at the player.
- Soldiers equipped with the SPAS-12 will usually charge the target to get within point blank, if they are successful in charging at the target, they will attack the enemy with a melee attack and then retreat.
- Soldiers are not very accurate and it will usually give the player and citizens advantage. If possible, try to avoid engaging the soldier at close ranges unless the player is armed with a shotgun as the soldier appears to be weaker at longer ranges and stronger at closer ranges.
- Compared to the rebels, Overwatch soldiers have 25% more health and tend to carry better weapons. They can also use a melee attack and throw grenades, abilities the rebels lack. The latter is fairly major, as one grenade can easily take out several resistance members, especially since they tend to crowd together. However, the rebels are oddly better shots with MP7s than the Overwatch soldiers are. They are on-par in accuracy for the pulse rifle and shotgun.
- Overwatch soldiers are also coded to die in one hit from Antlions, the reason being that if normal damage values applied (Antlions do 5 damage per hit, and Overwatch soldiers have 50 health), the soldiers would easily defeat the Antlions nearly every time, rendering the Bug Bait useless. This is not true of Civil Protection officers, as Antlions and Civil Protection never encounter each other in-game.
- Throwing Bug Bait at a soldier can stun him, leaving the soldier vulnerable to following attacks from the player or Antlions. However, Civil Protection officers do not react to the Bug Bait.
Behind the scenes
- The Combine Soldier has had many predecessors during the game development. The Alien Combine Soldier is one of them. The early elite soldiers, the Combine Synth Elite Soldier, the Combine Super Soldier, and the Combine Guard, can also be considered as indirect predecessors. Just like for the Overwatch Elite, a more conventional look was chosen over the aforementioned concepts to avoid, among other things, overshadowing the remarkable nature of the Citadel and to keep the Combine as a more elusive enemy. While several concepts depict helmets with fly-like eyes, the final helmet design, similar to that of the Metrocop, was based on the human Combine Guard.
- Alternate, green-colored Combine Soldiers with glowing orange eyes were seen in preview screenshots of Half-Life 2: Episode One, at the time when the episode was still called Aftermath. It is unclear how this variation differed from the rest of the Combine Overwatch, as they were replaced by regular Combine soldiers in the game's final release. They are, however, seen in Episode Two, wielding shotguns, but this version is maroon. These same green-colored soldiers can also be seen in the main menu of Half-Life 2: Deathmatch.
- A texture from the 2003 leaked Half-Life 2 Beta indicates that the soldiers were to have some sort of shield at one time.
- The Combine Soldiers in the playable Half-Life 2 Beta were also supposed to use weapons such as the HMG1, the MP5K, and the OICW.
- The Half-Life 2 Overwatch Soldier still has a firing animation for the HMG1, although it is unused.
- In the Half-Life 2 Beta, the soldiers used the same melee kick as the HECU troopers. Originally, the Overwatch Soldiers would be able to kick doors down, as seen in the E3 demo "Traptown". However, this was changed most likely because, overall, the animation didn't fit the Overwatch Soldier, and using the gun as a melee weapon was more conventional. A left-over animation of the Beta Overwatch Soldier can be viewed in the Source SDK under the name of "shootAR2G". This animation shows what the leaked animations for the Overwatch Soldiers originally looked like: feet closer together, and although they look less experienced than the retail animations, they are more dynamic.
- During Half-Life 2: Episode Two, the Overwatch Soldiers' and the Overwatch Elite's armor and boots are flecked with mud and dirt, indicating they have been traveling by foot for long periods of time, both varieties of soldiers appear in the parts of the game that are located in remote areas.
- The patch worn on the left arm of Overwatch Soldiers appears to be a yellow variant of the United States Army 7th Infantry Division insignia.
- Shotgun Soldiers appear throughout Half-Life 2 and its episodes in the console versions of The Orange Box, but originally only appeared in Episode Two on PC. As of the May 26, 2010 updates, Shotgun Soldiers appear in Half-Life 2 and Episode One on PCs as well as consoles. This also adds red goggle-wearing Nova Prospekt guards to the PC version of Half-Life 2. In the Xbox version of Half-Life 2 there are no Shotgun Soldiers, as the latest update for the game was released before The Orange Box.
- An Overwatch Soldier can be seen above the sewers in the chapter Route Kanal, in the map "d1_canals_05," but this is likely a mistake made by developers who forgot to delete it or just left it as easter egg (this is then, technically, the first time the player sees an Overwatch Soldier). Although the soldier can only actually be seen by using the console command Noclip, he will ignore the player completely unless he is fired at, after which he will behave normally. If it is an oversight, then the first intended appearance of Overwatch Soldiers is in Water Hazard, when they eject from the Hunter-Chopper. However, this might also be a mistake. It could be a remnant of the fact that Overwatch Soldiers were originally intended to appear much sooner than the final map of Ravenholm.
- The Combine have possibly installed technology that allows the Overwatch to upload data directly to the soldier - most likely directly into their brain. This is mentioned in the sound files for the Overwatch Dispatcher: "Attention. Prepare for visual download of Anticitizen One." This is a non-sequitur conclusion however, as the visual download could just as easily appear on the inside of their goggles like pilots and some soldiers already do.
- There are at least four Standard Overwatch Soldiers (not Prison Guards) in Nova Prospekt. One is shot and killed by Alyx Vance at the beginning of Entanglement, and another is seen dead in electrified water later on. The final two are corpses seen right after the room with electrified water. It could be developer oversight. This has been patched in Half-Life 2: Update.
- If the console command "npc_create_equipment" is set to "weapon_shotgun" and player spawn a soldier, a Shotgun Soldier will spawn. This happens in all versions.
- Many players get confused that the spawn command for Combine Soldier is "npc_combine". However using this command crashes the game, the actual spawn command is "npc_combine_s".
- Overwatch soldiers will use cover if the player places boxes to form a wall. This can be done in Garry's mod or in-game by turning off the A.I. with a command, using the use key to build it. And finally re-enabling the A.I.
- In the May 26, 2010 update, the Overwatch Soldiers have increased aggression when equipped with the shotgun, they will most likely strafe constantly and keep firing their shotgun in semi-automatic mode and can deal much more damage to the player.
- Only two soldiers out of every "squad" can attack at any one moment in time, due to the slot-based squad AI system possessing only two attack slots. Soldiers either rapidly exchange slots to achieve massed fire or are broken up into small squads of just a handful of soldiers each, despite appearances implying larger teams. Similarly, only one soldier can toss a grenade at any one time, and this will temporarily prevent soldiers in the squad from throwing grenades again. This grenade rule only applies to each squad, so it is likely soldiers from different squads may throw more than one grenade towards the player.
- Any Overwatch Soldiers punted towards any hard surface by the supercharged Gravity Gun will splatter red blood on the said surface.
- Similarly to the HECU Marines of Half-Life, regular Combine Soldiers cannot use their standard-issue weapon's secondary fire (the dark energy sphere, as opposed to the HECU MP5's grenade launcher). This ability is restricted to Overwatch Elites.
- Sometimes, if a squad of soldiers reaches Freeman without him attacking or looking at them, they will run up to a decent range and stare at the player, ready to fire. They will attack when the player takes a single step or fires a weapon. This is not commonly seen, however, and appears to only work when the player is a long distance away and the soldiers hardly identify them. This tactic is also shared by Overwatch Elites and Ceiling Turrets.
List of appearances
- Half-Life 2 (First appearance)
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar
- Half-Life 2: Deathmatch (Non-canonical appearance)
- Half-Life 2: Lost Coast (Non-canonical appearance)
- Half-Life 2: Episode One
- Half-Life 2: Episode Two
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