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"Now... about that beer I owed ya! "
―Barney Calhoun[src]

Barney Calhoun[1][2] is the tritagonist of the Half-Life series. He worked as a security guard at the Black Mesa Research Facility before becoming a key Resistance leader. From Half-Life: Blue Shift and onwards, he turns from the Half-Life generic security guard into a standalone character, is given a surname, and an expanded role.



Gordon Freeman sees Barney knocking on the Area 3 Security Facilities door.

Barney Calhoun, an undecided major after two years at Martinson College,[3] is employed as a mid-level security officer at the Black Mesa Research Facility, with Level 3 security clearance and is accommodated in the Area 8 Topside Dormitories.[3] He is friends with Gordon Freeman and Isaac Kleiner,[4][5] who are also employees of Black Mesa.

As a Black Mesa security guard, he is tasked with duties including guarding assigned sections, performing general maintenance, and assisting the science team when required. His "Disaster Response Priority" is to protect the Black Mesa facility and its equipment in the event of an emergency, with secondary priority to safeguard members of the science team whilst his own personal safety is of relatively low importance.[1][3]

On May 9, 200-, Barney receives a letter from L.M. about his May 15 reassignment to Blue Shift.[1]

Before May 12, 200-, Barney is performing a retinal scan and has his salary increased. His two-day Security Guard Training is scheduled.[1]

On May 12 and May 13, at 08:00, Barney undergoes a two-day Security Guard Training under the Miller-based holographic instructor (May 12 is the Blue Shift Hazard Course).[6]

On May 15, Barney is assigned to a 09:00 - 22:00 Blue Shift assignment and reports to Area 3 Medium Security Facilities in Sector C, at 09:00. His shift is to last until August 15.[1]

The Blue Shift instruction manual features the sentence "Buy flowers for Lauren",[1] suggesting that Calhoun has a wife or girlfriend.



Walter and Rosenberg discussing their escape plans in Blue Shift.

Barney is seen at the very start of Gordon Freeman's tram ride to Sector C, knocking on the Area 3 Security Facilities door. He is not seen for the remainder of the game.

Although not seen, Calhoun is also present when Gordon is knocked unconscious by HECU troops during the Apprehension chapter.

Half-Life: Blue Shift

On May 16, 200-, at 8:42, Barney starts his tram ride from the Area 8 Topside Dormitories at Black Mesa, to start his second Blue Shift day at Area 3 Medium Security Facilities in Sector C.[1] He arrives there sometime before 9:00.

After the Resonance Cascade occurs (at around 9:00), Barney becomes determined to escape from the Black Mesa facility. He locates and frees Dr. Rosenberg, who had been captured by the HECU troops. Rosenberg reveals to Barney his plan of escaping by using an old teleport model. Calhoun helps Rosenberg to prepare everything for successful teleportation. He first travels to the border world Xen, where he activates a device needed for teleport's correct work. Barney then locates, charges and delivers a spare power battery to Doctor Rosenberg. At the end of the game Barney, along with Rosenberg and his two colleagues, Simmons and Walter, manages to escape from the Black Mesa Research Facility, and he is described as being "out of range" by the textual summary, as compared to Gordon Freeman, listed as "hired," and Adrian Shephard, listed as "detained".

Half-Life: Decay

Barney in Decay.

In the ending sequence of Half-Life: Decay, the main protagonists, Gina Cross and Colette Green, are caught in a harmonic reflux. During that time, they hear Dr. Rosenberg saying "Calhoun, you must hurry! We can't keep the portal open much longer!". In the next frame, what appears to be Barney is briefly seen jumping into the portal teleporting him from Xen, as seen in the Blue Shift chapter Focal Point.

Half-Life 2


After the Portal Storms, the Seven Hour War, and the subsequent Combine takeover, Barney was presumably relocated to City 17 where he signed up for Civil Protection. This would have been valuable to gain inside information and distribute warnings about upcoming raids or provide misleading intelligence to the Combine though it was likely quite risky to his own safety. At some point before or after his relocation, he also came back into contact with Isaac Kleiner and Eli Vance who had also apparently been relocated to City 17 prior to Half-Life 2 and participated in their Resistance movement.

On one memorable occasion, Barney was assisting with Kleiner's teleport experiments where Kleiner attempted to transport a cat as a test experiment and something traumatizing happened to it. Barney claims to have persistent nightmares about the cat and even mistakes a distant Strider roar as a meow late in Half-Life 2.


Barney meets Gordon in City 17.

By a twist of fate, probably orchestrated by the G-Man, Gordon Freeman is released from stasis into the City 17 Trainstation where Barney happens to be having his shift of Civil Protection duty. A security camera rejects Gordon's identity and Barney is able to 'take him away for questioning', saving him from boarding the train to Nova Prospekt and meeting a horrible fate in the depths of the complex. He then contacts Isaac Kleiner, they have a brief chat about how Gordon could get to his lab safely, then Barney lets Gordon escape through a back way.

Sometime later, Barney and Gordon meet up at Kleiner's Lab. After another teleporter mishap that teleports Gordon to several different locations, Barney meets Gordon outside the lab and provides him with a crowbar, and directions to escape on foot to Eli's lab, via the Underground Railroad. Barney then goes back inside Kleiner's Lab, having to look after Kleiner.

Later on, when Gordon and Alyx arrive at Kleiner's Lab from Nova Prospekt, they receive a video transmission from Barney, who needs help fighting the Combine in the streets of City 17.

During the uprising, Barney comes to be the impromptu "field commander" of the Resistance forces and leads the push towards the Citadel in order to rescue Eli Vance. At some point, he is pinned down by Overwatch Snipers that Gordon, finally reaching him, takes down. Together they lead a team of Rebels into the Overwatch Nexus to disable the Suppression Device. Barney uses his Civil Protection status to unlock several barriers Gordon would normally not be able to pass. After Gordon sets off towards the Citadel again, Barney continues to oversee the later stages of the assault on the Overwatch Nexus, until encountering Dog and following him to Gordon's location. Barney is last seen at the foot of the Citadel, telling Gordon "And if you see Dr. Breen, tell him I said, FUCK YOU!". The swear can be heard completely in the audio file but is covered in-game by sound effects (the subtitle is censored as well).

Half-Life 2: Episode One

Barney gives Gordon a replacement crowbar.

Barney is encountered late in the game, where he is seen organizing a Resistance push on a train station to escape City 17 before the Citadel self-destructs. His actions have taken its toll on him as he seems very tired, appears to not have shaved, his face being also quite dirty.

He, again, provides Gordon with a crowbar before setting off to round up Citizens in that sector of the city. He then waits for Gordon and Alyx in the parking lot between the train station and the hospital. When the duo arrives, Gordon and Alyx help Barney escort several groups of Citizens through significant Combine resistance into the escape trains. He is last seen leaving on a train saying, "See ya when I see ya!", as Gordon and Alyx decide to take the next one to give him and the Citizens time to escape.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

Barney does not appear, nor is even referred to, during the course of Episode Two. Given his place as a returning character of note in the series, and that he escaped City 17 ahead of Freeman, he is presumed to still be alive, but his location is unknown.

However, when coming back into White Forest after the Strider battle, he can be heard saying "Good job, Gordon", but is not among the Rebels cheering in the garage. The subtitle appears with Barney's midnight green subtitle color, and uses the Episode One subtitle file, as it cannot be found in the Episode Two file. Marc Laidlaw stated that it was an accident.[7]


Gordon Freeman

Barney and Gordon have been good friends ever since they started working at Black Mesa. Barney would save Gordon from a miserable fate at Nova Prospekt, and send him on his way to Kleiner's Lab. The two would later fight side by side in City 17, while escorting people out of the city. Barney also comments Gordon's relationship with Alyx, calling Gordon a "lucky dog".

Alyx Vance

Alyx was just a toddler back at Black Mesa, and it is unknown if he met her during his tenure as a security guard. Nevertheless, he considers her a worthy ally in the human resistance on the Combine-occupied Earth.

Isaac Kleiner

Barney was friends with Dr. Kleiner ever since they worked at Black Mesa. In Half-Life 2, Barney occasionally checks up on Dr. Kleiner in his lab, whenever he has free time to do so.

Personality and skills

Behind the scenes

The original "Barney" security guard model.

  • "Barney" is the diminutive of Bernard, Barnaby or Barnabas.[8] "Calhoun" is a Scottish name, a variant of "Colquhoun", from a place name meaning "narrow corner" or "narrow wood" in Gaelic.[9]
  • Although initially being the generic security guard from Half-Life, an entire class of throwaway characters on its own, he was retconned in Half-Life: Blue Shift and Half-Life 2 as a standalone character, playing increasingly prominent roles as the series has progressed.
  • At the beginning of Blue Shift, the player may notice strange material in the Calhoun's locker: books titled "The Truth About Aliens" (by RH) (Gordon Freeman also has a copy of this book in his bedroom, as seen in Decay) and "Government Conspiracies", hinting that Barney was interested in these subjects. This could also be foreshadowing since the game centers on aliens and government conspiracies. A box in his locker also reveals, when destroyed, a Chumtoad creature as a small Easter egg.
  • In the original Kleiner's Lab introduction and teleportation scenes, Barney appears as even more pessimistic than in the final version, expressing even more doubts in very sarcastic and funny remarks each time Kleiner or Mossman say something positive.
  • In Blue Shift, Barney is always referred to as "Calhoun" or "Mr. Calhoun". His first name is only given in the instruction manual.[1]
  • Barney's name is a reference to the The Andy Griffith Show, and so is Otis' name.

Barney's security guard helmet found in the playable Half-Life 2 Beta files.

  • In the playable Half-Life 2 Beta files can be found the model of a slightly damaged security guard helmet, named "BarneyHelmet". Appearing as a Metrocop helmet separated into two parts in the retail files and used upon first meeting Barney in the City 17 Trainstation, it was either used as a place-holder early in development or suggests Barney was to have kept his old helmet, as it appears rather worn out, and it would have been seen at some point during the game as an Easter egg. It is also seen in the Half-Life: 2 beta map dsp_test.
  • Barney sees Gordon three times in Blue Shift. He first sees him while he is riding his tram to Sector C, a scene from the start of Half-Life from another point of view. Gordon can then be spotted through a security camera heading to the test chamber. The third time is at the end of the game as two HECU soldiers are dragging him away, mirroring a scene from the Half-Life chapter Apprehension.
  • Barney's line "Now... about that beer I owed ya!", said at the start of Half-Life 2, is a nod to one of the random security guard sentences heard at the start of Half-Life, "Hey, catch me later, I'll buy you a beer."


  • Barney is the only known security guard of Black Mesa to survive the Black Mesa Incident.
  • Like other important characters, such as Alyx Vance and Father Grigori, Barney regenerates health extremely rapidly. However, it is still possible for him to die during combat, and at several points the player is required to protect him from taking too much damage. His death will result in a black screen fade and failure message before the game reloads. It takes five simultaneous Overwatch Sniper Rifle shots to kill him, indicating that he can absorb an extremely high amount of damage. Barney can often successfully defeat several enemies at once without the player's assistance, but he is vulnerable to multiple enemies mobbing him at close range, or to individual Combine Soldiers equipped with shotguns. He will yell at Gordon if he is under fire, usually yelling at Gordon to "open fire!"
  • At the start of Half-Life, Barney is seen by Gordon knocking on a door with his armor vest, helmet, flashlight and a handgun already equipped. As this security guard was retconned as Barney Calhoun for Blue Shift, an inconsistency appeared, with Barney obtaining his equipment in his locker only after entering the door.
  • In Blue Shift, Barney is never heard talking from the player's point of view, just as Freeman and Shephard are never heard speaking. However, the chapter Captive Freight shows an example of the character apparently speaking but being unheard by the player. When Rosenberg asks him how he knows his name, there is a slight pause, then Rosenberg confirms the name of the scientist who told it to Calhoun ("Oh, I see. Poor Harold."), as if he was answering him.
  • In Half Life 2, Barney's voice line "If you see Dr. Breen, tell him I said fuck you!" is the only instance of the word "fuck" being used in the Half Life series (even though it is censored by the sound of falling debris).
  • Barney has a fear of Headcrabs (referencing his time in Black Mesa and Xen as many Headcrabs would jump at Barney when rounding corners and air vents in Blue Shift) seen and heard in the chapter "A Red Letter Day", he has a strong dislike for Kleiner's pet, Lamarr and called her "pest".
  • Unlike the HEV users and Adrian Shephard, Barney lacks any form of power armor and is equipped only with a simple armor vest and helmet. Thus, instead of utilizing HEV recharging stations, he must restore his damaged armor by picking up "fresh" vests from fallen comrades along the way. Unlike Freeman and Shephard, he comes across only a few living security guards after the cascade. Moreover, he can communicate with only one of them, who is seen towards the end of the game & only lives long enough to tell Calhoun about recharging the power cell and then immediately dies.
    • If a security guard is spawned using the console, some quotes like "How's it going, Calhoun?" may be heard.
  • At the end of the Half-Life 2 chapter Entanglement, Barney is seen on a monitor holding an MP7. This is the only time he is seen wielding this weapon in Half-Life 2 and its Episodes, as he is only seen using an AR2 when in combat.
  • Barney appears in the Doom mod Massmouth, equipped with a Desert Eagle as a weapon. Used shortly before his first encounter is the line: "Hey you wouldn't happen to have a quarter, would you?" from Half-Life: Opposing Force. Unlike Otis, he makes several appearances on that level.
  • It is possible to "kill" Barney in Half-Life by using cheats and shooting him, though Barney will return fire at the player. If Barney is killed, his flash-light will hang in the air. Killing Barney won't affect the storyline, however, as this cannot be achieved by default.
  • In Blue Shift, by enabling third-person the player model is shown to be Gordon, not Barney.


Half-Life: Blue Shift

Half-Life 2 and its Episodes

List of appearances


See also