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"Why do we always have to clean up a mess the grunts can't handle?"
―Male Assassin[src]

The Black Ops, sometimes hyphenated to Black-Ops[3] and known in full as Black Operations,[4] are a group of trained government agents[1] that are briefly seen in Half-Life and later expanded upon and featured in Half-Life: Opposing Force. Soon after the HECU, they invade the Black Mesa Research Facility to conceal any evidence of the Resonance Cascade.

While it is stated that the HECU and the Black Ops are officially known to enter the facility in the event of an emergency and work with the Security Force as "a dangerous and very efficient clean-up crew"[5] (although some employees consider it a rumor[6]), they are shown to work independently, killing all living things inside the base, whether they are Black Mesa employees, HECU Marines, Xen lifeforms, or the Race X and eventually destroying Black Mesa itself altogether through use of a nuclear weapon.

They are divided into two groups: the female and male Black Ops, also known as Female and Male Assassins.



The Black Ops first appear in Sector E in Half-Life during the chapter Apprehension, and later make one more appearance in Sector F, during the chapter Lambda Core. Only Female Black Ops are seen by Gordon Freeman in the game.

Female Black Ops are strikingly nimble and agile, able to sprint faster than any other enemy and can jump to extreme heights. They wear a black jumpsuit and use night vision goggles that include a headset with a microphone, although none are ever heard speaking. They are armed with a suppressed Glock 17 and grenades.

Half-Life: Opposing Force

Massn bomb truck

Maxiron and Jakerockwell in Opposing Force.

Black Ops are featured much more prominently in Opposing Force. The reason for their presence at Black Mesa is also explained, something that was never made clear in the original game. Opposing Force explains that, after the initial failure of the HECU's clean-up operation, the Black Ops are sent to cover up the whole incident by destroying the entire facility. To do this, they intend to set off a thermonuclear device within the complex. Adrian Shephard locates the bomb the Black Ops deliver in a parking garage and is able to disarm it, but shortly thereafter it is seen being reactivated by the G-Man. The flash of a nuclear explosion is later witnessed in the epilogue, indicating the successful detonation of this bomb.

Along with the Female Black Ops, Opposing Force introduced the group's male variant. Male Black Ops wear black combat gear and balaclavas that only expose their eyes. Some are seen wearing night vision goggles. Although not visible, they apparently have a communicator in their ear which they are seen listening to whenever they eliminate a target.

During gameplay, Black Ops are shown to have utter contempt for the HECU, considering them incompetent and inept. One assassin angrily remarks to another, "Why do we always have to clean up a mess the grunts can't handle?". The Black Ops are openly hostile towards Marines, killing any who have not yet escaped as part of their mission. While the HECU are aware that the Black Ops group exists, they are utterly confused by their arrival and wonder if they are there to assist. However, the Black Ops soon start killing all of the non-Black Ops personnel they can find. HECU radio traffic shows that the Marines are at first totally taken by surprise, much like how the HECU initially overwhelms the Black Mesa personnel. Further evidence of their viciousness can be seen after discovering a Marine engineer who, after being brutally beaten and interrogated, is simply left for dead, trapped in a garage.[3]

They are equipped with the same SMG with grenade attachment that the HECU use, but some male Black Ops have an M40A1 Sniper Rifle. They utilize equipment and vehicles, such as the M35 cargo truck, the AH-64 Apache, and the V-22 Osprey similar to the HECU, but black in color.

Male Black Ops can run much faster than the Marines and up close, they use martial arts kicks and punches as melee attacks. Also, unlike their Marine counterparts, Black Ops operate in total silence when in combat, refusing to even yell in pain when injured. Therefore, they can be more of a surprise as you can't hear the loud radio chatter as from the HECU Marines.

Half-Life: Decay

In Decay, the Black Ops assassins are only featured in the bonus chapter, Xen Attacks. In it, they battle against the players' two Vortigaunt characters, R-4913 and X-8973, in the underground parking lot originally featured at the end of Opposing Force, under Sector E's largest Ordinance Facility.

Behind the scenes


Early model, with a crossbow.

  • The female assassins originally had the ability to attack their enemies at close range by kicking them. The unused attack animations are still present in the model file. In the retail version, the assassins will leap backward when approached at point blank.
  • In the original Half-Life, Female Assassins were coded to fight on the same side as the Marines, as the player was not supposed to interact with them and so such inconsistency should not be observed.
  • The female Black Ops were originally going to be armed with crossbows. The crossbow bolt quivers are still attached to the model's belt.
  • The early female Black Ops model features yellow goggles. They are red in the retail model.
  • As seen in the Opposing Force model files, male Black Ops were originally going to use flash grenades.
  • Early concept art for Quiver features special CIA units, one of which is a female. The original Black Ops likely stem from it.[2]
  • The highly exaggerated bounce of the female Black Ops breasts while walking was removed in Opposing Force and in the PlayStation 2 console port of the original game.[7]
  • Originally, the CIA was to send four types of units to Black Mesa[2] that were cut or simplified in the final version. These include the two Black Ops classes kept for the Half-Life series: the original female assassin, dubbed "Light Attack / CIA Soldier", which the final product kept much of the classes ability with a new clothing, and the original male assassin, dubbed "Special Weapons / CIA Assassin", cut from Half-Life and later reused in Opposing Force, without most of his abilities such as to combat the player in water and throwing knives. The two classes that remained cut were the "Special Attack / CIA Psionic Soldier", a small man who was to use a "mind gun" linked to his oversized brain and possess psionic abilities similar to the Kingpin and a high level of intelligence, and the "Special Unit, aka The Butcher / CIA Soldier", who was to have powerful dual chainsaws apparently extending his arms.
  • When playing in Hard mode, female Black Ops also have a cloaking device, which they use to become partially invisible during combat. However it is bugged since the invisibility does not hamper the accuracy of other NPCs.


Dead black op eyes

Dead Female Assassin, with flipped up goggles.

  • In some instances, if a Female Assassin is killed by being shot in the back while running, her night vision goggles flip up, revealing blue (in Half-Life) or brown (in Opposing Force) eyes, and she will pull her legs together and lie dead on her left side.
  • The Female Assassin model featured in Opposing Force has brown eyes, while they are blue in Half-Life. She also does not have grenades attached to her belt. The textures are also of lower resolution and slightly different, such as a different, darker grey for the Glock's suppressor. Its overall build is also thinner.
  • The Female Assassin in Half-Life: Source has a higher rate of fire and will likely shoot in automatic mode, without a decrease in accuracy.
  • The Female Assassin only throws hand grenades if she confronts the player from head on and close enough; she never throws if attacking the player from behind.
  • The Female Assassin is the only NPC who will investigate any suspicious sounds. Sounds such as gunfire, explosives, and melee weapons hitting against a surface will make her walk slowly to the source of disturbance. Afterwards, if she does not find any threat she will return to her original position.
  • Male Assassins do not take extra damage from head-shots.





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