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"I gather you've disposed of that Gunship, Dr. Freeman. Your reputation, sir, is well deserved."
Odessa Cubbage[src]
 

The Combine Gunship often referred to as Gunship, is an autonomous and large Combine Synth assault aircraft and a common adversary in Half-Life 2 and its episodes

Overview

Like other synths in the Combine Synthetic arsenal, the Combine drastically alters the host creature's composition to befit the use of a military machine. An array of jet engines power the aircraft on its underside and maneuver using a rear-mounted rotor with fin-like blades seemingly grafted into the organism's flesh. Compound eyes that bear a close resemblance to those of a dragonfly are positioned directly behind the Gunship's pulse gun and at the creature's sides, assumed to detect enemies under standard conditions. Like most Combine Synths and vehicles, the Gunship is invulnerable to small arms fire; only explosive weaponry can damage the synth, such as rocket-propelled grenades. Because of this weakness in explosives, Gunships will prioritize incoming explosive projectiles over enemies, attempting to shoot them down or to the side with its pulse gun.

Although lacking the Hunter-Chopper's explosive mines and rockets, the Gunship surpasses its aerial counterpart in maneuverability and accuracy with its pulse turret.

Application

Gunships leaving the Citadel.

The Combine deploys Gunships to attack enemies located in locations not ordinarily accessible to ground forces due to their dangerous actions or in remote areas where air power would be more convenient. In urban environments or when protecting essential facilities (such as the Citadel dark fusion reactor, Nova Prospekt's outer defense, or the Overwatch Nexus), the Combine deploys Gunships in what appears to be a "buddy system," in which one Gunship protects the other from missile attacks. However, when deployed to oversee vast spaces (such as the coast), they are deployed singularly.

Tactics

Crashed Gunship in the hospital's attic.

When attacking a target, Gunships frequently strafe in predictable directions to gain a direct line of sight on its target, often firing at its target while doing so. Gunships refrain from approaching the player or an enemy at close range, instead choosing to perform several firing cycles on its target(s) at a comfortably long range - the purpose to gain a height and range advantage over its enemies. Before firing, the Gunship's pulse cannon emits a mechanical thud-like sound, alerting the player that the Gunship is about to begin its firing cycle, repeating the same sound once its firing cycle ends.

Like Striders, Gunships will often fire ahead of the target before directly hitting it. Doing so will give the player a little time to seek cover before receiving damage. The Gunships will also tend to fire at explosive barrels when an enemy is near them (in scripted events, such as the battle at New Little Odessa), thus the player should always keep distanced from explosive barrels or detonate them via small arms fire or the Gravity Gun before the Gunship does.

Destroying a gunship with an RPG requires a unique strategy. Since Gunships concentrate its fire on any incoming missile and attempt to shoot them down, the player should utilize the laser to guide the rocket in unpredictable loops and rolls on its way to the target to make it as difficult as possible for the Gunship to hit the missile. Ideally, perform evasive maneuvers with the rocket until it gets close, steer it around the Gunship, and hit it from behind. It is also sometimes possible to fire straight up at a Gunship directly above the player and hit its "belly" before it has time to recognize the threat.

Gunships are one of the most formidable enemies in Half-Life 2 and its episodes, and dealing with them presents several problems, doubly so if there are other enemies in the vicinity simultaneously (or, worse, multiple gunships, they cover each other). Since it takes at least three hits (depending on difficulty) to destroy one, the player can only effectively fight one if they have a steady source of replacement ammunition for the RPG. It's also essential to have plenty of overhead cover to use in between firing at the Gunship because whenever the player doesn't have a missile in the air, it will fire at them.

Gunships will always prioritize missiles over any other target, so if the player has, for example, one missile left and needs to get across open ground to resupply, fire the rocket into the air and steer it around as long as possible while moving to the next spot of cover. The gunships will be entirely distracted by the missile, allowing the player to get to safety or resupply.

Behind the scenes

Gunship projectile.

As seen in Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, early Gunship concepts were quite machine-like, while the final version depicts a more ambiguous, synthetic look. During early playtesting, Valve found that the Gunship would accidentally consider rockets fired at it as the more interesting enemy and try to shoot them down. This played so well that the RPG vs Gunship battles were reworked into a game of cat and mouse.

Furthermore, Nova Prospekt was originally to feature a Gunship factory and maintenance site, called the "Gunship Bays" and located at the foot of the Depot, where naked Gunships stripped off their armor, as well as lines and tanks of fuel for the Synths were to be seen. The concept was heavily trimmed down and later reused in the Half-Life 2 chapter Our Benefactors, where Gunships can be seen mounted on the walls, being serviced by Stalkers.

According to Scott Dalton, Valve designed the Episode One Hospital Gunship battle to create a dynamic evolving experience while still keeping the player within a constrained area. Initially, the attic appears straightforward and provides plenty of cover. As the environment gets progressively more damaged, combat becomes more challenging; players are increasingly open to enemy fire, and the path to the rocket crate becomes more difficult to navigate. As the roof breaks apart, however, the Gunship also becomes more visible and therefore easier to hit, keeping things relatively in balance.

Further investigation with the use of external programs reveals more behind-the-scenes information. The entity names of the two Gunships fought in Nova Prospekt are 'Penn' and 'Teller', after the comedy and magic duo.

The Gunship does not fly independently, unlike the City Scanners, but instead exclusively follows path tracks set in the game; info_target_gunshipcrash entities are used to suggest spectacular crashing points for defeated Gunships.

In the Half-Life 2 model viewer, the Synth's "dragonfly" eyes can be seen to possess the ability to extend downwards and sweep left and right.

As seen at New Little Odessa (in d2_coast_03) and during the City 17 uprising (in d3_c17_07) in the Half-Life 2 leak, the Gunship was also to fire a beam similar to that of the Strider with its belly cannon. While the cannon is still visible on the final model, this weapon is never seen demonstrated in-game, though it can be used in Hammer. In N.L.O., the Gunship fires its cannon to the shack where the "RPGGuy" is hiding, exploding the shack and killing him, allowing Freeman to grab the RPG. During the City 17 uprising, a Gunship attacks the bridge set beyond the plaza where Alyx gets captured in the final game (she just remains hidden there for no apparent reason in the leak). In the final game, the bridge is already destroyed, while in the leak, it is destroyed under Alyx and Gordon's very eyes.

Originally, the Gunship was also to launch projectiles, as seen in the leak model files.

The aircraft encountered at the end of Half-Life 2: Lost Coast is in fact a Gunship using the model of the Hunter-Chopper.

Related Achievements

Half-Life 2

Hl2 kill odessagunship.png Where Cubbage Fears to Tread 5Gscore.png
Defend Little Odessa from the Gunship attack.
Hl2 kill threegunships.png One Man Army 5Gscore.png
Destroy six Gunships in Half-Life 2.

Half-Life 2 (cut)

Hl2 kill bothprisongunships.png Uninvited Guest
Kill both Gunships in the Nova Prospekt courtyard.

Half-Life 2: Episode One

Attica!.jpg Attica! 5Gscore.png
Destroy the gunship in the hospital attic.

Trivia

  • In the Half-Life 2 model viewer, the Gunship's "dragonfly" eyes possess the ability to extend downwards and sweep left and right.
  • In the Half-Life 2 chapter Our Benefactors, Gunships can be seen mounted on the walls, being serviced by stalkers.
  • According to the Overwatch Voice as heard in the Half-Life 2 chapter Sandtraps during Freeman's invasion into Nova Prospekt, the Gunships may respond to a different part of Overwatch called 'Airwatch'. This term is also heard on the Bridge in Highway 17.
  • Gunships are not fought in Episode Two, but they can be seen flying over a bridge escorting a Combine marching column right after exiting the Antlion caves in the chapter Freeman Pontifex, though they were supposed to be in the Strider battle near the end of Episode Two. Only Hunter-Choppers are featured to attack the player.
  • The Gunship is controlled by the game and does not fly independently like the City Scanners or Shield Scanners. It exclusively follows Path Tracks which were set in the game. This gives the gunship a more realistic flight look to it.
  • It is possible to 'hit' the Gunship in the air using the buggy in the Highway 17 chapter of Half-Life 2 after using the magnetic crane. However, it does not appear to do any damage to the Gunship and the buggy passes through the Gunship without collision.
  • During the final battle in Half-Life 2, numerous Gunships emerge from the brewing portal in order to stop the player. If the player ignores them and destroys the Citadel core instead, the Gunships will also be destroyed for unknown reasons.
  • The Gunship's belly cannon is not used in Half-Life 2 and its Episodes, and they will only use it if a Gunship is spawned through a console command. The belly cannon will not harm the player if he is in the beam but it will harm nearby NPCs.
  • In depot_01 the player was to fight a early version of the gunship. This gunship was to use its pulse cannon and belly cannon.

Gallery

Pre-release

Retail

Combine_Gunship_-_Animations

Combine Gunship - Animations

This video contains all the the animations of the Combine Gunship.

Note, this video concerns only the Source games.

A few animations are left unused.

Example, when the Combine Gunship shoots with its belly.

List of appearances

References

Imagecat.png The Half-Life Wiki has more images related to Combine Gunship.
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