The Hunter, originally nicknamed Mini Strider in episode 1 game files, is a fast and agile synth used by the Combine as a scout and escort. The Hunter is first seen in Mossman's message in Half-Life 2: Episode One, but not encountered directly until Episode Two, where it is a prominent enemy and mini-boss.
The Hunter's body and legs are partially encased in an iridescent blue-green carapace. The synth is tripedal, much like the Strider; it has three muscular legs attached to the sides & back of its body, ending in a pair of extremely sharp barbs. On the left side of the Hunter's body are what appear to be three compound eyes, and a pair of vertically aligned fléchette launchers are located on the Synth's front. Located directly underneath the launchers are two small limbs tipped with metal blades for impaling targets, behind those and on the back are two oval shaped orifices. There is also an organ-like body located in the rear right area of the hunter's posterior.
Hunters have a heavy blue colored armor on their bodies and take reduced damage from most forms of small firearms. They are also highly mobile, able to easily move out of the way of projectiles.
Like all Synths, Hunters possess a number of vocalizations, all of which are shrill, fierce, and slightly electronic. Unlike any other Synths, they also appear to leak some sort of white-grey fluid, perhaps blood or blood substitute, when shot.
It could be argued whether Hunters are Synths or Cyborgs as the Overwatch Soldiers due to their vulnerability to gunfire. They also can be disintegrated by Energy Balls like organic matter and seem to possess an implanted armor rather than a full metal body. The possible blood substance produced by them when hurt also suggests organic matter.
Hunters appear to only be deployed in forests and rough terrain areas as their design appears to be more suitable to such environments as opposed to urban areas.
If multiple Hunters are deployed in the same mission area, they use pack hunting tactics like flanking & suppression fire.
The Hunter's most important role is to provide an escort for the Striders in the final battle of White Forest. While helping to suppress the rebels who are attempting to stop the Striders, they prioritize Strider Busters that are launched, giving the strider a much higher chance of survival.
Although possessing less firepower and armor than their larger tripodal cousin, Hunters are much more agile & fast. A Hunter will normally attempt to engage opponents at medium range, allowing it to fire fléchette rounds with great accuracy. Since the fléchettes move slowly compared to bullets, the Hunter has trouble against long-distance enemies but can cover ground quickly.
Since Hunters are resourceful and quick-thinking Synths, they employ a number of useful tactics to increase the chance of hitting a target - for example, making use of splash damage, and closing distances with a charge.
The Hunter's main weapons are the pair of fléchette launchers located on its forward surface. These fire large, fast fléchettes with a small spread which do large damage upon a direct hit, capable of vaporizing biological matter with a few hits. Additionally, should the fléchette hit a solid object, it'll deal splash damage within a small radius. The fléchettes are only made more dangerous with the Hunter's firing tactics. They are highly skilled with the launching of the fléchettes, leading its target (shooting ahead of a moving target to compensate for its movement) in addition to walking its fire onto a target (shooting at a point near the target and shifting its aim towards it).
In melee, the Hunter can also use its body as a ram to break down walls, doors or vulnerable foes. While it's charging, the Hunter is unable to turn quickly. Should it hit however, the Hunter can do a large amount of damage to its target. However, if it misses and runs into an unbreakable object, then the Hunter will be temporarily dazed from the impact. Finally, should the foe be in reach and the Hunter is not charging, it will use the talons on its legs to slash the opponent. Again, this will do a large amount of damage and may even send its target flying.
The Hunter has been seen using its two front limbs to impale a target, most notably when attacking Alyx in the beginning of Episode Two. However, this attack is not used against the player during combat.
Hunters have also occasionally been seen unleashing all its ammo in a shotgun-style blast at a target just before death, in the hope of taking its killer with it.
The Hunter is first seen in Episode One, as part of the force seen attacking the base where Judith Mossman recorded her transmission. The Hunter is grey blue in the Episode One transmission when viewing it with Alyx due to the Hunter originally being nicknamed as Mini Strider and being unfinished, but in Episode Two when the message is played at White Forest, the Hunter's model is changed to its current finished version.
Freeman encounters Hunters in combat for the first time in the forested open spaces outside of City 17. Hunters are first met when one manages to pounce upon Alyx Vance and successfully impale her in the back. Later they are encountered scouting or patrolling areas, as well as being part of various Combine forces attempting to intercept Alyx Vance and Gordon Freeman on their way to White Forest.
Hunters were later used during the second Combine offensive against White Forest. Here, the Hunters acted as escorts for the incoming Striders, clearing out smaller targets and firing upon any Magnusson Device launched at the larger Synth.
While Hunters are quite resistant to gunfire, they are considerably more vulnerable to blunt and explosive forces. At least two well-aimed hits (depending on difficulty) from a Gravity Gun-launched object (such as a tractor tire or barrel) is sufficient to kill one (note: if one of their fléchettes stick to whatever the Gravity Gun is holding, the fléchette will cause the Hunter to vaporize upon contact). Usually the places where Hunter is fought often features numerous explosive barrels which are effective against them. The Muscle Car can also be used to kill a Hunter if used to ram it with sufficient force, however, it sometimes anticipates this and will jump out of the way.
Failing this, Hunters can be brought down with the Resistance RPG or MP7 grenades. A direct hit from the Overwatch Standard Issue Pulse Rifle's secondary fire (the Energy Ball launcher) can disintegrate a Hunter as well, as a rebel giving a lecture to some City 17 rebels in White Forest Base points out. If explosives or the Combine Overwatch Standard Issue Pulse Rifle's secondary fire are not available, firearms such as the shotgun or the Magnum can also be used. Five or six shots at point blank range from the shotgun's secondary fire should be enough to kill one, although this is not an effective tactic as it consumes large quantities of ammunition very quickly and requires the player to stop fighting momentarily to reload. Another weapon effective against Hunters is the Resistance Crossbow, which can kill a Hunter in 3 or 4 shots. However, due to the reload time after every shot, this tactic should only be used if the player has sufficient cover to duck behind.
While Hunters are generally very accurate with their fléchettes, if one uses basic dodging tactics while employing small firearms to destroy them, they will have a good deal of trouble landing a hit. However, if moving predictably (or not moving), a Hunter will quickly kill the player, since fléchettes do a large amount of damage with a direct hit.
While the player is hiding in a small space, Hunters will try to shoot nearby explosive barrels to flush the player out similar to an Overwatch Sniper.
Hunters will always focus on the player instead of Alyx or other NPCs if the player is in the Hunter's sight.
Close quarter combat with a Hunter is not recommended, as they can charge and strike with their barbed limbs.
Using a Magnusson Device against a Strider is not advised until all nearby Hunters have been defeated, as they will fire at the device as soon as they see it. Though it is possible for the player to look away from the Hunters and quickly launch it onto the Strider, shooting at it before the Hunters do.
Behind the scenes
- Hunters were originally intended to be vulnerable only to blows from objects launched at them with the Gravity Gun. Later, Valve made them vulnerable to all weapons as the Hunter design changed. However, they are still more vulnerable to physics damage than all firearms but the Colt Python.
- According to Matt T. Wood, one of the team's main goals for the Hunter was to make the player feel vulnerable whether hiding or not. The Hunter arena before the secondary silo in White Forest became their testbed for improving the Hunters' close-combat behavior. A classic combat space, featuring multiple exits and many possible paths, the team tuned it for a strong cat-and-mouse game-play experience. While players have many options for escape, the map is designed so that Hunters will never completely lose them - but always be able to pursue and flush the player out of hiding. They are also reprogrammed to focus on the player and will briefly ignore other NPCs.
- In the Episode Two chapter Our Mutual Fiend, a Rebel radio operator exaggerates his combat ability by declaring that people in the city fought Hunters with their bare hands: "We used to wrestle Hunters to the ground with our bare hands! I used to kill ten, twenty a day, just using my fists!" indicating prior knowledge of the Hunters by members of the resistance. On the other hand, the rebel may not have even known what a Hunter is since he only mentions bare handed fighting after being asked "how city folk kill Hunters".
- In Episode One, typing "
give npc_ministrider" spawns the predecessor of the Hunter. On top of cosmetic differences, the mini-strider also doesn't shoot fléchettes; instead shooting Pulse Ammunition (as seen in an old Episode Two trailer). It is vulnerable to explosives and energy orbs, and can be taken down by normal weaponry, but will take around 300 pulse-rifle rounds to do so. Most of its sounds will not be precached when spawning it, probably because it was supposed to only be scripted for Mossman's message and not meant for combat in Episode One. Unfortunately, the mini-strider can no longer be spawned in Episode One because of the removal of the "npc_ministrider" entity, the actual entity is "npc_furniture". "npc_furniture" is a new variant of the "generic_actor" entity, so when spawned nothing will appear.
- The Hunter reused AI from the Combine Guard mainly attacks and running.
- In Episode One, the mini-strider model was used during the Mossman message.
- Although the "npc_ministrider" has been removed from Episode One, "npc_hunter" has been imported to Portal. When spawned it will produce an "ERROR", will stay stationary and will not deal any damage to the player due to all the missing scripts, sounds and models from Episode Two, however it can be killed.
- Players can gain an Orange Box Achievement "Payback", by killing a Hunter with its own fléchettes. As the fléchettes cannot be handled directly with the Gravity Gun, achieving this involves holding a physics object when a Hunter is shooting at the player. The fléchettes will then stick to the object, which must then be tossed at the Hunter. The Hunter will be vaporized if a fléchette explodes just as it collides with the Hunter.
- If spawning NPCs using the console in Episode Two, Hunters may occasionally use a special instant-kill move where they leap on their target and crush their spine, similar to the animation played at the beginning of the game when the first Hunter encountered attacks Alyx Vance. Hunters use this move against player-allied human characters, such as Citizens, Alyx, or Barney. This seems to occur if the Hunter manages to get behind an unaware human NPC. They may also try this with Zombies and/or Antlions, but they are never seen encountering Antlions.
- The Hunters can also be pulled, pushed and killed with a supercharged Gravity Gun, although this can only be done by typing "physcannon_mega_enabled 1" in the console. The Hunters (like Overwatch soldiers) will be killed by pulling them towards the Gravity Gun.
- When a Hunter is damaged enough, a pale white liquid can be seen oozing from the "head," accompanied by frequent busts of sparks. The Hunter will also start moving around more, as opposed to a healthy Hunter who will stay in place if no NPC is near.
- The Hunter fléchette weapon can be fired via console command "hunter_shoot_flechette". This command can be bound to a key by using the "bind" command. e.g. "bind "e" "hunter_shoot_flechette"". With this method the Gravity Gun can be used to hold an object while the player attaches fléchettes. Then it can be launched as a powerful contact explosive.
List of appearances
- Half-Life 2: Episode One (First appearance) (Video only)
- Half-Life 2: Episode Two (First identified as Hunter)