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"If the transhuman forces are to prove themselves an indispensable augmentation to the Combine Overwatch, they will have to earn the privilege."
Dr. Wallace Breen
 

The Combine Overwatch is the military force of the Combine. The soldiers of the Overwatch have extensive cybernetic modifications, and implantation of various mechanical devices in their whole bodies as well as undergoing mental reprogramming to condition them into obedient and efficient soldiers. This is in stark contrast to its law enforcement officers who receive no modification whatsoever.

Overwatch also explicitly refers to the Combine's automated Command System on Earth encountered as the Overwatch Voice. Although primarily made for garrisoning Earth, there is a suggestion that Overwatch soldiers are throughout Combine-controlled worlds on various off-world assignments in other territories.

Overview[]

The Combine Overwatch primarily consists mainly of a wide variety of unit types, such as the Combine Soldiers, supported by many Synth forces as support. Overwatch forces are divided into distinct "sectors" designated to them depending on their general location, such as Sector 17 Overwatch focusing around City 17. Divisions other than Sector 17 Overwatch are not directly encountered in the games.

Artificial intelligence that acts in command, known as The Overwatch Voice, oversees day-to-day military activities and operations. The Overwatch Voice issues orders and instructions and relays information to Overwatch forces to assist and fulfill objectives. Overwatch has a command structure, from squad leaders leading whole squads to an entire Sector led by a sector leader.

As seen at Nova Prospekt, a high-ranking Combine officer inquires about the status of several groups along the coast on the radio, field promoting one of them to command the rest when the previous one fell to Gordon Freeman's hands. During the events of Half-Life: Alyx, Overwatch Command was inquiring about damage assessments from a Combine Grunt stationed on the ground beneath The Vault before needing to send reinforcements into the Quarantine Zone.

The Citadel, located in City 17, acts as the main base of operations for the Combine Overwatch on Earth, with multiple sites, garrisons, and other strongholds throughout the many cities and other territories. The Combine forces on Earth are under the administration of Dr. Wallace Breen, who serves as Earth's Administrator, with the Advisors, a race of aliens responsible for overseeing all activities and communications between Earth and the rest of the Combine.

Role[]

In the aftermath of the Seven-Hour War, the Combine, having defeated all of Earth's militaries, established its presence on Earth. Dr. Breen, the former administrator of Black Mesa, was appointed Earth's Administrator. The establishment of the transhuman arm was to enforce law and order in the newly occupied world, to fulfill the role of the enforcer for the Combine.

At the beginning of Half-Life 2, the Overwatch control most of the Earth, corralling most human survivors into the remaining cities where citizens are, commanded, watched, and put to work for the Combine's ends. Most of the day-to-day details of this work are overseen by Civil Protection, with Overwatch forces usually only assisting to stop heavy resistance while occupying outposts and checkpoints beyond the city limits. The patrolled road along the coast to Nova Prospekt uses aerial Dropships, Gunships, force fields, and outposts to restrict access.

The main base of power for Overwatch is the Citadel, located at the heart of City 17. The Citadel is the headquarters for Dr. Breen and the Combine, with Sector 17 Overwatch containing the most troops and synths for deployment against resistance in the Citadel. It houses legions of soldiers and manufactures and repairs support Synths like the Gunship, and the Overwatch Voice is also stored inside. On the other hand, it is unclear if Stalkers themselves are "upgraded" from the human population inside the Citadel itself, as that task seemed mainly performed in Nova Prospekt during Half-Life 2.

The Civil Protection forces of Sector 17 Overwatch are the official law enforcement stationed in the urban areas under Combine control. Civil protection police the cities for anti-civil activity, oversee work operations and generally keep citizens in a permanent state of fear of their overlords.

Sector 17 Overwatch[]

Sector 17 Overwatch is the Combine's strong-arm garrisoned within City 17 and its outlining regions, including the coast and Nova Prospekt. As headquarters for Dr. Breen and the Combine, the Sector 17 Overwatch contains the most troops and Synths, sporting a colorful mix of human, transhuman, and Synth units for deployment against the resistance.

Civil Protection[]

Civil Protection is the official law enforcement stationed in the urban areas under Combine control, policing the cities for anti-civil activity, overseeing work operations, and generally keeping citizens in a permanent state of fear of their overlords. Officers are permitted and almost seemingly encouraged to utilize severe beatings as a means of coercing the population into submission, initiating raids of individual apartments to search for contraband material at random intervals, and summarily beating citizens for noncompliance.

Civil Protection officers are the first sector of Overwatch that the player will encounter, appearing during the first four chapters of the game. After this, their role becomes absorbed by the other branches of Overwatch.

Transhuman forces[]

This branch is the primary division utilized by the Combine as the general military ground force. "Transhumans" are humans modified in the brain, neck, and body with Combine technology, which leads to total obedience, emotional suppression, and enhanced fighting skills.

Trained in unit tactics and armed to the teeth, the transhuman forces represent the basic Overwatch Soldier unit the player encounters throughout the game. Variety does exist to a degree with the introduction of the Overwatch Elite soldiers, who are deployed either as squad leaders over regular soldiers or in squads of their own as shock troopers. A separate branch of Overwatch soldiers is garrisoned at the Nova Prospekt prison and the Depot. These guards sport different, blue-colored uniforms over the usual gray, although they are equally capable as standard soldiers. This branch holds a much larger variety of equipment than Civil Protection, with firearms utilizing pulse technology over typical human designs.

The Combine Grunt, Combine Suppressor, Combine Charger, and Combine Ordinal seen in Half-Life: Alyx are part of a special force branch called Commandos. They are essentially elite exterminators, called to handle the most difficult and delicate situations like monitoring the Quarantine Zone or containing The G-Man in The Vault. These soldiers are modified people as well, but they still hold a bit of personality left, most noticeable in the Combine Grunts. As such, Commandos have a high degree of flexibility and adaptability compared to regular Overwatch soldiers.

As the most recently-added branch of the Combine Overwatch, the transhuman branch's operations are under constant evaluation by the Combine itself. At one point, Dr. Breen is heard berating the soldiers stationed at Nova Prospekt for failing to capture Freeman, angrily reminding them that to become an indispensable part of the Combine Overwatch, they must "earn the privilege."

Synth[]

Main article: Synth

The Synth arm of the Combine Overwatch is composed of Synths such as Striders, Dropships, and Gunships. Synths are bio-mechanical war machines, apparently derived from alien species previously conquered by the Combine and augmented with Combine technology. With a variety of Synth creatures at its disposal, this arm is versatile and capable of tackling a variety of different operations.

Airwatch[]

During the course of Half-Life 2, the Overwatch Voice refers to something called Airwatch during Gordon's attack on the outside perimeter of Nova Prospekt. Shortly afterward, a pair of gunships attack. Airwatch is likely a subdivision of Overwatch, as indicated by the following communication: "Overwatch acknowledges critical exogen breach. Airwatch augmentation force dispatched and inbound. Hold for reinforcement."

Airwatch is known to include gunships and may also include Dropships and Hunter-Choppers, and possibly City Scanners and Shield Scanners.

Tactics[]

When the Overwatch forces deploy against a target near one of their power bases like the Citadel or Nova Prospekt, they prefer to employ blitz tactics to take their opponents by surprise and overpower them. Scanners locate potential targets, and Manhacks distract any forces located in narrow spaces underground or indoors. If the opposition is fortified and alerts of any incoming attack, Overwatch will call artillery strikes using Headcrab Shells. The shells spread panic and confusion before pushing forwards with ground troops, attempting to flank resistance fighters as they fall back.

In indoor urban environments, a favored tactic is to destroy the doors to a room using the Combine door lock's self-destruct function to create a smokescreen of flying wood and splinters, then catch their opponents in the ensuing crossfire from all sides before they regain their senses. Soldiers may also set up heavy equipment like force field projectors, sealing doorways, and secure areas so only they can pass through them. Heavy weapons such as Striders and Gunships blow the target's cover away if the opposition continues to resist the Overwatch strategy if called in.

In less accessible locations such as the coast or White Forest, ground forces are deployed from Dropships with support from Hunter-Choppers or Gunships to suppress resistance while reinforcements land. Such areas are usually not in range of Headcrab Shell Launchers, so battles tend to be more evenly matched if the resistance forces are well-armed. Interestingly, the Combine doesn't seem to like deploying Striders in this way despite being able to carry them on Dropships, although the terrain of the coast may be unsuitable or too far from the Citadel for them to deploy in time.

Trivia[]

  • Civil Protection is the only Overwatch unit to not punch with their weapons unless armed with a Stun Baton.
  • Since no trace of the Commandos is to be found in Half-Life 2, and since no Overwatch Soldiers or Overwatch Elites are encountered in Half-Life: Alyx, it can be assumed that the entire branch was either decommissioned or upgraded into Overwatch Soldiers and Overwatch Elites.

List of appearances[]

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