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Overwatch Soldiers, known as Combine Soldiers by Citizens, and Stabilization Teams by the Overwatch Voice, are the basic transhuman infantry units of the Combine Overwatch, and the primary military of the Combine on Earth. In contrast to Civil Protection, whose duties are to enforce order within suppressed population centers, Overwatch soldiers are tasked with more hazardous actions requiring skill and tactic: from patrolling the treacherous borders of Combine-controlled territory to raiding Resistance-held strongholds and neutralizing any form of threat to the Combine.
Being the Combine military personnel, Overwatch Soldiers are given access to military-grade equipment and trained (or, more accurately, programmed) with advanced tactical combat training, making them more formidable strong opponents.
Standard Overwatch Soldiers, like other soldier variants, wear standard-issue blue and grey camo body armor over their mid-sections with padding on their arms, thighs, and groin. Several insignias can be found on their arm pads, signifying their position in the Combine regime. Perhaps the most advanced piece of equipment found on Overwatch Soldiers are their helmets, which cover the head entirely and are equipped with air filters and radios. These helmets have glowing blue goggles and appear to be a cross between an old Soviet PMG and PBF gas mask.
Overwatch Soldiers are armed with MP7s, SPAS-12 Shotguns or AR2 Pulse Rifles, as well as MK3A2 grenades. Using these standard-issue weapons, Overwatch Soldiers typically operate in squads of four to six. During combat, soldiers make use of squad tactics and will attempt to flank or flush out enemies and provide cover fire for one another. Overwatch Soldiers are initially encountered in the coastal wasteland outside Ravenholm, patrolling the highways for Resistance activity and staffing Combine outposts. They can, however, be found anywhere the Combine requires direct military action, as the soldiers can be quickly transported to a desired area via Dropships. Overwatch Soldiers are also tasked with guarding high-value areas such as Nova Prospekt and the Citadel. In addition, they also serve as pilots and gunners of the Combine Hunter-Choppers.
Overwatch Soldiers are humans that have undergone extensive cybernetic modifications including brain and chest surgery, and implantation of various mechanical devices in the their whole bodies to the point of being enhanced cyborgs. This procedure is carried out at Nova Prospekt and the Citadel. There is also a noticeable hole in the soldier's neck, implying that the vocal cords are being removed and replaced by a vocoder to communicate with others. It is theorized that Overwatch Soldiers were high Civil Protection units who have shown excellent performance and have been chosen for Transmutation. It is also theorized that past military units who surrendered or captured were transformed into Overwatch Soldiers.
When not in combat, Overwatch Soldiers are cold and unemotional. They do not speak unless using their radio and when they do, they speak with mandatory vocabulary and report status. Unlike Civil Protection, they do not stutter or falter when speaking.
Overwatch Soldiers communicate over radios, but unlike Civil Protection officers, they are not addressed or controlled by dispatchers but instead use them to update military situations and request backup, such as saying, "Overwatch, sector is not secure" or "Overwatch, request reserve activation!".
Being one of the most versatile units at the Combine's disposal, Overwatch Soldiers come in several varieties:
Overwatch Snipers are soldiers armed with the mounted Overwatch Sniper Rifle. Their presence (and where they are aiming) is indicated by a blue laser sight. They'll shoot any hostile immediately as soon as it's spotted and still on their sightlines. If they can't get enemy who's in cover they'll try to break his cover by shooting it and any nearby props in order to expose their target. If target's cover solid they'll pin him down as shown when they pinned down Barney Calhoun in the warehouse in chapter Follow The Freeman.
Nova Prospekt Soldiers are essentially reskinned standard soldiers who are tasked to guard and maintain Nova Prospekt facility. They have the same arsenal and stats, the only differences being their armor and voices. Their armor is dark blue and they typically have yellow goggles, although the shotgun soldiers have red goggles. The words "Nova Prospekt" are emblazoned onto the back armor as well as their shoulder. Their unique uniforms give an indication as to how important Nova Prospekt is to the Combine on Earth, which also suggest that they might higher rank than the standard ones. Compared to the standard soldiers, their uniforms are generally more formal-looking and no camouflaged patte. However, they still have the standard badge similar to their Overwatch counterparts.
Shotgun Soldiers exclusively wield the shotgun. Shotgun Soldiers can be distinguished by their brown and red uniforms and battle armor. Their helmets are slightly darker than the average Overwatch Soldier and have blood red/orange goggles. They also bear the Overwatch Elite insignia on a red shoulder pad, suggesting that they may be a higher-ranked soldier variant, or a squad leader. In Nova Prospekt they have the same dark blue armor color and Nova Prospekt insignia on their right shoulder that a regular Nova Prospekt soldier would; however, they keep the red/orange goggle lens color and Overwatch Elite insignia on their left shoulder; both of which they would normally have outside of Nova Prospekt.
Shotgun Soldiers are also the only Combine units seen manning Combine computers. This happens when the Citadel Core is unstable. When far away enough from the trooper, he will use the computer, seemingly in an attempt to prevent the Core's detonation.
Shotgun Soldiers originally only appeared in Episode 2, but have been updated into every Half-Life 2 game since.
Shotgun Soldiers are also particularly extremely aggressive and lethal, especially when they're firing while strafing (due to the ability to fire the shotgun in semi-automatic mode when moving), even essential ones like Alyx whose rapid health regeneration usually guarantees survival on lower difficulties. They can also notably drain the player's health up to 21 damage per shot. Shotgun Soldiers tend to rush unaware targets and will try to perform ambushes during the combat making them more tougher in close ranges.
- Overwatch Soldiers use a variety of squad tactics when engaging hostile targets. These tactics include flanking, providing each other with covering fire, and effective use of grenades. Always exercise caution when entering an area with structures that offer concealment (e.g., buildings and walls).
- When a soldier is injured or has to reload his weapon, he will typically try to find cover and get behind a solid object. When taking cover while in a fire-fight, be aware that the soldiers who are being engaged will most likely throw a grenade at Gordon, so be ready to throw it back at them with either the Gravity Gun or the "USE" key. If a grenade is not thrown, then it is likely that one or more of the soldiers are making their way to the player's position.
- Maintain complete 360-degree awareness of the surroundings while engaging a squad of soldiers. Also, try not to concentrate on a single soldier while being engaged; be mindful of all enemy movement. Try to keep some distance from soldiers at all times. If Gordon is right in front of a soldier, or beside him, he will resort to a melee attack. Grenades will generally make soldiers disregard everything and attempt to flee the blast radius. This is an effective way to force soldiers out into the open if they are hiding behind cover, or simply to distract them for a few seconds in order to cause some damage.
- Shotgun Soldiers, especially in close quarters combat, should be the first priority, as their shotguns are a much more significant threat than the weapons used by ordinary soldiers. Take them out from a distance, as their shotguns are much less effective at long range.
- Soldiers have a tendency to crouch when being shot on their upper body. This can cause slower players to miss them entirely, and waste ammunition. When shot on their lower body, they will tend to retreat a few feet, while still firing at the player.
- Soldiers equipped with the SPAS-12 will usually charge the target to get within close range, if they are successful in charging at the target, they will perform melee-attack and then retreat, unless if the target is on the move.
Behind the scenes
- The Combine Soldier has had many predecessors during the game development. The Alien Combine Soldier is one of them. The early elite soldiers, the Combine Synth Elite Soldier, the Combine Super Soldier, and the Combine Guard, can also be considered as indirect predecessors. Just like for the Overwatch Elite, a more conventional look was chosen over the aforementioned concepts to avoid, among other things, overshadowing the remarkable nature of the Citadel and to keep the Combine as a more elusive enemy. While several concepts depict helmets with fly-like eyes, the final helmet design, similar to that of the Metrocop, was based on the human Combine Guard.
- Alternate, green-colored Combine Soldiers with glowing orange eyes were seen in preview screenshots of Half-Life 2: Episode One, at the time when it was still called Aftermath. It is unclear how this variation differed from the rest of the Combine Overwatch, as they were replaced by regular Combine soldiers in the game's final release. These same green-colored soldiers can also be seen in the main menu of Half-Life 2: Deathmatch.
- A texture from the 2003 leaked Half-Life 2 Beta indicates that the soldiers were to have some sort of shield at one time. They were also supposed to use weapons such as the GR9, the MP5K, and the XM29 OICW.
- In the Half-Life 2 Beta, the soldiers used the same melee kick as the HECU troopers. Originally, the Overwatch Soldiers would be able to kick doors down, as seen in the E3 demo "Traptown". However, this was changed most likely because, overall, the animation didn't fit the Overwatch Soldier, and using the gun as a melee weapon was more conventional. A left-over animation of the Beta Overwatch Soldier can be viewed in the Source SDK under the name of "shootAR2G". This animation shows what the leaked animations for the Overwatch Soldiers originally looked like: feet closer together, and although they look less experienced than the retail animations, they are more dynamic.
- According to the Half-Life: Alyx AMA held on the Half-Life subreddit a month before the release of the game, the original Overwatch Soldiers seen in Half-Life 2 were intended to be seen in the game, but appear to have been cut very late in development. However, their new model, as well as the shotgun variant and a green "commander" variant, can still be found in the game's files.
|Kill 3 enemies using the crane.|
|Pin a soldier to the billboard in the chapter Highway 17.|
|Kill all of the snipers in City 17.|
|Disintegrate 15 soldiers by throwing them into a Combine ball field.|
- The patch worn on the left arm appears to be a yellow variant of the United States Army 7th Infantry Division insignia.
- Shotgun Soldiers appear throughout Half-Life 2 and its episodes in the console versions of The Orange Box, but originally only appeared in Episode Two on PC. As of the May 26, 2010 updates, Shotgun Soldiers appear in Half-Life 2 and Episode One on PCs as well as consoles. This also adds red goggle-wearing Nova Prospekt guards to the PC version of Half-Life 2. In the Xbox version of Half-Life 2 there are no Shotgun Soldiers, as the latest update for the game was released before The Orange Box.
- An Overwatch Soldier can be seen above the sewers in the chapter Route Kanal, in the map "d1_canals_05," but this is likely a mistake made by developers who forgot to delete it or just left it as easter egg (this is then, technically, the first time the player sees an Overwatch Soldier). Although the soldier can only actually be seen by using the console command Noclip, he will ignore the player completely unless he is fired at, after which he will behave normally. If it is an oversight, then the first intended appearance of Overwatch Soldiers is in Water Hazard, when they eject from the Hunter-Chopper. However, this might also be a mistake. It could be a remnant of the fact that Overwatch Soldiers were originally intended to appear much sooner than the final map of Ravenholm.
- There are at least four Standard Overwatch Soldiers (not Prison Guards) in Nova Prospekt. One is shot and killed by Alyx Vance at the beginning of Entanglement, and another is seen dead in electrified water later on. The final two are corpses seen right after the room with electrified water.
- If the console command "npc_create_equipment" is set to "weapon_shotgun" and player spawn a soldier, a Shotgun Soldier will spawn. This happens in all versions.
- Overwatch Soldiers will use cover if the player places boxes to form a wall. This can be done in-game by turning off the AI with a command, using the use key to build it, and then finally re-enabling the AI.
- In the May 26, 2010 update, the Overwatch Soldiers have increased aggression when equipped with the shotgun, they will most likely strafe constantly and keep firing their shotgun in semi-automatic mode and can deal much more damage to the player.
- Only two soldiers out of every "squad" can attack at any one moment in time, due to the slot-based squad AI system possessing only two attack slots. Soldiers either rapidly exchange slots to achieve massed fire or are broken up into small squads of just a handful of soldiers each, despite appearances implying larger teams. Similarly, only one soldier can toss a grenade at any one time, and this will temporarily prevent soldiers in the squad from throwing grenades again. This grenade rule only applies to each squad, so it is likely soldiers from different squads may throw more than one grenade towards the player.
- Similarly to the HECU Marines of Half-Life, regular Combine Soldiers cannot use their standard-issue weapon's secondary fire, the dark energy sphere, as opposed to the HECU MP5's grenade launcher. This ability is restricted to Overwatch Elites.
- Sometimes, if a squad of soldiers reaches Freeman without him attacking or looking at them, they will run up to a decent range and stare at the player, ready to fire. They will attack when the player takes a single step or fires a weapon. This is not commonly seen, however, and appears to only work when the player is a long distance away and the soldiers hardly identify them. This tactic is also shared by Overwatch Elites and Ceiling Turrets.
List of appearances
- Half-Life 2 (First appearance)
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar
- Half-Life 2: Deathmatch (Non-canonical appearance)
- Half-Life 2: Lost Coast (Non-canonical appearance)
- Half-Life 2: Episode One
- Half-Life 2: Episode Two
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