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"These crab creatures have a unique parasitic strategy, don't you think?"
Black Mesa Scientist[src]

The Standard Headcrab, or simply the Headcrab, is the most common Headcrab subspecies, having teleported to Earth in abundant numbers during the Black Mesa Incident.


Headcrabs are fairly small creatures, about two feet long from front leg to back and a foot wide. They have round, smooth, tan-colored bodies and four legs, two long clawed ones on the front and two thick, stubby ones in the back, with an overall appearance vaguely similar to that of a whole raw chicken. Despite their small size, the Headcrab's back legs can support its entire body, allowing it to "tiptoe" across the ground and leap several feet into the air at its prey. Four "mouthparts" can be seen on their front that end in sharp fangs, possibly used to either hang onto a host or inject them with a sedative or some other chemical used in the zombification process. Under the body is a round, lipless mouth containing a sharp "beak" used to burrow through the host's skull. A Headcrab may weigh up to eight and a half pounds, although this is the weight of Lamarr, a well-fed Headcrab.[2]

Headcrabs can produce a variety of vocalizations. When they are not hunting, Headcrabs usually emit squeaks and fairly quiet, repetitive calls while gently swaying their bodies back and forth. When attacking, Headcrabs emit a sharp, shrill shriek as they leap towards their victims.

In Half-Life, Headcrabs are found to have originated from a giant creature known as a Gonarch which shares similar physical qualities with Headcrabs. Underdeveloped "baby" Headcrabs spawn at a rapid rate from a sac that dangles beneath the creature. Baby Headcrabs look similar to baby scorpions, being very tiny creatures with soft, translucent white bodies.

Behavior and skills[]

Headcrab run

While walking, a Headcrab can be seen lifting its larger claws upward, leaving two of its stubby legs to provide frontal support.

The Headcrab can appear harmless at a glance: it is small and slow-moving with its tiptoe-like gait. Although it can quickly leap long distances using its hind legs, tilting its body upwards to turn its mouth towards its target, such an assault can only inflict minor injuries with the claws, legs and teeth. However, the Headcrab's main goal is not to kill, but to attach itself onto an appropriate host's head. Using its leaping ability, it can reach a host's head and attempt to burrow its beak through the skull. Once successful, the Headcrab takes control of the host's nervous system and causes physical alterations to the host's body, such as causing its hands to deteriorate into bony 'claws', via an unknown biological process. The host then rips open its own torso, revealing the stomach and other organs, for feeding purposes. The headcrab-controlled host is called a Standard Zombie (distinct from Zombies created by other Headcrab subspecies, which have different characteristics).

A Headcrab will frequently lie in wait in dark corners or ventilation shafts for unsuspecting prey to walk by. In more open environments, the creatures are known to bury themselves in the ground to hide, then climb out to the surface and attack when a possible host draws near. Headcrabs appear to be fairly unintelligent creatures and will pursue their prey under very dangerous conditions, moving through dangerous areas or towards hostile prey, even as fellow Headcrabs die in front of them.

Headcrabs have been observed to be prey for Bullsquids, Vortigaunts, and Barnacles. Isaac Kleiner's pet Headcrab, Lamarr, seems to have a taste for watermelons, suggesting that Headcrabs are actually omnivorous, or possibly scavengers when not looking for a host. Headcrabs have also been seen cooked and eaten by humans in Black Mesa East, as well as by Vortigaunts in the Black Mesa version of Interloper, which suggest that they are used as a common food source after the extinction of most of Earth's species. Citizens in Half-Life 2: Episode One comment that "They don't taste like crab."

It is also apparently possible to "tame" a Headcrab to some extent, as evidenced by Lamarr.


  • Standard Headcrabs do not pose much of a threat to Gordon on their own. They are easily taken out, and their bite does little damage. However, they can be very irritating in combination with other enemies or in groups. Focusing on the more dangerous enemies, the player might not notice Standard Headcrabs leaping at them. In order to avoid those situations, it is preferable to keep moving at all times when Headcrabs are present. Furthermore, a crowbar to the Headcrab's underside while it is leaping will kill it in one swing, and it is fairly simple to hit the Headcrab with Gravity Gun bursts.
  • The main threat that Headcrabs pose is their numbers. It is common to find many Standard Headcrabs, often mixed in with other types of Headcrabs. In a case involving Poison Headcrabs, the Poison Headcrabs should be killed first, as their bite will drain a player's health to 1, leaving them extremely vulnerable. In smaller groups, the 9mm Pistol is ideal against Headcrabs, since its ammunition is plentiful, but the shotgun can easily replace its role in short to medium ranges. In large groups, or when mixed with other types of Headcrabs, a weapon with a larger ammo capacity, such as the SMG, is a better choice. If they are together with Zombies, a Hand Grenade can be used to take a large group of Headcrabs and Zombies out in one grenade. The shotgun is also a formidable weapon against tight groups of Headcrabs due to its spread.
  • The easiest way to deal with headcrabs in Half-Life: Alyx is shooting them as soon as they are on sight, or using a nearby object as a shield to block their attack. If a headcrab lands on the player's face, it can be either pulled off or shot off. It is also possible to bludgeon a headcrab to death using a thrown object, however this is not an advisable nor a convenient strategy as it takes several hits to kill it and melee combat in general was not built into the game play
  • An effective way to kill a headcrab with a physical object is to wait until after they leap at the player and land. There is a small window of time between their landing and recovering. This is when they're most vulnerable to physical objects. The best way to finish them is by grabbing a sizeable object, such as a monitor or file drawer, bait the headcrab to lunge, use the object as a shield to block damage and render the headcrab vulnerable, and then throw the object down on top of them. With practice, the player can kill a headcrab with one hit without spending ammo.

Behind the scenes[]

  • The Headcrab was originally to be used as a weapon in Half-Life 2, mirroring the Snark from Half-Life, as part of the Brickbat weapon. This weapon was to include other props that could be picked up and thrown on enemies by the player (spawning the Molotov cocktail in the playable Half-Life 2 Beta will show Freeman holding a Headcrab, while it appears as a regular Molotov when thrown).
  • The Fast Headcrab model was possibly the model used for the Standard Headcrab, this is because the Fast Headcrab model is named "headcrab.mdl" while the Standard Headcrab's model name is "headcrabclassic.mdl."

Trivia (In-game and fan Content)[]

  • In the mod Half-Life: Zombie Edition, the player is a Headcrab and a Zombie. Starting as a Headcrab at beginning of the game, the player must find a suitable host so that they can become a Zombie. However, if the Zombie body is destroyed, the Headcrab will automatically detach from the body, much like in Half-Life 2.
  • In Half-Life 2, the Headcrab has a minimum distance for an attack. If the player is touching it, then it will not attack but instead crawl away to reach the minimum distance. If cornered against a wall however they will attack in same manner in Half-Life, attacking without drawing away.
  • There is an unused audio file in Half-Life 1 regarding these Xen creatures. Unlike other files, a scientist literally calls them "Headcrabs" instead of "Crab" creatures.
  • In Half-Life Alpha 0.52, Headcrabs can instantly kill the player on contact.
  • It's the only enemy that is present in all Half-Life releases since Half-Life Alpha 0.52.
  • Although Gordon doesn't wear a helmet and is constantly attacked by headcrabs, it's often been brought up how he wasn’t zombified due to his head lacking any protection. This is explained in Half Life's game manual, stating that Gordon was too fast for headcrabs.




List of appearances[]


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