Half Life 2: While you were sleeping

So at this point we (and by “we” I mean “I”) still know next to nothing about what the hell is going on here. Which I don’t actually mind, since I’m in the exact same boat my buddy Gordon is right now–last thing he knew, he was put in stasis (teleported?) by this weird alien creature (after apparently being tricked into committing genocide on an entire race and conquering a planet for him), and the next, he’s woken up in some kind of future (parallel?) reality, witnessed horrible things, beaten, and forced (again) to fight and kill for his life, while still having almost no clue as to what’s actually happened.

That is a bad effin’ day, guys.

Okay, now that I’m actually thinking about it, parallel reality doesn’t make sense–other characters have reference the Black Mesa incident, and everyone has recognized Gordon. And if you listen to G-Man’s speech, he says, “your hour has come again” [emphasis mine]. I think that makes it pretty clear we’re dealing with the future, here–a future that is at least partially a direct result of whatever happened at Black Mesa–and more importantly, a future that has grown out of Grodon’s actions on Xen. (That’s kind of a big assumption on my part right now, but it feels like a natural one.)

Some other thoughts, in no particular order:

– A question: I have been comfortably referring to Earth’s…er…”benefactors” as Breen the Skunk(tm) calls them, as aliens, and no one has corrected me. I honestly can’t remember if I actually have a reason to think that at this point (was it in a Breencast?), if I just assumed it and am right, or if I read it in the comments or a message somewhere and just went with it. (Not that aliens being the big bads here are a huge shock–I mean, they were the bad guys of the first. Makes sense that some sort of aliens would be the bad guys in the sequel.)

– Barney, Dr. Kleiner, Alex (and Lamaar!) are awesome. I don’t know much about them and the resistance and all that at this point, but they are still awesome.

– Some of the graffiti and posters I’ve been seeing are quite…interesting. I think I’ll hold off til I’ve seen more and know more about the plot though; I have a feeling they’ll warrant their own post.

– If this is Eastern Europe, WHY IS EVERYONE NORTH AMERICAN AND SPEAKING ENGLISH?? And how did everyone get from Nevada to here?? Is this really the U.S., and all of the Cyrillic looking letters are just a code or alien language or something?

– G-Man. Holy crap, G-Man. I’ve written about him before, but now things have gotten REALLY weird. We know from the end of HL1 that he isn’t–he CAN’T–be human. We know he (or more specifically, his “employer”) saw something in Gordon, and wanted to save him, evidently for this moment. We also know Gordon was specifically used by G-Man (or again, his employer) as a tool for getting the Black Mesa Incident under control (?), invading Xen, and killing Nihilanth. But why did G-Man want those things? It wasn’t to allow Earth to be destroyed/invaded, right? Because if that was the case, why is he bringing Gordon back NOW? (Surely G-Man knows that Gordon will do everything he can to thwart the bad guys and free Earth?)

– If these are aliens, why haven’t we seen one yet? So far I’ve only killed humans working for them. And barnacles. (And apparently I missed a headcrab somewhere.) Which reminds me:

– How in the bloody hell are Xen creatures ending up on Earth NOW?

*Reminder: these are just musings and rhetorical questions. (Except for the ‘how do I know it’s aliens again?’ one.) Please do not spoil future events in the game for me. Thanks.*

Also, some amazing, awesome readers have pointed me in the direction of the web comic Concerned. It may be my favorite thing I’ve ever found on the internet. Now, for obvious reasons I haven’t read beyond #15 yet (I tried to go to #16, and caught sight of an enemy I haven’t seen yet, so I clicked out.) I’m counting on you guys to let me know when it’s safe to go on to the next batch–not being able to read these is actually harder than not playing HL2 was! (That includes letting me know if seeing the enemy in #16 will be a spoiler if I read it–just giving me an issue number it will be safe for me to read up to at regular intervals would be much appreciated.)

As an English teacher, of course, my favorite comic so far was this:


Christopher C. Livingston, you are AWESOME.


41 responses to “Half Life 2: While you were sleeping

  1. Alot of what happend inbetween will be explained will be shown in a few or more episodes depending on how you progress.

    And due to a hacking 2003 alot of npcs where taken out.

    Also aparently the Xen cretures wernt from Xen and where fleeing from the Combine, and from what i think was going on there the Nihlanth was making a clone army, I dont know if this is cannon or not.

    By the way whos side do you think is G-Man on?

  2. Well, we don’t know how far the “after shocks” of the Resinence Cascade had gone, or how long they lasted. Headcrabs, eyehounds, and bullsquids could have astablished breeding populations. Barnicals probubly reproduce through spores and could have bin sent alover the world by the wind.

    And about news papers: unfortanity you can only read the headlines(no matter how high you put the grafix) but the ones on the wall of Eli’s lab have some clues about the events between games.

    And about not seeing our “Combine Masters”: we have, during the teliporter F-up. look behind Breen when he says “The man I saw, it looked like… Gordon Freeman!” in the unbugged version he is talking to… it?… and turns drematicly when he notecs Gordon is back in his office.

        • Have played, have thought, have watched. Will also say no more.

          Will cast doubt on your claims, however.

          (Also, will suggest that your decision to say no more on that specific area of discussion is a good decision to have made, and will hope that you honor that decision in the hours and days to come.)

  3. You do get a glimpse of the true “face” of the Combine when you pop into Breen’s office during the malfunctioning teleport sequence – let’s just say that he’s talking to someone who definitely isn’t from Earth. Dialogue and certain events later in the game will give you a little more information about how the Combine came to Earth, and where they came from.

    Also, Concerned just gets funnier and funnier as you get further into it. Unfortunately, the pages immediately after #15 not only spoil an enemy type (or at least their appearance) that won’t show up for quite a while, but also showcases a weapon you won’t see for a long time. Sorry Hawke, you may have to wait a while.

    That being said, you have to see this particular comic: http://www.hlcomic.com/index.php?date=2005-06-27
    It’s spoiler free and neatly explains something that might have been bugging you during your playthrough.

    • HA! Yes, you can click that one.

      As for… “You do get a glimpse of the true “face” of the Combine when you pop into Breen’s office during the malfunctioning teleport sequence – let’s just say that he’s talking to someone who definitely isn’t from Earth.”

      Eh. Insufficient data currently available for analysis.

      _Would_ be accurate to say that you get a glimpse of a Combine entity who does not seem subordinate to Breen, and who definitely has not shown a human or otherwise terrestrial-seeming face.

  4. Hmm, well, from what I’ve been reading, (and since you want to avoid spoilers), you should skip to comic #31. After that, there will be no spoilers until #60, where there will be a spoiler about what you’ll be doing for the next part of the game. Until then, I think you’ll be safe. Be warned though- Concerned is best viewed after completion of the game. While for the most part it sticks to the part of the game its in, but sometimes it references later plot points. Read at your own risk.

    • I just recognized something in #38 she wouldn’t see for a while, so I expect she’d want to avoid that. The critter in #16 is actually from HL, but you didn’t see it that often so I’m not surprised she didn’t recognize it.

      But the truth is, it’s hard to be confident just from looking at the art what is “safe”, because the dialogue can reveal secrets too (file under Not Surprising). Not all the reveals of the game count as plot, monsters or weapons, just the most obvious. If SoldierHawke wants to continue to play HL2 blind, I’d feel it would be best if she simply held off on Concerned until she’s finished.

  5. Pleasse Hawke, stop calling G-Man an Alien (not human? there I’m behind you100%), Alien just doesn’t feel right, call it a gut feeling. Here, let me show you this math fourmula I’ve bin working on for the last 30 seconds:

    G-Man = Alien? No… ish
    G-Man = Human? fuck NO
    G-Man = G? Duh!
    G = Q? maybe?
    Q = Q? uhh…

    Therefor G-Man is a varry creepy version Q from Star Trek!
    or is just a Mcguffin… that is not an Alien (or human).

    • HAH! Well, technically speaking, if G-Man isn’t human, he’s alien by definition. 😉

      But I understand what you’re saying–that you don’t think he’s part of some intergalactic race. I have been wondering a great deal about who his employers are. Perhaps he actually IS a G-Man of sorts–hired by the goverment(s) to arrange things on humanity’s behalf? That certainly seems like what he’s been doing up til now.

      • … true, but the turm “alien” seem far to… normal(?) to have aply to him.

        He also could be human (or was and is not anymore), and is just a tool the “Empoyers” use to manage Gordon and any others they have “working” for them.

        The G-Man might be working on his own now, using Gordon for his own personal ends.

        This is an Abyss that is not to be gazed into… or is it a mirror? It can be hard to tell…

  6. (The following post is speculation based ENTIRELY on what you’ve seen up to this point. Later events may or may not confirm or deny any or all of the ideas advanced herein.)

    With regard to the Europe thing, you have heard one line that you might find relevant. “Welcome–welcome to City 17. You have chosen, or been chosen, to relocate to one of our finest remaining urban centers.”

    I think we’re being herded.

    And as for aliens… Breen has been using “we” and “our” to refer to the entire human race, thus far, which implies that he doesn’t consider (or doesn’t want US to consider) “our benefactors” as merely human. We’ve also seen them employing a number of at least vaguely biological-looking Things which don’t seem very earthlike in origin; that spider-thing outside the plaza, the flying things during your rooftop escape, and that eyeless thing Breen was talking to on the computer screen in his office.

    And, of course, we’ve been seeing a consistent aesthetic theme and level of technology which, although seemingly based on human designs, doesn’t much resemble anything human-made I’ve ever seen. (The black trains, the APCs, the suit chargers, the doorlocks, the checkpoint barricadey things, the Citadel itself, et cetera.)

    So–as of Route Kanal, at least, one reasonable explanation COULD be that we are dealing with some sort of Illuminati transhumanist cabal, using extraplanar technology and Black Mesa-level crazygenius to rule over our world as some sort of bureaucratic posthuman godhead.

    Or, of course, it could be actual aliens using extraplanar technology and the resources of their already-established sinister Orwellian transdimensional collective to rule over our world as some sort of bureaucratic posthuman godhead.

    (Or it could be neither of the above.)

    In your shoes I think I would be incline toward the second theory, although now that I think about it the first one does strike an intriguingly Deus Exy chord.

    • Holy shit, I never even CONSIDERED the whole ‘invasion might be fake for the sake of consolidating HUMAN power” angle.

      However, I agree that (especially given the G-Man’s involvement and what we saw in the first game) is extraordinarily unlikely. It would be a good twist, but it would also be a fairly cheap one, and if there is ONE thing that I’ve learned Valve doesn’t do, it’s cheap.

      Also: I frigging LOVE the original Deus Ex! Are you excited for Human Revolution? 😀

  7. Some of the questions you asked will be addressed by things you’ll see in Eli’s lab. Some of them maybe only Mr. Laidlaw knows the answers to.

    They’re right about completing the game before reading Concerned. As early as #3, there’s a reference to something you haven’t seen yet. Not a spoiler, but you certainly won’t get it until you’ve progressed quite a bit.

    Speaking of Half-Life–based comedy, how much of Freeman’s Mind have you seen? Now that you’re done with HL1, it’s safe to watch it, although it’s far from finished. As long as it took you to get through HL1, it’s taking Ross Scott even longer to make FM. Like Valve’s games, though, his videos are worth the wait.

    • Sigh, yeah, waiting til I’m done seems to be the consensus. (Dammit!) I don’t have to wait til the end of Episode 2 though, right?

      Believe it or not, I haven’t seen Freeman’s Mind beyond the first, I think. I know it’s much beloved, but I just don’t find it quite as funny as everyone else seems to. However, it’s been a long time since I’ve tried it–maybe I’ll give it another go now that I have more context.

      • Well, obviously there isn’t that much happening in the first episode of FM, just the tram ride, so of course the comedy isn’t there at that point. Many of the good jokes and other humor come out of the various events in the game proper, especially the ridiculous things you see and have to do as a player that would make no sense in the real world. (Does that make sense?)

  8. Regarding you question about eastern Europe and why everyone speaks english. The combine regularly shuffles people around the remaining cities, (the two guys in the train at the beginning are complaining about freguent relocations), Probably to keep people off balance and plyable.
    Imposing conformity of language and culture is logically one meathod of control in an dicatorship of this sort.

    • Brilliant, I think that’s gotta be it. Also, if this is their base of operations so to speak, it’s quite possible that they killed and/or moved the entire population to lessen the chance of resistance. People imported from the other side of the globe are far less likely to start an uprising than those fighting for their homes, I think.

  9. About everyone speaking in English; part of it could be the explanation given by Nodikus; it may also simply be Translation Convention (as explained by TVTropes on http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TranslationConvention ).

    About you thinking that the enemies are aliens: I think the biggest in-game thing that would give that feeling is Dr. Breen’s speech about mankind’s “reproductive cycle being suppressed”.

    Here is a transcript of it (found on IMDb):
    Let me read a letter I recently received. ‘Dear Dr. Breen. Why has the Combine seen fit to suppress our reproductive cycle? Sincerely, A Concerned Citizen.’ Thank you for writing, Concerned. Of course your question touches on one of the basic biological impulses, with all its associated hopes and fears for the future of the species. I also detect some unspoken questions. Do our benefactors really know what’s best for us? What gives them the right to make this kind of decision for mankind? Will they ever deactivate the suppression field and let us breed again? Allow me to address the anxieties underlying your concerns, rather than try to answer every possible question you might have left unvoiced. First, let us consider the fact that for the first time ever, as a species, immortality is in our reach. This simple fact has far-reaching implications. It requires radical rethinking and revision of our genetic imperatives. It also requires planning and forethought that run in direct opposition to our neural pre-sets. I find it helpful at times like these to remind myself that our true enemy is Instinct. Instinct was our mother when we were an infant species. Instinct cuddled us and kept us safe in those hardscrabble years when we hardened our sticks and cooked our first meals above a meager fire and started at the shadows that leapt upon the cavern’s walls. But inseparable from Instinct is its dark twin, Superstition. Instinct is inextricably bound to unreasoning impulses, and today we clearly see its true nature. Instinct has just become aware of its irrelevance, and like a cornered beast, it will not go down without a bloody fight. Instinct would inflict a fatal injury on our species. Instinct creates its own oppressors, and bids us rise up against them. Instinct tells us that the unknown is a threat, rather than an opportunity. Instinct slyly and covertly compels us away from change and progress. Instinct, therefore, must be expunged. It must be fought tooth and nail, beginning with the basest of human urges: The urge to reproduce. We should thank our benefactors for giving us respite from this overpowering force. They have thrown a switch and exorcised our demons in a single stroke. They have given us the strength we never could have summoned to overcome this compulsion. They have given us purpose. They have turned our eyes toward the stars. Let me assure you that the suppressing field will be shut off on the day that we have mastered ourselves… the day we can prove we no longer need it. And that day of transformation, I have it on good authority, is close at hand.

    Most enlightening to your question, in my opinion, are the bits: “as a species, immortality is at hand”, “the strength we never could have summoned” (implying that the benefactors can not have been originally human, or else they would be living examples of the contrary) and “They have turned our eyes toward the stars.”

    • No, I think I agree with Nodikus. There’s nothing to indicate that any of these folks are actually native to the area, and I believe that Valve is good enough that, if they WANTED Eastern European looking and sounding characters, they would do it.

  10. Why is everyone white in Eastern Europe? Who do you think live there? Africans or Chinese maybe? BTW love your LP, but please, do not support this geographical and political ignorance stereotype that stuck to Americans.

    • That’s not quite fair to suggest, vort1, not when she’s demonstrating curiosity about geography and asking for independent confirmation. We can’t help but start from ignorance, but we can seek to expand our understanding, which was exactly what she was doing.

      As for the use of English, on the one hand there are strong meta-narrative justifications for that, such as emotional accessibility and commercial viability, but of course we want to find good internal justifications. Well, let’s consider that Dr. Breen has to re-appropriate existing cultural artifacts and institutions for social control, just as he re-appropriates our railroads for inexpensive material distribution. English has become a dominant language, and probably Dr. Breen’s own if he was a native American. There could be some surviving English-speaking institutions which have been brought in, CP-like, into the Combine. Then when you consider the distribution of languages in technical, scientific & engineering literature, English is predominant. So English is a sensible choice for your alien-collaborationist human tyranny.

      But San Francisco or New York would be a poor choice for the headquarters, politically. As Machiavelli explained, http://www.constitution.org/mac/prince05.htm, you would expect those cities to be remain rebellious for a long time. That is a poor quality to have in your fortress. But if you moved a large English-speaking population into a place that is foreign to them, they would have a harder time attempting to effectively resist and, looking for stability, you could more easily integrate them into your new institution.

      • Hmm, well there might be another reson US citys are not being used.

        [what fallows is my personal theroy, and is not a spioler]

        In the event of an alien invation, I would expect the world’s nuclear arsonal to be used, and the invation likely came through(or at laest started) at the “rift” at Black Mesa, leading me to beleve that the U.S.(or at lest a part of it) is now nuked to hell. A literal Scorched Eath Policy if you will.

        Also, I think the Cidadel was not bilt on Earth, but was teliported/droped into place from… THERE… after the invation. it seems hard to belive that it was bild in the short(?) time between Half Life 1 and 2, even with Combine tech.

    • I’m sorry if I offended. I think it’s fairly clear from the context of the question that I was asking “why is this game populated by nothing but anglo-Americans, and–although it is set in Eastern Europe–has not one character that has the generally understood complexion, accent or facial features of an Eastern European.” But that would have been a lot longer and awkward to type. I wasn’t trying to stereotype.

      • What vort1 was getting at is that many white Americans look like Eastern Europeans. That is the general area where white “caucasians” came from. (I found a forum discussing specifically the appearance of Eastern Europeans: http://www.polishforums.com/genealogy-ancestry-6/typical-polish-look-all-eastern-europeans-13823/) Perhaps something specific caught your eye about the people of City 17, but it seems reasonable to me that the residents we’ve seen could be native.

        It was a good question, particularly because of the “Independence Day” effect of alien invasions appearing to only involve the United States. Commendably Half Life 2 reminds us that there are places that matter besides NYC or LA.

        • No, I understand what his point was, and it’s a fair one. But I do think it’s also very clear that all of the NPC’s we’ve met so far are intended to be North American in origin, *especially* given their accents. (Valve is not lazy, and could easily have hired Eastern European voice actors–or had their voice actors put on an accent–if that’s what they intended.) Now, if none of the characters talked, or if it was made clear that this is their NATIVE home, than yeah. But the voices so far have been nothing but flat, West Coast American accents.

          • True, true. The city 17 residents don’t sound like Europeans at all. I have been inclined to think as well that most of them come from elsewhere, probably NA as you suggest. But now I’m wondering how they got here, considering that there’s no transatlantic or transpacific rail lines.

        • OH, I completely left off the most important thing which was: all that I’ve said aside, “white” was definitely the incorrect choice of words there. I’m more than happy to edit it to “North American” (which would have been a much better description), if no one feels that that would be trying to cover up and/or hide my error.

  11. On the rail lines, I was wondering the same thing. I suspect, given the level of technology we’ve seen, that the Combine are perfectly capable of constructing them though. Or perhaps they have built/make use of airports, then use the train system to take people to their final destination.

    • well, plans need runways, and that requires a large open space, witch would be hard to defent from attack.

      also, I think the combine are smart enuf to look at earth’s history and know that large air tranport+rebles+skyscraper= no more skyscraper.

      Sorry if that offended some one, but it is true.

    • I suspect the Combine have restricted aircraft, but just because I haven’t seen any doesn’t mean they’re not still flying around somewhere. I should probably not say any more.

  12. okay well since ive NEVER played the game and yet read everything about half life and portal on there combined wiki, this is my take on things:

    the combine (in terminology) is either a group of several different sentient species banded together to conquer the rest of the universe, or it is one species conquering the universe and forcing the other species they conquer to work with them, thus making them “the combine”.

    now, it was g man of course that actually caused the resonance cascade on purpose, as you probably already know, but he wanted this to happen, of course, so that mr. freeman would destroy the nihilanth so the combine would “supposedly”
    take xen for themselves.

    but i dont think that the g man works for the combine. i think g man’s “employers” are some much higher race than the combine, some kind of god like figures.

    he set up the whole thing so that the combine could invade earth, but i think this is because he wants to lure them to earth so that mr. freeman can destroy them.

    so although g man does alot of things that make you second guess your current opinion about him, i think he’s actually some kind of good guy.

    ghost out. i am never saying that again. and this comment is DAMNED long.

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