Set me straight

Alright, I’m usually one for guessing and postulating theories, but this is driving me crazy: can someone (without spoiling me) PLEASE explain the difference between the “Overwatch” and the “Combine”? I’ve heard both in-game, and people seem to use the terms interchangeably to refer to the alien bads. But I like to be precise in my terminology, so what’s the difference?


26 responses to “Set me straight

  1. “Overwatch” is the term used by the Combine for its military forces, or at least those in and around City 17. So the civil protection units and so on chasing poor Dr. Freeman around are part of the Combine Overwatch. I suppose it’s like the difference between a government and its military, though the Combine seems to be nothing but military.

    “Overwatch” can also refer to the Combine announcer voice, since she (it?) functions as the voice of the Overwatch.

  2. Well, strictly speaking “Combine” is the name of the aliens and/or their empire, while “Overwatch” refers to their military forces on Earth. Also, the female announcer voice you hear everywhere is referred to as the “Overwatch Voice” (and informally often just as “Overwatch”). And as you’ve heard numerous times in the games, the characters often refer to Overwatch soldiers as Combine.

    While we’re talking about this, I might as well mention that the part of Overwatch in the cities is known as “Civil Protection”, and its officers are called “Metro Cops” among other things.

    Confusing? But hopefully you have a better understanding of the terms.

    • Actually not that confusing now that you’ve explained it, and thanks for taking the time to do so. I loathe not having the proper name for something. (Okay, unless it’s Star Mole Alligator Things, but I rather like that term.)

      So MetroCops = white masked guys

      Combine = aliens

      Overwatch = voice/Combine forces on Earth.

      Got it.

      • Pretty much yea Overwatch are the higher class military combine then theres overwatch Elite and Striders and Damn your gonna HATE striders i know it

  3. Ah yes, that’s something that seems to have been completely ignored in this LP. When you’re trying to get out of the train station at the beginning, the gate that closes in front of you, so Barney can get you going in the right direction, is labeled “Nova Prospekt”. And recall this bit of dialogue between him and Dr. Kleiner:

    Kleiner: Great Scott! Gordon Freeman! I expected more warning.
    Barney: Yeah, you and me both, doc. He was about to board the express to Nova Prospekt!

    Doesn’t say much about what the place is, but it does make it seem forboding.

    • No I noticed, I just haven’t said anything because there’s really nothing to say…for the moment, it’s just a generic Bad Place. I assume from how much people have been prodding me over it that there’s a greater significance to it, but as of right now…no. *shrug*

  4. A related note; while I’m sure your efforts to avoid as many potential spoiler sources as possible has kept you far away from internet resources regarding the series, the Half-Life Wiki’s name is “Combine Overwiki”, which is of course a play on the name “Combine Overwatch”.

    • Ah yes, I have actually made fleeting use of the Overwiki, primarily during my original HL playthrough, so I could figure out the names of the enemies. (I didn’t have a fanbase or blog back then to instantly get my questions answered, so it was the only way to avoid going through the game calling headcrabs “facehugger thingies.”)

      Thank you for the tip though; I really look forward to making much more extensive use of it once Ep. 2 (and dare I hope 3?) is done.

      • I’m thinking as more and more time goes by that Episode 3 is probably long dead in whatever form it was intended to be originally, but Valve has never claimed to be done with the series. If development is still going on in any capacity, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that material provide the basis for a full third game. Hopeful.

  5. Although people have beaten me to it (and summed it up nicely), here’s my contribution:

    Overwatch indeed are the military forces on Earth (and only Earth, I believe). But it’s important to note that the Civilian Protection are more like a gendarmie, more like a paramilitary force, and are of this world. The Overwatch voice, I’m sure you’ve noticed, is using medical terminology, if you listen very closely (it took me many tries, I can only readily hear when the CP are down to their last guy, and shout, OUTBREAK, OUTBREAK, OUTBREAK).

  6. Overwatch also tends to be used more for the thinky part of the Combine operation. Whatever equivalent the Combine has to officers, or the guys who put the “secret” in “secret police”. Whoever is directing all these guys, whoever is gathering information, whoever is… well, you know. Overwatching.

  7. have you also seen the phsychological effects of the combine (a guy mentioned drugged water) there was a woman in the beginning who talked about her husband, and her dialogue became inreasingly disjointed.

    • Mm, I have indeed. I’m still not quite sure what to make of it though, and I’m holding off judgement til we see more of the world and the characters. I mean, drugging the water seems unlikely as a) it’s totally unnecessary, and b) unless the resistance all have their own bottled water supply, they (and plenty of other people) seem to be remembering things just fine.

      • Actually, that guy who talks about the water in the train station? Look around him, and you’ll note that he’s surrounded by bottles of alcohol in paper bags. I always interpreted this as meaning that irregardless of how screwed up Earth was, in the end, he was nothing but a rambling drunk, and the reason he didn’t remember coming to the station was due to his heavy drinking.

  8. they could have bottled there own water. a purifier may be possible. the crying couple by the way almost made me cry with them.

    • I suppose it’s possible. That’s a hell of a lot of fresh water needed all over the City (and outside it, since I believe they said Eli’s lab isn’t in the city). I think it would be hard to ensure that.

      Honestly, as of right now I chalk what that guy said about the water up to paranoia. Sure, it seems like something the Combine MIGHT do–but why bother? They aren’t trying to fool anyone; this is 1984, not Brave New World. Drugging people into submission just doesn’t seem to fit what I’ve seen of the Combine’s MO so far.

      • Well part of the beta plot was that they where terraforming the Earths atmosphere so they could breath on it and everyone had to where gasmasks so they could have compleate control.

      • I’m not so sure. When you consider that Dr. Breen admits the Combine has suppressed human reproduction, then the Combine is already exercising biochemical technology to modify people’s gene expression. They’ve got the means, and they certainly lack the scruples, so what have they got to lose?

        If you’ll remember that other guy at the station who constantly repeats the same two points, I’ve taken him to demonstrate the memory drug on a mind desperately resisting its effect.

  9. Fun fact: The voice actress for Glados, Ellen McLain, is the same person who voices the Combine Overwatch Announcer!


    The Combine mass produces war criminals, both in its soldiers, and in its enemies.

    Overwatch are these manufactured war criminals, or at least the ones that are still of use.

    “Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, dass er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein.”

    ***END MESSAGE***

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