But who will be left for them to rule?

So apparently the Combine have weaponized headcrabs. This is not something I had foreseen. (And apparently some of these headcrabs come pre-stocked with explosives, but that’s another blog entry.)

Aside from just being a cool idea, let’s step back for a moment and think about this logically. When humans conquer something, what’s the usual objective? Power, right? (Not that there aren’t other motives, but we’ll get to those in a moment.) If the Combine is launching zombie-creating headcrabs at people–rendering entire areas inconvenient to reclaim at best–then this means one of two things: they don’t care about humans, or they don’t care about land. (Or maybe they care about neither one.) Maybe we’ll learn which later on–maybe the Combine actually will send troops in to clean out the area. Or maybe they’ll be content to let all the non-City areas become post-apocalyptic nightmares, which is exactly what will happen if they use this weapon regularly.

Which choice the Combine makes is actually very important. See, we know they want to keep humans alive–clearly they have systems in place to provide for them at least minimally, and aside from that, they didn’t exterminate the species on invading, which it seems they could have done fairly easily if they had wanted to. So we serve some purpose to them. Slave labor, maybe? All of those City citizens must have jobs–perhaps they’re being forced to work for the Combine. (What a human could possibly do that would benefit such a technological species is beyond me, but then humans have found uses for slaves in all sorts of cultures, so who knows.) Clearly they DON’T care enough about humans to worry about infecting an entire countryside’s worth of population though. (Unless, like I said, they have some clean up plan in place–but that would be a LOT of resources to spend, when they could have just used regular rockets and weapons instead, if it was something they cared about.)

I’m going to assume that the Combine understands resource management, and thus doesn’t care about reclaiming the places they’ve infected. That pretty well eliminates land and power as a motivation for them. This has gone from 1984 to something far, far worse, just like that. Even the Party, while it certainly wasn’t shy about killing those who opposed it, wanted as many bodies under it’s control as possible–more people, more power, more laborers too. But this seems to demonstrate that the Combine are oddly indifferent to that. This is especially troubling given the elaborate systems they have in place for supporting humans within the City. They clearly NEED humans–but they don’t need ALL the humans they can get. And they don’t need our land either.

I suppose their motive could be resources–if you’re going to use magic alien tech to strip mine an area (or whatever), I guess you don’t really care one way or the other if it was covered in zombies before you started laser-drilling. If that was the case though, wouldn’t it have been easier to simply exterminate the humans before sucking the world dry? And why haven’t we seen any evidence of that at all, if resource gathering is indeed their goal?

No, the Combine want humans. But they don’t care WHAT humans, and they don’t care if many are needlessly lost along the way. This is getting into Twilight Zone “To Serve Man” territory. And while I doubt they’re using us for food (and they’re not right? Because that would be stupid), whatever cog we ARE serving as must be far from pleasant. And I have the distinct and very nasty feeling we haven’t even seem the tip of the iceberg yet. (Also, I’m only like four hours into the game, and there’s no way Valve would tip their whole hand this early.)

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48 responses to “But who will be left for them to rule?

  1. The explanation for why the Combine are infesting areas with headcrabs can be found right at the start of the game. Remember good old Breen’s saying “It’s safer here” about City 17 back in the train station?

    The more unbearable life is for the people outside the Combine-controlled cities, the more their wonderful Orwellian dictatorship looks like the best option out of a bunch of awful ones. At least with the Combine there’d be the hope things might improve. Headcrabs aren’t likely to change their ways anytime soon, wIth the possible exception of Lamarr.

    And I don’t think the world has enough watermelon left to feed millions of de-beaked headcrabs. I mean, have you seen any watermelon farms so far?

    • I would agree, except for the fact that the Combine make no secret of the fact that they are the ones doing the infesting. Since they seem to be trying to extract at least some amount of cooperation from humanity, and it would be counterproductive.

      • Who says it’s not a secret? These headcrab shells seme afective in killing that rebel camp with Gordon as the only serviver(the lady that gave you the airbout is found dead if you back-track). So maybe only a few rebels know, and they’re the ones living out side the city anyway…

        as for why? Zombies are easyer to kill(rebels have guns), and headcrabs might be able to get in to undergound bases(you know how they love vents) that normal bombs can’t?

        • Perhaps. I don’t think there’s any way a headcrab rocket can’t have collateral damage though–and they seem to be making no attempts to DISGUISE what they’re doing. So I dunno.

          • Not sure the average citizen would know for certain that the Combine was using headcrab shells. Breen might be saying over and over that those shells are purely conventional ones being used to destroy “terrorist camps”. Repeat a lie enough and at least some people will believe it, especially if you control all offical media channels.

            Also, there probably aren’t that many citizens or rebels that actually have direct experience with the things. Or rather, those that have are now mostly stumbling around in no fit state to be interviewed about it.

            Then again, it’s true the Combine doesn’t seem to really care about its public image. But even if people know that they’re the ones responsible, where else can they go?

  2. Good points all, Daniel. I think its probably true the Combine could cover up their actions if they wanted to–it just doesn’t seem likely to me that they’d bother.

    A commenter over on YT brought up the whole disinterest with human life, and connected it to the Suppression Field, which is VERY interesting indeed–I hadn’t even thought of that. Basically what the Combine are doing, then, is putting in place and running an elaborate system to provide humans with what they need to survive, and then cutting off any chance that their human ‘supply’ will be replenished. Very, very odd behavior indeed.

    • I don’t think the game ever really makes it clear one way or another, but I’d guess the Suppression Field is just one more means of control. Breen actually mentions in one of his broadcasts that the Field will be taken down the day it becomes unncessary.

      Perhaps it’s the carrot to the various sticks the Combine has – be a good little citizen, do as you’re told, and maybe we’ll let you reproduce and your species continue. Of course, given how advanced Combine technology is, maybe they don’t even need people reproducing the old-fashioned way to get as many humans as they need, and they want to ensure their monopoly on the business.

      • Ah yes, I remember that Breencast–personally I didn’t buy that for a second though. I’ve read too many books (and read too much history) to believe a despot when he says, “all you have to do is X, and everything will be fine.”

        Of course, it’s POSSIBLE–though unlikely–that Breen is a victim himself. (I doubt it; he seems way too sincere and sure of himself really.) It could be argued that it’s also a plea of the hopeless, “stop giving daddy a reason to drink and get angry” variety.

        I’m pretty sure he’s just a jerk working with the Combine though. Something about the way he said, “It’s *safer* here.” Ugh.

        • The next chapter in HL2 will give you a bit more info on Breen and exactly what he did to receive his current position. I don’t think you’ll be impressed, though some might argue his actions saved humanity, no matter his personal motives.

          Though you might ask “saved for what?”

  3. Simply put, the headcrab shells are terror weapons. Think of when Saddam Hussein carpet bombed rebellious townships with nerve gas during the 90s. It wasn’t that he didn’t want people to rule over or that he didn’t have some purpose for them, it was simply to say “If you revolt, we have utterly no problem in ensuring you are destroyed in the most horrendous way possible.” Likewise with the Combine.

  4. I actually think that, from the combine perspective, headcrab artillery is a superb area denial weapon. If the combine wants to elimnate rebel presense in an area but don’t give a shit about the area itself what are thier option. If they send in troops they loose resourses fighting. They could just bomb it but again, resources. In both cases they’s have to station troops to make sure the rebels don’t come back furture wasting resources.

    With the headcrabs, not only do the rebels loose personel and munitions from the attack and ifestation but also completely loose access to the area. If they want to take it back they loose even more from fighting the Zombies and just risk more shells. Your average headcrab dosn’t seem to travel that far so the the infestation would be relatively contained and if the combine wanted too cleasing the area would be relatively easy for combine technology.

    Add the terror value and the head crab shells are actually fairly practical and efficient.

  5. I’ve skimmed the comments, and I’m probably repeating what many are saying, but Headcrab shells serve a couple different ends:

    Area Denial: Headcrabs are biological mines (digging under the sand, waiting to attack), and may infect humans, who also, en masse, lie in wait (they also do something else, but I’m not going to spoil it for you).

    Terror Tactic: Headcrabs route enemy forces through death or zombie-conversion, thus creating natural barriers where humans cannot escape through very well. It helps help the populace under the boot of Breen.

    Rapid Dominance (S&A): Those torpedo-like, artillery bombardments are jarring physically, and psychologically. Those who don’t know what is in them will be very rattled up by the fact that they are on the receiving end of a salvos they can’t retaliate from. Those who *do* know them and have survived one before know exactly how damning the Headcrabs can and will be, and will panic them and others (especially since experienced rebels are likely leaders, this can be catastrophic for command and control).

    Flanking: Headcrabs can be released to upset and disrupt the actions of rebel soldiers, and before things get too out of hand, combined with an air assault combine force or something similar to dispatch the fleeing, riled rebels that might otherwise have been too dug in or have superior tactical advantage.

    Manhacks provide a similar function as an area denial weapon, as well as a weapon that occupies the immediate attention of rebel forces while combine move in and apply lethal force. Headcrabs serve multiple rolls that Manhacks can’t, but you’ll notice that the combine have two very powerful weapons for eliminating rebels without endangering combine soldiers.

    In addition, it’s mentioned a couple times that human kind can’t breed, due to a field that’s been erected (whether on purpose or as a technological byproduct is uncertain to Dr. Kleiner when you first meet.) which makes any deaths of human that much more dangerous for the whole species.

  6. There is one really simple reason the Combine have to keep the human race alive and there hurcules’s heel should be explaind shortly.

  7. If the Combine have a suppression field for humans, might they have one for headcrabs (however they reproduce)? Or simply neuter all the headcrabs before they release them. If their headcrabs can’t breed in the wild, and they’re inclined to take the long view, then they can simply wait for the headcrabs die off on their own to reclaim areas.

    Obviously, they’re going to kill a bunch people in the process, but they clearly don’t have any great regard for human life anyway. And if they cared about population in the medium-term, they wouldn’t be running the suppression field. If they care about humans at all, it’s clearly a long-term proposition, where they can increase the population later (presumably after they crush the resistance) as long as they maintain a critical mass in their cities now.

  8. well it’s realy not well expained what the combine empire(that is what they are right?) want from their conquests.
    My gess is that they slowly convert “the best” of the local population into soldiers and their thechnology into weapons, sap the planet of usefull resorces(or maybe just use it as manufacturing for more weapons/soldier training), and then go off and concqure someplace else.

  9. PLEASE READ! i noticed that this subject in your post has not been addressed fully. you mentioned the combine turning non-city areas into alien infested wastelands. The green lightning that teleports aliens in half life were called portal storms. now what if these storms turned most of the earth into a xen habitat BEFORE the combine arrived, as a result of the resonance cascade> p.s this was revealed in one of the newspapers you saw hanging in the trainstation. p.p.s you dont know if the combine are draining our rescources, so here is a hint: look at the coast.

    • sammy, that news paper is in eli’s lab not the train station, same goes for the stuff invalving the portal storms.(also repaly HL2 and the episiods, read the wiki, and don’t use turmenaligy unless it has bin said ingame)

      In turn we have NO confermation for how long it was between the Black Mesa Incident and the Combine Invadsion(wich has a specal name listed on one of those newspapers)

  10. let me make one thing clear. i know what im talking about and if you look closely you will find it. and another thing i know the story of half life to the point i can recite most of the g-man speeches to heart, so please dont tell me to do something that i already would have done if i had a question. no hard feelings though.

    • yeah, you kinda’ did… I exept your apology.

      There realy is no such thing as an expert when it comes to the time between HL1 and 2. Laidlaw leaves us with almost no solid ground to place things on, and any that we do have could fall apart an any moment.
      Hell that goes for anything that doesn’t happen right in front of our eyes in the game, if you think about it…

  11. Once you hit reach Black Mesa East some of the conversations hint at some of this stuff. Especially if you play around with the toys and look at the newspapers.

  12. guh…….. i was saying that my source is something you missed at the trainstation. yes, Technically, the thing i mentioned becomes more obvious later on. i am telling you the truth about you missing it. in fact i saw you right in front of it in your first vid. p.s. Good luck on finding a career as an english teacher, i know how hard it is to find a job these days, and i would hate to have you be jobless.

    • Technically we’re all “jobless” once we graduate from University unless lady luck is on our side and we manage to find a job straight away…

      However, that only happens in fairy tales & nursery rhymes. And maybe Zen.

      Graduates aren’t esssentially happy to begin having 30% of our life stolen to enrich the owners of a company making useless shit that other idiots will buy.

      …But welfare blows, and those study loans won’t pay themselves. *shudders*

  13. one more thing, it is pretty much safe to read my first post. although i am impressed on how much you have figured out. most lpers dont pay any attention.

  14. On the Combine’s goals: they’re not stated explicitly in the game itself (but then, very few things are. Valve are keen on environmental storytelling, not HERE IS MY PLOT LET ME SPLAIN IT TO U).

    There’s an excellent book called Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, which contains a lot of semi canon backstory / information.

    One of the things the the combine are doing, according to Raising The Bar, is, as you / someone suggested, strip mining the planet. There was an early concept for a giant teleporter “Drain” in the oceans, and other evidence of Earth’s resources being depleted. At one stage in the game’s development, the Combine were even doing something to the atmosphere.

    So yeah – they don’t really need humans. I suppose they don’t really feel the need to exterminate them, either – they come in handy for some things, and they more or less regulate themselves – civil protection, thought police, double think and propaganda (we have always been at war with eurasia) keep everyone in line.

    There’s also some tenuous evidence that the Nihalanth was under their control, or had escaped it, or something. He was wearing chains, at least.

    Anyway – I’m loving the Let’s Play, it’s excellent watching people enjoy something for the first time, especially when they can be eloquent and witty about it. Keep it up!

    (although, I do sometime yell at your videos. Along the lines of : “The Ladder! On the left! You fool!”. But we’ve all done stuff like that before).

    • Laidlaw confirmed that the Nahillanth was an escaped slave of the Combine, hiding in Xen with his slaves(vorts).

      Now for my speculation: I believe that Nahillanth was to his world what Breen is to ours. He then took the combine forces under his control for his own, and left.

      • That’s actually plausible – I’d not looked at it like that, the Nihalanth being a Xen counterpart to Breen. Not Xen – wherever they came from before hiding out in Xen.
        I suppose the Vorts are just the equivalents of the transhuman soldiers.

        The vortigaunts have a really rough time of it. Out of the frying pan…..

        I think the Nihalanth also knows about the G man.

      • Oh. my. gosh.

        I hesitate to say too much on Hawke’s forum, but having gotten this idea, I can imagine Dr. Breen’s and G-Man’s relationship much differently. All this time we’d been assuming that Dr. Breen was working “with” the Combine, and G-Man was working “with” us.

        Of this new schema that comes to mind, I’m not perfectly convinced it is true. But it would explain so much, and would be so perfectly horrible.

  15. First off, let me just say that I love your Let’s Plays, although as others have said, I am prone to the old fashioned “Its to the left! No! Your other left!’ commentary when watching them. You were also given a shout out by the Spoiler Warning team, I don’t know if you had noticed that or not.

    I don’t know if anyone has mentioned it to yet, but a few things you were wondering about, that are not spoilers…

    1) GlaDOS and the Combine Announcer sound the same because they are the same VA.

    2) The sub-machine gun is based, somewhat loosely, on the Heckler & Koch MP7

    • Ah, thank you so much for the complement (and the info!) I have heard about the SW shout out, which is thus far the highlight of my online ‘career’ (such as it is) since Shamus and Rutskarn are two of my favorite writers/LPers. I haven’t actually watched the ep, since I’m sure they discuss things that happen later on in the game, but I’ll check it out as soon as HL2 is done. 😀

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