The Combine, also referred to as the Universal Union, is a fictional multidimensional empire, which serves as the primary antagonist force in the Half-Life video game series, developed by Valve Corporation. The Combine consist of alien, synthetic and human elements, and dominate Earth. They are regularly encountered throughout Half-Life 2 and its episodic expansions as hostile non-player character as the player progresses through the games in an effort to overthrow the Combine occupation of Earth.
The Combine are frequently shown as harsh rulers over the citizens of Earth, suppressing dissent with brutality, policing using violence and using invasive surgery to transform humans into either soldiers or slaves. Throughout the games, the player primarily battles with transformed humans as well as synthetic and mechanical enemies that are the product of Combine technology. The atmosphere generated by the dystopia Combine state has been praised by reviewers, although the artificial intelligence of the transhuman Combine characters was thought to be inferior to that of other characters in Half-Life 2. In addition to their role within the Half-Life series, the Combine have been adapted for machinima productions and one Combine character type has been made into plush toys by Valve.
Opera singer and actress Ellen McLain provides the voice for the Combine Overwatch announcer in Half-Life 2 and its episodic expansions, while the various Combine soldiers throughout the games are voiced by John Patrick Lowrie. Some elements of the Combine's appearance, such as that of the Advisor, are inspired by the works of Frank Herbert. The name "Combine" itself is a tribute to Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which features a collection of authorities which mechanistically manipulate and process individuals.
During Half-Life 2 s development, various concepts for Combine non-player characters were created and later cut. Female Combine assassins, similar to black operations assassins featured in the first game, were planned but later abandoned, although they reappear in Half-Life 2: Survivor. Another non-player character, the cremator, was conceptualized as a Combine laborer who cleaned the streets of bodies after a battle with an acid gun and although removed from the game, its head was featured in Eli Vance's laboratory. Other cuts included a variety of alien Combine soldiers that would have complemented the transhuman soldiers in the game and a number of synthetic combat machines. Many of Half-Life 2 s Combine characters went through multiple redesigns; the Combine Overwatch soldier was subjected to at least twelve redesigns before the final appearance was settled on.
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