Vortigaunts are a fictional alien race in the "Half-Life" series by the
Valve Corporation. In "Half-Life" and its three expansions, Vortigaunts are frequently encountered by the player as hostile non-player characters. The Vortigaunts are depicted in "Half-Life" as being an enslaved race in an alternate dimension called Xen, subservient to a large Xen creature called the Nihilanth, which itself is a slave to undisclosed masters. In " Half-Life 2", the Vortigaunts have broken free of their slavery, and actively assist the player and other humans in resisting the Combine occupation of Earth.
Vortigaunts are shown as a very communal and cultural race, believing in a force that binds the fabric of the universe and each Vortigaunt together, as well as producing a tradition of poetry and music. Vortigaunts also display the ability to summon and command energy without the need for technology. In the video games, this ability is used for various activities, including as an attack method or to power up electrical equipment. In addition to their role within the "Half-Life" series, Vortigaunts have been adapted for
machinimaproductions and have made into a plush toyby the Valve Corporation.
Louis Gossett, Jr.provides the voice for the Vortigaunts in " Half-Life 2", [cite web|url=http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0374692/fullcredits#cast|title="Half-Life 2" (2004) (VG) – Full Credits|publisher= Internet Movie Database|accessdate=2008-05-28] who was partially chosen due to his role as the alien in the film "Enemy Mine". In "", the Vortigaunts' voicing was done by Tony Todd. [cite web|url=http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0853117/fullcredits#cast|title="Half-Life 2: Episode Two" (2007) (VG) – Full Credits|publisher= Internet Movie Database|accessdate=2008-05-28]
Vortigaunts are very intelligent and social creatures. In "Half-Life", they serve as basic ground units for the Xen forces, often supporting heavier troops fighting the player and the humans in the
Black Mesa Research Facility. They are shown as being capable of developing intelligent strategies and tactics to take on their enemies. Initially, Vortigaunts are shown to be enslaved to the Nihilanth, a large creature on Xen, who, in turn, claims it is a slave to unknown superiors. [cite video game | title = Half-Life | developer = Valve Corporation| date = 1998| platform = PC| level = Interloper| quote=Nihilanth: Their slaves, we are their slaves, we are.] On Xen, the Vortigaunts are shown to be used as factory workers and drones. In " Half-Life 2", Vortigaunts indicate that this slavery has lasted for generations. [cite video game | title = Half-Life 2| developer = Valve Corporation| date = 2004| platform = PC| level = Water Hazard| quote=Vortigaunt: We have endured these chafing bonds for eons, yet a single moment of further servitude seems intolerable! How often have we slipped our yoke, only to find it choking us again.] Despite this, Vortigaunts are shown to have developed an intellectual culture, valuing poetry, [cite video game | title = Half-Life 2| developer = Valve Corporation| date = 2004| platform = PC| level = Water Hazard| quote=Vortigaunt: Our finest poet describes it thus: Gallum galla gilla ma.] music [cite video game | title = Half-Life 2| developer = Valve Corporation| date = 2004| platform = PC| level = Water Hazard| quote=Vortigaunt: Your song we sing and shall sing for eternity.] and philosophy. [cite video game | title = Half-Life 2| developer = Valve Corporation| date = 2004| platform = PC| level = Water Hazard| quote=Vortigaunt: We are mindful of the words of our greatest philosopher: Kpnnum gninin vogenuk!] In addition, Vortigaunts are shown to have practised the husbandry of antlions, large insects that live in underground hives, as an ancestral tradition. The death of the Nihilanth at the hands of Gordon Freemanat the end of "Half-Life" frees the Vortigaunts from their slavery;cite video game | title = Half-Life 2| developer = Valve Corporation| date = 2004| platform = PC| level = Water Hazard| quote = Vortigaunt: While our own lay scattered at your feet, you severed the vortal cord that bound the Nihilanth to life, and to us.] consequently the Vortigaunts see Freeman as a messianic figure.
Vortigaunts possess their own method of vocal communication, which, in "Half-Life 2", they can be heard using and referring to as "flux shifting". This method of communication involves both speakers vocalising at the same time and cannot be understood by other species who lack the auditory anatomy to interpret the sounds. [cite video game | title =
Half-Life 2| developer = Valve Corporation| date = 2004| platform = PC| level = Sandtraps| quote=Vortigaunt #1: The Freeman must excuse us. It is rude of us to commune by flux shifting in front of those whose vortal inputs are impaired. / Vortigaunt #2: Yes, we will vocalize in your auditory language as a matter of courtesy. / Vortigaunt #1: Unless we wish to say unflattering things about you. / Vortigaunt #2: Just so.] In addition to standard conversation, flux shifting can be used by Vortigaunts to communicate over long distances. Vortigaunts use scattered English words in "Half-Life" to taunt the player, although by "Half-Life 2" they have learned to speak at least the English language fluently, albeit using archaic words and grammatical structures. In addition, the Vortigaunts believe in a binding life-force referred to as the "Vortessence". [cite video game | title = Half-Life 2| developer = Valve Corporation| date = 2004| platform = PC| level = Water Hazard| quote = Vortigaunt: Communion of the Vortessence. And that other: a deeper mystery. No deeper than the void itself.] The exact nature of the Vortessence is left unclear, although it is revealed that Vortigaunts believe the Vortessence is the fabric of the universe and connects everything. [cite video game | title = Half-Life 2| developer = Valve Corporation| date = 2004| platform = PC| level = Water Hazard| quote = Vortigaunt: We are a tapestry woven of Vortessence. It is the same for you if only you would see it.]
In appearance, a Vortigaunt is a somewhat
humanoidfigure with two legs and two arms, but has an additional arm protruding from its thorax. Vortigaunts possess digitigradelegs, allowing them to move quickly. In addition, Vortigaunts have mottled green-brown skin, sharp teethand clawed hands. Vortigaunts have a slightly hunched posture, and their faces are dominated by a large red eye. In "Half-Life", this eye is surrounded by five smaller eyes, although in "Half-Life 2" this has been reduced to three smaller eyes. Vortigaunts are shown to possess strong nasal senses. Vortigaunts are also able to summon energy to their command without the need for any equipment. In-game, this ability is most commonly used as a means of attack, with Vortigaunts hurling the energy towards foes. In addition, Vortigaunts have been shown to be able to use the energy for other purposes, such as assisting in repair work, removing rubble and blockages, recharging the player's HEV suitor powering up electrical generators. Enslaved Vortigaunts are depicted with green collars and shackles, although the means by which these control Vortigaunts is not explored. Vortigaunts are not typically seen wearing clothing, although one Vortigaunt in "Episode Two" is observed wearing a lab coat. Vortigaunts are depicted as meat eaters, the player can observe Vortigaunts eating human corpses in "Half-Life" [cite web|url=http://planethalflife.gamespy.com/View.php?view=hlstrategies.detail&id=14&game=4|title="Half-Life" Walkthrough: Lambda Core|work=Planet Half-Life|publisher= IGN|accessdate=2008-05-26] and cooking headcrabs in "Half-Life 2", although "Half-Life 2" also shows Vortigaunts working in kitchens with chef hats, preparing soups and salads, [cite web|url=http://planethalflife.gamespy.com/View.php?view=HL2Walkthroughs.Detail&id=16&game=3|title="Half-Life 2" Walkthrough—Chapter 5: Black Mesa East|work=Planet Half-Life|publisher= IGN|accessdate=2008-05-26] suggesting that Vortigaunts are omnivores.
Vortigaunts are first introduced as one of the primary enemies in "Half-Life". They are frequently encountered by players throughout "Half-Life" and its three expansions, ', ' and "". They are portrayed as one of the sentient races of Xen, often working in groups or with more heavily armored Xen troops.cite web|url=http://planethalflife.gamespy.com/View.php?view=HLGameInfo.Detail&id=7&game=4|title=Life Forms|work=Planet Half-Life|publisher=
IGN|accessdate=2008-05-23] In the later stages of "Half-Life", Vortigaunts are seen working in factory-like environments, constructing or maturing the more heavily armored Xen troops in cocoon-like capsules under the direction of other aliens in the Xen hierarchy.cite web|url=http://planethalflife.gamespy.com/View.php?view=hlstrategies.detail&id=17&game=4|title="Half-Life" Walkthrough: Interloper|work=Planet Half-Life|publisher= IGN|accessdate=2008-05-23]
In the cooperative multiplayer expansion "Decay", players have the opportunity to assume the role of two Vortigaunts if they score highly on all missions. In this bonus mission, entitled "Xen Attacks", two Vortigaunts, designated as Drone Subjects X-8973 and R-4913, are given a mission by the
Nihilanth, the highest creature in the Xen hierarchy, to retrieve a number of crystals stolen from Xen by human scientists from the Black Mesa Research Facility.cite web|url=http://planethalflife.gamespy.com/View.php?view=Previews.Detail&id=67|title="Half-Life: Decay"|work=Planet Half-Life|publisher= IGN|date=2006-11-12|accessdate=2008-05-23]
The role of the Vortigaunts is substantially changed in "
Half-Life 2". Now acting as allies to the player, Vortigaunts are shown to have been freed as a result of Gordon Freemankilling the Nihilanthat the end of "Half-Life". Instead of acting with hostility towards humanity, the Vortigaunts are actively engaged in assisting the human resistance against the Combine, a multi-dimensional empire that has invaded and occupied Earthin between "Half-Life" and "Half-Life 2". Vortigaunts are frequently seen at resistance compounds and stations,cite web|url=http://planethalflife.gamespy.com/View.php?view=HL2Walkthroughs.Detail&id=15&game=3|title="Half-Life 2" Walkthrough—Chapter 4: Water Hazard|work=Planet Half-Life|publisher= IGN|accessdate=2008-05-23] often performing maintenance work or providing help with experiments, and sometimes assist the player by using their energy abilities to recharge the player's HEV suit.cite web|url=http://planethalflife.gamespy.com/View.php?view=HL2GameInfo.Detail&id=2&game=3|title="Half-Life 2" Allies|work=Planet Half-Life|publisher= IGN|accessdate=2008-05-23] However, a number of Vortigaunts are still shown to be in captivity, as at various points in the game, Vortigaunts are shown to be used as slave labor by the Combine; for example, one vortigaunt is seen cleaning the floor of a Combine train station with a mop, wearing a similar collar to those worn in Half-Life.
Vortigaunts play a greater part in the story of the series in "Half-Life 2"
's continuations, ' and '. In "Episode One", Vortigaunts use unexplained powers to rescue Alyx Vance, the series' main female character, from the top of the Combine Citadel in City 17, saving her from the explosion of the Citadel's reactor at the end of "Half-Life 2".cite web|url=http://planethalflife.gamespy.com/View.php?view=HL2GameInfo.Detail&id=23&game=3|title="Half-Life 2: Episode Two" Allies|work=Planet Half-Life|publisher= IGN|accessdate=2008-05-23] The Vortigaunts also free Gordon Freeman from the stasis imposed on him at the end of "Half-Life 2" by his enigmatic employer, the G-Man, much to the G-Man's irritation. [cite video game|title= |developer= Valve Corporation| level = Direct Intervention |date=2006-06-01 |platform=PC |quote=G-Man: We'll see...about "that". ] "Episode Two" dedicates much of the early part of the game to the Vortigaunts, with a group of four Vortigaunts working to heal Alyx Vance after she is mortally wounded by a Combine , while tracking and killing the Combine Advisors that fled the Citadel. One Vortigaunt accompanies the player and acts as combat support on an expedition into an antlion hive. In the latter stages of "Episode Two", a number of Vortigaunts are observed in the White Forestmissile silo, performing various tasks to facilitate the launch of a satellite to close the Combine's super portal.
Appearances in other media
The use of sandbox applications like "
Garry's Mod" have allowed for the Vortigaunt to be used in a variety of webcomics and machinimaproductions. For example, in the webcomic " Concerned", the inability for the players to harm allied non-player characters such as the Vortigaunt in "Half-Life 2" forms a recurring joke, where the protagonist Gordon Frohman constantly tries to shoot Vortigaunts due to their role as enemies in "Half-Life". [cite web|url=http://www.hlcomic.com/index.php?date=2005-09-19|title=Issue #54|work=|first=Christopher|last=Livingston|date=2005-09-19|accessdate=2008-05-26] [cite web|url=http://www.hlcomic.com/index.php?date=2006-04-14|title=Issue #137|work=|first=Christopher|last=Livingston|date=2006-04-14|accessdate=2008-05-26] This eventually goes against him, as when Vortigaunts try to rescue Frohman from the destruction of the Citadel, his hostile nature leads them to simply abandon him to his fate. [cite web|url=http://www.hlcomic.com/index.php?date=2006-10-26|title=Issue #203|work=|first=Christopher|last=Livingston|date=2006-10-26|accessdate=2008-05-26] Vortigaunts are occasionally featured in machinima productions, often taking on the roles of minor characters, such as janitors under Combine jurisdiction. [cite web|url=http://litfusefilms.com/movies/combinenationepisodetwo/|title="Combine Nation: Episode Two"|publisher=Lit Fuse Films|accessdate=2008-05-26]
The character of the Vortigaunt has been popular enough to inspire the creation of a Vortigaunt
plush toy. The toy was designed by Dhabih Eng, one of the Valve Corporation's artists, and was sold and distributed via the Valve Corporation's online store.cite web|url=http://store.valvesoftware.com/productshowcase/productshowcase_HL2Vortigaunt.html|title="HL2" Vortigaunt Collectible|publisher= Valve Corporation|date=2006-12-05|accessdate=2008-05-23] The toy was released in December 2006 and due to the proximity to Christmas, the Vortigaunt was accompanied by a to-scale Santa Claushat. Reviews of the plush toy were favorable, praising the toy as sturdy, as well as giving credit for its articulation and detail. [cite web|url=http://www.expotv.com/videos/reviews/20/185/Half-Life-2-Vortigaunt-Plush-Toy/20298|title="Half-Life 2": Vortigaunt Plush Toy Review|publisher= ExpoTV|date=2006-12-18|accessdate=2008-05-27]
The Vortigaunts have received a mixed reception from critics as both enemies and friendly non-player characters. Vortigaunts and their fellow alien enemies in "Half-Life" were praised as "memorable foes"cite web|url=http://uk.gamespot.com/features/6171044/index.html|work=Greatest Games of All Time|title="Half-Life"|publisher=
GameSpot|accessdate=2008-05-26] that "truly look like organic beings"cite web|url=http://uk.gamespot.com/pc/action/halflife/review.html|publisher= GameSpot|title="Half-Life" for PC Review|first=Ron|last=Dulin|date=2008-11-20|accessdate=2008-05-26] and were "scary" in nature.cite web|url=http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=3045|title=PC Review: "Half-Life"|work= PC Zone|publisher=" Computer and Video Games"|first=Steve|last=Hill|date=2001-08-13|accessdate=2008-05-26] Audio work for the aliens was also praised.cite web|url=http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=8349&skip=yes|title=PC Review: "Half-Life"|publisher=" Computer and Video Games"|date=2001-08-15|accessdate=2008-05-26] However, the artificial intelligence for alien non-player characters was considered significantly inferior to that of the human enemies of the game,cite web|url=http://www.gamepro.com/computer/pc/games/reviews/745.shtml|title=Review: "Half-Life"|first=Willem|last=Knibbe|publisher=" GamePro"|date=2000-11-24|accessdate=2008-05-26] who instead of merely following the player through a door would throw grenades to flush the player out, whereas according to IGNthe extent of teamwork amongst the aliens was simply a number of aliens being in the same room and attacking in the same direction.cite web|url=http://uk.pc.ign.com/articles/153/153107p1.html|title="Half-Life" Review|publisher= IGN|date=1998-11-15|accessdate=2008-05-26] The change of the Vortigaunts from enemy characters to allied characters in "Half-Life 2" was described as "intriguing" by reviewers, with " PC Zone" stating that the Vortigaunts were one of the most interesting new characters in the game, playing a role "somewhere between Yodaand ET".cite web|url=http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=111902|title=PC Review: "Half-Life 2"|publisher=" Computer and Video Games"|work= PC Zone|date=2004-11-16|accessdate=2008-05-26]
The brief appearance of the Vortigaunts in "Episode One" was subject to a mixed reception from critics. A number of reviewers found the sequence in which the Vortigaunts rescue Alyx and Gordon from the top of the Citadel confusing—IGN stated that it was simply "weird", and did not help to clear up questions with the story.cite web|url=http://uk.pc.ign.com/articles/710/710967p1.html|title="Half-Life 2: Episode One" Review|first=Tom|last=McNamara|publisher=
IGN|date=2006-06-01|accessdate=2008-05-26] Other reviewers thought the Vortigaunts' involvement was disappointing, with GameSpotdescribing the event as an "incredible cop-out" for rescuing Alyx and removing the G-Man from the rest of the game.cite web|url=http://uk.gamespot.com/pc/action/halflife2aftermath/review.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=tabs&tag=tabs;reviews|title="Half-Life 2: Episode One" for PC Review|first=Jason|last=Ocampo|publisher= GameSpot|date=2008-06-02|accessdate=2008-05-26] The role of the Vortigaunts in "Episode Two" was met with more approval by critics, who described the Vortigaunt who accompanies the player in the early parts of the game as "a great joy to fight alongside", praising the improved artificial intelligence and noting that "the fact that they're not trying to intricately imitate real-life people" significantly aided the presentation of the Vortigaunts.cite web|url=http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=173331|publisher=" Computer and Video Games"|title=Review: "Half-Life 2: Episode Two"|first=Andy|last=Robinson|date=2007-10-10|accessdate=2008-05-26] In addition, the visual and character overhaul given to the Vortigaunt in "Episode Two" was praised by reviewers.cite web|url=http://uk.pc.ign.com/articles/826/826067p1.html|title="Half-Life 2: Episode Two" Review|first=Dan|last=Adams|publisher= IGN|date=2007-10-09|accessdate=2008-05-26]
* [http://half-life.wikia.com/wiki/Vortigaunt Vortigaunt] at Combine OverWiki, a "Half-Life"
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