Combine. These guys are the backbone of the industry of oppression that seems to be fueling the economy of Half Life 2. From the very first moment that you meet a combine soldier you know it isn’t going to be fun times for Mr. Freeman. Your first real interaction with a Combine soldier comes when you meet one who shifts the responsibility of petty littering onto you under the threat of being beaten with an electric baton. It is at that moment that you start to realize that there isn’t a lot of wiggle room with these guys, and as the game progresses you discover that they aren’t limited to electrified batons. The Combine frequently have you outgunned, outnumbered, and therefore represent a real legitimate threat every single time they show up. So it should come as no surprise that killing these guys is one of the most satisfying experiences in gaming. Putting down a Combine soldier in a tough firefight, and being rewarded with the sound of him flat-lining sure has made me chuckle more times than I can count.
So what are the most satisfying Combine deaths of all time? Let’s walk through the Top Three Combine Deaths, and find out.
Number 3. Route Kanal Combine
At number 3 is the dynamic duo of tunnel beatings at the very beginning of “Route Kanal” in Half Life 2. You’ve just narrowly escaped incarceration with your life, and your head intact, and managed to get your hands on your old buddy the crowbar. Now you’re ready to go and explore this brave new world after a quick jaunt in some canal system. That’s when you turn the corner and bear witness to two Combine soldiers about to play an extended game of Pinata with a pair of civilians. Naturally a crime like this can’t be punished in a world where Gordon Freeman exists, so you dispense some quick crowbar justice and call it a day.
Why is it so satisfying? Up until that point in the game, you’ve been paraded around and dehumanized by these guys that are clearly more powerful and dangerous than you. This is the first real moment of equilibrium that exists in the game, that soon gives way to a full on shift of power. Another thing that makes this moment so powerful is that it’s done so in a way that only Half Life could achieve. With a crowbar smashing into someone’s face.
Number 2. We Don’t Go To Ravenholm/Highway 17 Sniper
Ravenholm was a nightmare, and you’ve never used so many saw blades in such an inappropriate fashion in your life. With the Post Traumatic Stress setting in from your constant brushes with near death in Ravenholm, you see a literal light at the end of the tunnel. You sprint toward freedom, ignoring the huge numbers of headcrab controlled zombies giving chase behind you. Its one of the coolest moments of Half Life 2 because the game has really made you want to be as far away from Ravenholm as possible. So when you come charging out of the cave tunnels onto a set of railroad track in broad daylight, you are relieved to say the least.
Like most things in Half Life 2 though, that relief is cut short by the sound of gunfire. As you walk down the foreboding line of rail you notice a number of undead taking some serious firepower to the face at the hands of a Combine sniper in an overhead shelter. The game is fairly obvious about what it expects of you; laying out a supply of grenades nearby. One well placed grenade throw later, and you have a cartwheeling Combine death that is funny the first time, and every time after.
Number 1. Targeted Advertising/Highway 17
Here it is. Your Number one Combine death of all time. For this death we had to pick something that stood out above the rest of the thousands of Combine deaths that make up the Half Life 2 games. No single Combine death is better than the “Targeted Advertising” achievement earned while driving through the Highway 17 portion of the game. After clearing a couple of roadblocks, dealing with some errant gunships and tossing mine balls into the ocean, you’ll come across another roadblock. However this roadblock has a little sloping hill to the right where a crossbow is waiting just for you.
You grab the crossbow and take a look down the sights. What do you see? How about a Combine solider standing guard on an advertising billboard? The stage has been set, and at this point you know what to do. However when you first shoot that Combine solider with a crossbow, there is nothing that prepares you for what happens. He hangs there. You just pinned a man to an advertising billboard with a crossbow that shoots depleted uranium rods. From that moment forward you can start hanging Combine from every wall imaginable like they’re sick paintings, but its the shock and comedy of using it that first time that makes it our number one Combine death, of all time.