The Combine is a vast empire spanning multiple parallel universes. The empire is inhabited by an unknown number of sentient species, and appears to be governed by a race of bizarre, artificially evolved Advisors, and come from the Combine Overworld. The Combine expands its empire by invading worlds and enslaving the dominant species to be exploited as it sees fit. By manipulating these inhabitants through methods including bioengineering and implantation, the Combine creates a race of super-soldiers uniquely adapted for the environment of that particular world. This process results in a highly mobile and adaptive military force which is able to respond to any threat and crush any opposition. The reasons behind the Combine's imperialism remain unknown throughout the game.
Vocal stress is placed on the first syllable. The name is pronounced as the noun COM-bine, as in combine harvester, as opposed to the verb form com-BINE, as in "to join together or unite." Dr. Breen refers to the Combine Soldiers and Civil Protection as The Transhuman Arm of the Combine Overwatch in Nova Prospekt, verifying that "Combine" is an accepted name of the empire, even by the empire itself.
Despite the advanced level of the Combine race, it seems to be lacking considerable skill in teleportation. Dr. Mossman explains that the Combine can only teleport from one universe to another, but not to different locations in the same universe. The teleportation method used by Dr. Kleiner and Eli Vance (and indeed by the other Black Mesa scientists and even Nihilanth before and during the Black Mesa Incident) can do this, though, which is why the Combine wants the technology. Dr. Mossman was actually helping the Combine build a teleporter capable of doing this in Nova Prospekt, but as Nova Prospekt was destroyed during Alyx and Gordon's escape, it seems that the Combine gained little in the end.
The Combine's method of teleportation, as limited as it is, still requires a large amount of power and huge machinery to perform, as seen at the end of the game, where Dr. Breen was attempting to escape from the Citadel using a Combine teleporter. This teleporter required an entire reactor, called the dark fusion reactor, to power it, while the teleporters designed by humans require only small amounts of power, and very little machinery in comparison. Xen teleporters, however, seem to require even less machinery - sometimes even none at all - and even less power. The reason for this is because they use Xen as a "dimensional slingshot," bouncing off of one universe to another, and from one location in a certain universe to another in the same universe, while the Combine don't, instead having to "tunnel" straight through dimensions to the target universe. One advantage this could give them is the ability to jump to any universe they wish, instead of only be able to go into an adjacent universe (or possibly even only in and out of Xen) like humans and Xen creatures.
Combine on EarthEdit
Invasion of EarthEdit
Following the Nihilanth's demise, the Combine were able to use the portal storm that was occurring at the time to continue on to Earth, where it launched a massive invasion that culminated in the Seven Hour War. Statements made by [[the G-Man suggest that the human race was unable to mount any effective resistance to the Combine armies, and that Earth's military forces were almost instantly overwhelmed. Former administrator of the Black Mesa Research Facility, Dr. Wallace Breen, negotiated a surrender on Earth's behalf and was therefore appointed the administrator of the Combine's forces on Earth.
Combine dominance on EarthEdit
The Combine rules Earth from giant towers known as Citadels, the most important being in City 17 where Dr. Breen runs his administration. At the end of the game, as Doctor Breen attempts to teleport off of Earth using the dark fusion reactor, a massive portal is created and, through it, several buildings that resemble Citadels are visible.
At the start of the game, the Combine appear to have almost complete dominance of the remaining pockets of civilized Earth, and do not identify who Gordon Freeman is. However, Doctor Breen immediately informs a Combine Advisor of Freeman's appearance during a teleport accident, in which Gordon Freeman appeared in Doctor Breen's office for a brief amount of time. Only a few handfuls of rebels, loosely organized in a ragtag resistance, are secretly opposing the Combine. Gordon Freeman's actions after his return eventually inspire a massive insurrection against the Combine in City 17, which results in a full-scale street war between the citizens and the Combine forces.
The reasons behind the Combine's desire to control the Earth are unknown, other than the absorption of Earth's resources, the use of human teleporter technology and the enslavement and exploitation of its dominant species - the humans - for either menial work or military service, considering that "permanent off world assignment" is threatened to soldiers who fail in their attempts to kill or capture Gordon Freeman throughout the game.
The Combine, since gaining dominance on Earth, have imposed something known as a suppression field. The suppression field's main effect is to bring the human birth rate down to zero by prohibiting certain protein chains important to embryonic development from forming, effectively ensuring that the humans currently alive will be the last generation. Doctor Breen addresses this issue to the people via a broadcast during the early levels of Half-Life 2 as the response to a letter written to him by a "concerned citizen" and claims that the field will be deactivated once the humans prove they no longer need it. During the game, Resistance members occasionally make humorous remarks about the suppression field, such as "When this is all over, I'm gonna mate." It was initially thought that the suppression field somehow prevented human sexual urges, mainly due to Dr. Breen's statement that it was suppressing "the urge to reproduce," but this statement may in fact be referring to the suppression field's physiological effects causing human "urges" to diminish rather than to stop outright. In the end, Combine imagery may actually reflect the Combine's thoughts about human reproduction; they may indeed actually believe that they are there to help humans.
In Half-Life 2: Episode One, it has been revealed by Isaac Kleiner during his transmissions throughout the city that the suppression field has been disabled with the near destruction of the Citadel. He says that everyone who has escaped City 17 "should do their part" in the re-population of the human species "before the Combine attempt to restore their dominion
Mind control and memory replacementEdit
Comments at the trainstation at the start of the game suggest that the Combine have been drugging (if not outright poisoning) the populace through their water supply. One citizen remarks "Don't drink the water...they put something in it, t-to make you forget. I don't even remember how I got here." This is not mentioned outside this one piece of dialogue; but the idea is reinforced by the numerous soda machines stocked with "Dr. Breen's Private Reserve", which freely dispense water in a standard 12-ounce can.
The insinuated reason for this supposed mind control is so that humans forget why they hate the Combine, and will willingly accede to their (and Breen's) demands, and to create a fresh new template (the human's mind) for forced re-education.
In addition, a Combine radio transmission to Civil Protection officers states: "Reminder, memory replacement is the first step to rank privileges." This could explain why none of the CPs are able to join the Resistance after the Uprising; their memories may either forbid them from harboring any negative thoughts toward their Combine overlords or program them to believe that the Combine must be protected. What this could mean is the Combine presents an illusion of free will by promising privileges to CPs willing to give up their memories, despite their loss of humanity, and the possibility that the Combine just takes CPs into Nova Prospekt without their knowledge.
Information about forced Memory replacement can be found in the games data files, specifically this model (right) named "soldier bed", seen later inside the Citadel during Episode One. This model closely resembles that of concept art in Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar. The machine itself consists of Combine emitters and equipment, attached is an arm-like device holding a human body. Lastly, a shell-like apparatus envelops the head; containing three different screens and panels. Accompanying this model is a small group of sounds resembling harsh subliminal messaging; this video/audio messaging system explains the military training used by normal post-human individuals.
This model, in addition to several bizarre sounds of voices in the data files, suggests that this "brainwashing" memory replacement is an important part of the transhuman operation. The process of erasing memories, Combine propaganda, and eventually, memory replacement results in a soldier incapable of rebelling against the Combine influence, as well as enabling transhumans with no military background training to become part of the Overwatch forces.
There are many evident acts of genocide or at least random killing perpetrated by the Combine throughout the game. In Route Kanal, a refugee base is raided, and a few members of the base are lined up against the wall and shot just as the player arrives. The town of Ravenholm was Headcrab Shell with the intention of killing all the residents, and throughout the Highway 17 chapter, the player encounters numerous bodies in the houses of the coast including some that have been burnt by the Combine in a bonfire (though these may also have been Zombies). Towards the end of the game, Eli Vance explains to Wallace Breen that he has witnessed "genocide and indescribable evil." That being said however, the Combine may not want to completely exterminate the human race, but rather enslave it. If they wanted to exterminate humanity they would have done it already, and as such may want to preserve the human population in major urban areas.
The absence of childrenEdit
It is obvious that the children are missing in Half-Life 2 and its episodes. The main reason is the placement of the Suppression Field by the Combine right after their victory at the end of the Seven Hour War. Given that the Combine have been occupying Earth for nearly twenty years, the humans that Gordon sees throughout the game are possibly the last humans born naturally.
Evidence such as the ghostly laughs and screams of children that can be heard in the playground outside one of the apartments in the first chapter, a crying couple that can be seen shortly thereafter, the fact that the player doesn't see any children in the most human-populated areas, remarks by Resistance members such as "I'm glad there's no kids around to see this," and the presence of discarded toys such as baby dolls can be seen during the game, but they are only reminders of the past. There are no children any more.
According to Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar]', the children were present in the Half-Life 2 Beta of the game development, in an area of City 17 called the Combine Factories. Adults and children were to work in this area closely watched by Metrocops and Combots. In the Cremator Factory, children were building Cremators. As the concept of human reproduction being disabled by the Suppression Field evolving, children finally got cut with the whole area, along with the Cremator.
The Combine heavily relies on imagery through logos, symbols, and propaganda posters to assure their influence on Earth and remind its residents of their presence. Combine units - humanoid and Synth - also bear insignias, logos, and other markings. Many Combine posters are also scattered around City 17 and its sector (including the Coast, Nova Prospekt, etc.). Most of the time they include two common Combine symbols, with variants in color and image backgrounds. The Combine imagery is quite abstract, and the intended messages can be very subtle.
Breencasts are regular broadcasts made by Wallace Breen, delivered to the populace of Combine controlled towns and cities via private televisions and, more commonly, large video monitors mounted on walls in public places such as town squares and railway stations. As the messages simply loop, it is possible that all announcements are pre-recorded.
Combine military technologyEdit
The Combine relies on the technological growth of others. Technology and resources are assimilated for Combine use. The Overwatch utilizes Earth's small arms, armored personnel carriers, trains, helicopters, etc. Examples of this with other species are the Strider and the Gunship. Nova Prospekt, while a Combine stronghold, has only a little evidence of occupation. The building itself and its coastal defenses are just recycled human structures, thrown together almost hastily.
The primary military force of the Combine on Earth is the humanoid Combine Overwatch (referred to by Doctor Breen as the "Transhuman arm of the Combine Overwatch. although he could be referring to the entire Combine military presence on earth as the Overwatch and the ranks including modified humans are the transhuman arm.): humans who have been modified into "transhuman" (or "post-human", as referred to by Isaac Kleiner cyborgs. They are the most frequently encountered foes throughout Half-Life 2. This could also be another possible reason why they are called the Combine, because they are a "combination" of humans and alien technology. It is important to note that the Civil Protection foes are not hybrids and are in fact, human.
Synths are creatures that, over a course of imposed evolution and adaptation by the Combine, have come to fit a particular niche in the Combine military. Once self-replicating organic creatures that spread across different worlds, they were enslaved and assimilated into the Combine to become the backbone of their military.
Various types of Synth have been brought over to Earth by the Combine, but other types of Synth are likely to exist, as the total number of different Synths is unknown. It is likely that Synths were the primary forces used by the Combine during the Seven Hour War, as the human-derived Combine units, as well as technology such as hunter-choppers and APCs, would have only been developed after the Combine's rule on Earth had been established.
- Civil Protection