This subject is related to the Combine era.


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Synths full.jpg
General information




Individual information


Game information
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  • npc_combinegunship
  • npc_hunter
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  • npc_strider
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  • npc_combineguard (cut)
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Synths, or Synthetics, is an all-encompassing term for synthetic biomechanical war machines the Combine use as shock troops for its invasion force.[2] They are featured in Half-Life 2, its Episodes, and Half-Life: Alyx.


Crab Synths and Mortar Synths being transported on a conveyor belt.

Synths are a class of self-replicating cybernetic organisms, robots, and biomechanical constructs that are recreated artificially,or otherwise forcibly evolved, or taken over and enslaved, by the Combine based off enslaved species in their conquests and wars[3] , and constructed deep in the bowels of the Citadel.[1] They are the backbone of the Combine's subsequent armies,[4] and are the most feared of their troops.

Synths typically appear as average-to large-sized insectoid or arthropodal creatures, usually with segmented legs and antennae-like sensory structures, resembling creatures like locusts and crabs.

Dog attacking a Strider in the Outlands, as seen in the second Episode Two teaser trailer.

It is unknown how many of the Synths presented in the series are 'true' to their initial species or forcefully evolved by the Combine, since the Combine modify their appearance by adding mechanical equipment and weaponry. It is also unclear whether they originally were fully organic or were already synthetic creatures when the Combine enslaved them, and if they all come from the same planet. The Strider, however, appears to have a brain, as seen in Episode Two (this is the only known Synth to possess any "organ" at all). It is also suggested that some were created from scratch by the Combine.

It is likely that Synths were the primary forces used by the Combine during the Seven Hour War as the human-derived Combine units, such as Combine Soldiers, Hunter-Choppers, and APCs, would have only started appearing after the Combine rule on Earth had been established.

Behind the scenes[edit]

Combine Gunship factory in the Citadel.

Dhabih Eng[edit]

According to Valve artist Dhabih Eng, when approaching the task of designing the Combine's larger creatures, it was necessary to keep in mind that these lumbering war machines were possibly once organic creatures that the Combine had enslaved and converted during previous invasions. Therefore, they tried to incorporate elements that were neither strictly organic nor purely mechanical. They didn't want to have giant alien creatures with armor attached or implants added, but instead tried to treat it as a forceful evolution of the characters imposed on them by the Combine rather than nature. In the end, the designs intentionally blurred the line between the machine and animal in their appearance and more importantly their motion and how they reacted to the world around them.[3]

Ted Backman[edit]

According to Valve artist Ted Backman, he was interested in the synthetic life-form research done in the Los Alamos National Laboratory where they have little insects, and instead of being hard-coded with instructions on how to deal with the environment, they learn, evolve, and try to serve their own ends, and in doing that, they get these emergent behaviors.

Backman thought it would be really cool if someone created a thing that, instead of worrying about having to repair, upgrade, or maintain itself, it made a new version of itself every five years. It could evolve on its own and turn into a synthetic life-form that is more useful and interesting to keep around in large numbers as an invasion force. They have been calling them Synths for a while.

His inspiration was from Bishop in Aliens. When the android character Bishop was torn apart at the end of the film, the viewer can see the entrails, but they were obviously corrugated pipes - all this fluid that came out that looked like blood or lymphatic fluid, but it was obviously some sort of oh hydraulic fluid. Backman took it from there and thought, "Well, what if these things were actually kind of growing themselves? Maybe the Combine doesn't even really know how to make them anymore, they don't even know where they came from. They can't even maintain; they just keep them as their own domesticated wildlife."[2]

In an interview for The Final Hours of Half-Life: Alyx, Tristan Reidford recalled asking Backman whether Striders were existing creatures subjected to cybernetic modification by the Combine, to which he replied that the Combine scanned the creature that would become the basis of the Strider's design in its natural habitat before recreating it synthetically.[5]


Retail Synths[edit]

Cut Synths[edit]

List of appearances[edit]

Main games[edit]




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