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Voodoo Farming #3 (06/25/09): Half Life: Opposing Force

June 25th, 2009 by Ihmhi

Hello again, potential meat shields, and welcome back to Voodoo Farming: A Not-Quite In-Depth Look At Zombies In Popular Culture. I’m your host Ihmhi. (That’s pronounced Jimmy without the the J!)

Imagine, if you will, that you are quite possibly in one of the worst zombie combat situations imaginable: alone, and in a labyrinthine complex with nary a weapon at hand. You have to scrounge and scrape to get your ass to safety, and then some asshole in a suit puts you in cryo-stasis or some shit for like twenty years.

But that’s not you, that’s some other guy in a game released like two years later. Instead, you’re one of the poor bastards sent in to not only kill the zombies and assorted otherworldly invaders, but also to kill the survivors. (Man, I hope they have a staff psychiatrist!)

Now’s as good a time as any to visit your shrink, lie down on his couch, and tell him about the time you were the Opposing Force.

crowbar and sign saying

Whereas I normally put the title screen here, I thought I’d mix it up a bit this issue.

While I am technically reviewing Opposing Force, it is very much like the sum of three games when it comes to the enemies. Most of the enemies from Half Life and Blue Shift carry over into this game. After all, why shouldn’t they? They are three storylines taking place at the same time.

Threat Level:zombiezombiehalf a zombiezombie silhouettezombie silhouette

I am bound to catch some flak for rating the threat of Half-Life’s zombies and associates at 2 1/2 out of 5. But hear me out on this one.

In the Half-Life universe, the military had their shit together. Well, the “blow shit up” part of the military had their shit together. The R&D department kinda screwed the pooch.

As far as the zombies and co. are considered, they got their asses whooped by a physicist, a security guard, and a highly trained soldier. (Okay, the third one isn’t as admittedly badass as the first two when it comes to the “I can’t believe they did it” factor.) Only when certain other folks come along in a future installment do we get totally destroyed in like, what, seven hours?

Plus side, no zombie apocalypse. Minus side, evil alien overlords win anyway.

And employ the zombies as a biological weapon, which is kinda a dick move on their part.


The Half-Life standards of the Pistol, Shotgun, MP5, and crowbar all make a show and we are better for it. These four weapons will serve you well throughout all of the games.

What makes things really fun, though, is the extraneous armaments. The Gauss Gun in Half-Life, which looks like a cross between a vacuum cleaner and one o’ them Ghostbusters beamy-dealies? Definitely fun.

OpFor was made by Gearbox, so they added in more than a few things to the Half-Life experience. A cannon on par with the BFG plus an upgrade: it’s alt-fire teleports you to a “side-dimension” where you can typically pick up goodies like health, armor, and ammo. Definitely a nice way to add “bonus levels” to a Half-Life game on Gearbox’s part.

For 99% of enemies, though, you will take them down one of two ways: shotgun blast to the face, or high explosives to the face. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where the face is, so you just aim at where you imagine it would be.

Cause of the Outbreak:

To be fair, the scientists at Black Mesa were pretty damn responsible. They had all kinds of safety parameters, well-trained security, and very intelligent people operating the machinery.

However, there’s two things you can’t account for: aliens disguised as government agents handing scientists dodgy materials, and portals randomly popping up all over the facility. I’m sure as a military base Black Mesa must have had some sort of lockdown procedure, but when enemies can pretty much pop out of thin air into a hermetically-sealed room even the best security practices are kind of fucked.

We also have government-funding to consider. Throughout all three games you encounter relatively smart turrets that shred anything that moves. Granted, “anything that moves” counts both hostiles and base personnel, but remember that the soldiers have standing orders to “shoot everything that isn’t a soldier”, so what’s the problem? If I were planning out this base and had a black-ops budget (which is the governmental equivalent of a blank check), I would have these things installed fuckin’ everywhere. Rooms, hallways, toilets, outside, inside, and the vents. Especially the vents.


Our zombies are parasitic organisms called “Headcrabs”. They latch onto your head and gradually mutate your body into something that can only be described as “horrible”. What’s worse is that the victim is apparently conscious for most of this time. That’s double the reason to blow ’em away, just as an act of mercy. Any “zombies” in this game are headcrab-related.

Aside from this, well… first you have the headcrab zombies. Then the aliens start sending in the real heavy-hitters, like alien troops with four arms and cannons that shoot bees. Motherfucking bees!

Oh, and the military is dissatisfied with the performance of your cleanup unit, so they sent Black Ops in to kill everyone and your unit. I don’t wanna know who they send in after Black Ops messes up.

Odds of Survival: Pretty good.

I’m a moderately skilled FPS player at best, but even on hard I don’t die all that often. It might have something to do with the distinct lack of competent, ranged-weapon enemies. A lot of the enemies tend to go for the melee attacks, and the few that do used ranged attacks tend to have terribly slow and easy-to-avoid projectiles.

Swarming is almost never a factor here. Surprise however, is. You have to worry about the game pulling a fast one on you and having enemies beam in all around you when you enter a room. Sometimes, it feels like Valve is cheating.

The Devilish Details:

guy in a lab coat on the ground over a corpse

The white lab coat makes him look all doctor-y, but you know he probably just runs something lame like the safety computers.

This is the opening scene of Opposing Force where you can actually move around. A scientist is performing CPR on another soldier, and a third soldier is propped up in a pool of blood. Great way to start the day!

Eventually, you venture outwards into the facility proper and try to gain some semblance of what the hell is going on.

dead scientist and headcrab

Well a couple scientists bit the dust, and some of my HECU buddies are turning into alien zombies, but at least we can still get outta here in one of those sweet…

futuristic flying machine

…Ospreys. Aw, shit.

From an outsider’s perspective, Operation “Quietly and Efficiently Clean Up Black Mesa” is proving to be a huge clusterfuck.

Aircraft shot down, soldiers dead and/or zombified, uncontrollable interdimensional portals – all of this pales in comparison to the military’s larger problem: who cleans up after Black Ops?

The security guards and scientists fuck up, so HECU (Hazardous Environment Combat Unit, I believe) is sent in to clean things up. HECU fucks up, so Black Ops is sent in to clean them up, too. Black Ops nukes the goddamned base, but then we get invaded by totally different aliens. I’m sure the only thing on the military’s mind is who they send to kill Black Ops.

two headcrabs


I hope you’ve played Half Life. If not, you can pick up all the HL1 games and Team Fortress Classic for fifteen bucks. Fifteen bucks!

The point is, I’m sure most of you know what a headcrab zombie looks like. If not, well… here’s one anyway. The gentle…mutant? on the right is your standard “scientist” headcrab zombie. Goes down fairly easily and is very slow. The gentlemutant in the center is a “soldier” headcrab zombie. They’re faster, deal more damage, and they can take more punishment. That probably has something to do with the military-grade armor they’re wearing.



But that’s it for zombies, right? Nope! Last (but not least), we have the “Holy shit this this is like 7 feet tall” headcrab zombie. Aside from being fast, angry, and a pain in the butt to take down, this zombie rips out chunks of its own guts and throws it at you.

Zombie movie aficionados, please think back to every kind of zombie you’ve seen. Have you ever seen one rip off a part of itself and throw it at you? No, I didn’t think so. (Feel free to prove me wrong, because I would watch that movie.)

machine blowing up


Headcrab zombies are an iconic part of the Half-Life series, but in the first generation of games they’re not really stars of the show as much as they are part of a larger cast of characters. The above… things… float around in the air and shoot mind beams or something at you. They are very much a pain in the ass.

picture of a tunnel

Did I just teleport into Chuck E. Cheese’s?

One of the “bonus areas” you can teleport into is the original Half-Life obstacle course. It was a pretty nice easter egg on Gearbox’s part, and the addition of battle damage makes it that much cooler.

monster with sharp teeth

Duh nuh. Duuuuuuh nuh. (That’s the JAWS music.)

You think Florida is bad with shark attacks? Check out what’s swimming around in the waters on Xen.

Many gamers have a finely-tuned flight-or-fight response. We can very quickly assess the danger and decide on a course of action. However, leading scientists believe that it is very difficult to run fast in the water. Going up against one of these fuckers is one of the most challenging parts of the game, hands down.

fighting a mutant with 4 arms

TWO hugs?

Goro (of Mortal Kombat fame) has four arms. This dude has four arms and a gun that fires electricity. Do not underestimate him, because he will quickly ruin you.

In the border world of Xen, you just know that one of these guys is the bizarro equivalent of Gordon Freeman running around in Kansas wearing a HAZMAT suit.

using a laser on monsters

Laser hugs?

Okay, this would warrant upping the threat level a little bit.

This is the equivalent of a “mini-boss” in the game. You face several of them at one point in incredibly dark tunnels rife with foliage. The machine gun is your friend.

It looks tiny because it’s far away. It’s actually about as big as an APC. Don’t get too close to them.

Wrapping It Up:

Half-Life is admittedly a bit light on the zombies. Opposing Force breaks out a bit of variety, but it’s only really a variation on several themes.

This was the first game I’ve done where there was a variable difficulty. In cases like these, I’ll typically rate the Threat Level based on the Normal difficulty.

Three things miff me about the first generation of Half-Life games now that Half-Life 2 is up to Episode 2:

1) The painful G-man ex Machina. I made it! I made it! I’m… in a tram car floating in space? What the FUCK! Well, I guess it was needed to set up a sequel…

2) We’re up to Episode 2. We have something like 40 hours of total HL2 gameplay at this point. Where the Hell is Barney? Seriously, dude didn’t make a show in EP2 at all. Yeah, he was in the beginning and the last mission of EP1, but… he’s like Joey to Gordon’s Chandler! How about some co-op with this guy in EP3?

3) Where the Hell is Adrian Shepard? (That’s the name of OpFor’s protagonist.) While OpFor was not a Valve game, they did a lot of fresh and interesting stuff to the series. They tied it in well with HL2, and I feel pretty gypped that they didn’t at least give ol’ Shep a nod in HL2.

But meh. These questions aside, Valve usually puts out a quality product. Maybe they’ll surprise us in Episode 3 and do something with the OpFor material.

What lessons can we take away from Opposing Force? Hell, from the entire Half-Life series?

Don’t work for the government. Eventually, they’re just gonna send someone to kill you.

Ihmhi is a developer for Fortress Forever, a free, fast paced Team Fortress mod for Half-Life 2.

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9 Responses to “Voodoo Farming #3 (06/25/09): Half Life: Opposing Force”

  1. Anonymous and STILL Employed Says:

    “Have you ever seen one rip off a part of itself and throw it at you?”

    The N64 used to have a third person shooter called “Jet Force Gemini” where you went from planet to planet figthing off mansized mutant space ants. The first boss of the game hides out in a castle inside the obligatory zombie infested planet. Zombified mansized mutant space ants are total dumbasses and move really slowly, but they can easily take every non explosive bullet in your inventory (which is really saying something) some of them are double your size and use what I can only really describe as gut grenades.

    It’s not all zombies, but I would recommend finding that game to anyone who likes making big monsters splatter all over the place.


  2. StoneWolf Says:

    That crowbar pic is now my desktop.


    Minty reply on June 29th, 2009 9:33 am:

    Ooh, good idea. Except no one at my work would get it. They’re all, you know, “mature.”


    StoneWolf reply on June 29th, 2009 10:44 am:

    Nobody here gets it either, but then again I’m used to people not understanding me.


  3. Billy Says:

    With the gut throwing stuff, does Medievil count, when you got to fight with your own arm? At the very least, for video, there is the Gungrave anime series, where near the end, a fat guy gets fatter all of a sudden, sprouts a helicopter propeller out of his back, and develops what look like lesions that he rips out of himself, and throws at our main protagonist Grave, who happens to be dead, but like Frankenstiens monster kind of dead.


  4. Fiarr Says:

    Honestly, I’m glad that Valve decided to let us live without Barney. Honestly, if I ever see the idiot again I’m going to ragequit someone.


  5. Ihmhi Says:

    All of my paragraphs were indented with non-breaking spaces, and now it seems that they’ve disappeared.

    Sometimes I hate WordPress.


  6. Vertel Says:

    Re: Where the Hell is Adrian Shepard?

    Apparently there’s some sort of rights problem between Valve and Gearbox. Basically, they’re both sitting in opposite corners, sulking and going, “I’m not TAAAAALKING to you!”. Meanwhile, poor Adrian exists in legal limbo. Shame; I’d love to see something with him coming back.


  7. Signalist Says:

    If I was given Black Ops budget to build a secure facility I’d request for few dozens of kilograms of weapons-grade Naquadah to be mixed in with steel and concrete, install parallel detonators all over the facility, and rig them ALL to explode immediately after someone hits teh Big Red Button, and wish the aliens good luck defusing all the detonators before anyone can press The Button.

    Then again using “Arthur’s Mantle”, the Ancient device of Merlin’s design that puts everything within certain range ‘out of phase’, would be much more simple solution, but weapons-grade Naquadah is by far much, MUCH more awesome mean of containment.


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