Poll Question 319 – How protective were you over the rebels?

3rd September 2015

It’s been a while since I have played Half-Life 2 and we all remember how annoying the Squad system was but what about the rebels in general?

At no point during the game did I actively protect them, especially if they had a weapon.

I’m sure some players remember better than I but did any rebels without weapons help you? I don’t think so.

Anyway, it’s an interesting question. Imagine there WERE children in the game. Would we have made an effort to save them? At the risk of our life and mission. How different would HL2 have been if there had been children in it?

Even in mods, I tend to see the NPCs as story elements or part of the playing universe, but I have no emotional attachment to them. Do you?

This question was suggested by babyavery22 over on the Half-Life subreddit.

You chance to vote


  1. Heinz

    At first I have to say that they stand in your way in buildings with tight passages.
    While playing HL2 for the first time, i didn’t even try to protect them ’til the end.
    Then at the next time I tried but gave up…they died and new rebels spawned immediately most of the time.

    I don’t know why Valve never fixed that, but it is awful even today.
    That’s all I have to say.

    Greets from Heinz

    1. The real question is, despite all their playtesting, how it is that rebels getting in the way never came up as something that had to be fixed?

  2. Wesp5

    If the mission allows it I always try to protect rebels fighting with me, expecially as I can get free ammo and health from some of them ;). So it’s less an emotional attachment but rather a gameplay one…

  3. bobdog

    At the start of the game, don’t some citizens open up their door for you to enter before everything goes haywire? Other than that, they mostly take up space, except for when they give you ammo and health — which is really the only reason to keep them around. They certainly can’t carry their own in a firefight, but serve more as bullet sponges.

    Maybe if Valve had given you a finite number to work with, made them more effective, and then ramped up the difficulty for you on your own, you might have a notion to protect them more.

    1. bullet sponges

      That’s a beautiful turn of phrase. Oh wait.

      BulletSpongesVille! I can see it now… Hundreds of rebels, thousands of Combine. You have no weapons and just lead them around to take the brunt of the fire in the hope of surviving.

        1. We would have also accepted BorderlandsVille or BlackMesaSourceVille.

  4. I despise the rebel squads. So, needless to say, I did not care enough to protect them at all.

    It really says something that I cared more about friendly Antlions, or the generic Barneys and scientists in Black Mesa, than I did the rebel squads. The rebels constantly get in your way and don’t behave in logical ways. Though, to be fair, it’s a combination of bad AI and uncharacteristically poor level design. They aren’t scaled correctly for having all those extra NPCs.

    As far as the children question goes, I would save them as something to do, but not because I have an emotional attachment to them. Much like the Little Sisters in BioShock – the implementation is so mechanical that I never really saw them as anything more than gameplay constructs.

  5. Unq

    I remember originally HL2 didn’t even have the “go over there” or “come back here” squad commands. It was truly frustrating, and not that much better now. In my mind it’s one of HL2’s main flaws.

    I only somewhat protect the medics, and even then only when playing on Hard.

  6. 2muchvideogames

    they werent designed to be protected, unfortunately. In HL2 you get so many and can only accompany 4 at a time that makes them too expendable. And you also have other situations like strider plaza or sniper street where theres almost no real way to prevent them from getting one-shotted. And most of the time I am just shooting thru some enemies and magically 4 rebels come out of nowhere and go LEAD ON FREEMAN just like that. Of course, the polar opposite is worse, nobody like escorting some 50 HP rebel all over city 17

    1. Dias

      I don’t know, I think it would have made for a neat achievement for the player to escort the first 4 rebels you encounter all the way to Barney & the citadel. They could call it; Kept 4 Alive.

  7. First time around I hated them, and I still kinda do, 4 npcs is a little much unless you’re on the street or something, a max of 3 would have been fine. I didn’t think they were useless, though. Even the guys who weren’t medics could help watch my back, which was nice in those tight close quarter fights of city 17. Especially on Hard, I can imagine some of the later levels being a lot different without the back up. On replays I really enjoyed them, mostly because they added a nice random element. i would never have the same group of guys following me every time, so fights would always turn out a little different, It’s also a nice challenge trying to protect them. I remember trying to order two rebels away from sniper fire, or the time I brought two medics with AR2s and two rebels with shotguns all the way through to the Alyx defense scene (one of them died just as the doors closed), or the time I saved a rebel with an rpg from the nexus strider fight. Commander Mode isn’t all that dumb (ai_goal_satndoff for the win), but there’s rarely moments where that is shown off. One day I hope to “fix” that and highlight the better parts of commander mode (and maybe with a couple unique rebels following you).

  8. I did try to keep them alive as best I could, especially medics. Partly for gameplay reasons, and partly because I felt guilty if they died — the rebels clearly looked up to me and if they died because they followed me it’s because I was a terrible player and needed to suck less. Every once in a while the whole squad would get wiped and I’d reload, but generally I was okay with a slow trickle of attrition. It IS war, after all, and the rebels weren’t very regimented, linking up with whatever groups they could find, hence the small squads.

  9. I always did and do my best for my squad even though they usually desert me pretty rapidly! And when I do find them they do not always follow without a struggle.
    I like their help in firefights, especially when they move ahead and finish the enemy before I get there!
    Some mentioned they can trap the player. I remember one zombied house in HL2 where this happened to me or many a play through, forcing a ‘noclip’ to escape.
    All in all the rebels were my allies and I fought hard to keep as many alive as possible. But in my case that was few and they always wandered off!

  10. I’ve got to be honest, in HL2, the rebels were just kinda there… They were never a help or a hindrance for me. They were just kind of around, passing me the odd medkit, shooting at combine soldiers while I looted the bodies and screaming about their arms getting blown off or some shit.

  11. Dias

    I was always more protective of the medics than I was of the regular rebels, because ammo never seemed like an issue, but health was always welcomed. If there were children rebels, they’d have to be particularly useful, since I can’t imagine they’d be as fast as adults & I’m sure their voices would get on my nerves quickly too. Unless they could crawl into tight spaces or at least be short enough to jump over, I can’t imagine them being anything but a nuisance.

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