HalfLife HECU Platoon

A fire team of four Hazardous Environment Combat Unit troops in Half-Life (non-High Definition Pack models).

The Hazardous Environment Combat Unit (HECU) is a fictional United States military special forces unit prominently featured in the first-person shooter computer game Half-Life and its expansion packs, Opposing Force, Blue Shift, and Decay. The marines of the HECU are specially trained to deal with a variety of indoor combat situations, particularly involving a dangerous environment and unconventional enemies. The marines are often referred to as "grunts" by fans of the game, and also as such by Black Ops operators in the game.

HECU in Half-Life[]

The HECU is employed in the first Half-Life franchise game, to "clean up the mess" made in the incident of the Black Mesa Research Facility.[1] They are deployed to eliminate extraterrestrial life, civilian personnel (to ensure that the incident is totally covered up so that the incident can be manipulated) and to regain control of the facility. The journal entries of Adrian Shephard found in Half-Life: Opposing Force’s instruction manual imply that the HECU was preparing for the Black Mesa Incident well in advance of the Resonance Cascade.[2]

The HECU took over the surface areas of Black Mesa (to secure important points and eliminate alien forces), as well as dispatching forces to interior areas, for eliminating both alien and civilian personnel.

The HECU's efforts into the Black Mesa Research Facility was superficially successful. By quickly gaining advantage over civilian and extraterrestrial forces, they established a substantial presence within the facility. Black Mesa's civilian personnel failed to put up any notable resistance, as many personnel mistakenly believed that the Marines were going to rescue them, and those who tried to defend the facility against the HECU were outgunned and overwhelmingly outnumbered.

Over time, however, the HECU got overwhelmed by organic creatures from Xen. Surviving facility personnel lent their help to Dr. Gordon Freeman, who was able to sneak and fight his way across the facility despite all the HECU's defenses. Dr. Freeman quickly became a priority target of the troops. Their anger toward him is exemplified by the graffiti seen in various chapters, such as "On A Rail," which reads "YORE DEAD FREEMAN" [sic] or "SURRENDER FREEMEN" [sic] and "DIE, FREEMAN" [sic].[3] Also, in-game two HECU soldiers can be heard mumbling about Freeman, proposing revenge.[4] As the Xen aliens swarmed through Black Mesa and a sinister team of "Black Ops" gained advantage over the military, the HECU, which was suffering appalling casualties, was evacuated as aerial bombardments tore into the facility. The evacuation, however, was woefully incomplete, leaving many Marines behind in the facility in the unenviable position of being caught amongst the forces of the Black Ops, the Xen aliens, and the newly-arrived Race X creatures.

HECU in Half-Life: Opposing Force[]

HalfLife OF HECU

A team of four HECU Marines in Opposing Force. In addition to standard infantrymen, the game also features two new units—the medic (second from right) and the engineer (rightmost), who is assigned to cut open sealed doors using a blowtorch.

In the original Half-Life game, the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit was simply referred to as "the military" or "soldiers." In the expansion Opposing Force the protagonist, Corporal Adrian Shephard, is one of those men, and during the opening titles that display his personal info, his training is listed as "USMC Special Forces" and his current assignment is listed as the "Hazardous Environment Combat Unit, Santego Military Base, Arizona."

Opposing Force takes place several hours after the initial resonance cascade. The player's character, Adrian Shephard, is knocked unconscious when his Osprey transport is shot down by Xen forces, and wakes up several hours later in the Black Mesa Infirmary. Shephard regains consciousness just in time to witness the HECU begin to pull out all of its troops. However, he is prevented from leaving when the mysterious G-Man seals him in the facility. Shephard is forced to continue deeper into Black Mesa, where he encounters and takes charge of the remnants of HECU who have also been left behind during the evacuation. Shephard and his men find themselves combating not only the aliens from Xen, but also the newly arrived "Race X" aliens and a group of government Black Ops assassins who have recently been dispatched to the facility, who appear to have orders to eliminate any remaining HECU Marines as well as to destroy Black Mesa with a nuclear device.

The Hazardous Environment Combat Unit also appears to have access to more advanced military technology than their regular counterparts, as the Marines wear Powered Combat Vests (PCVs).

Furthermore, in both games, the troops are deployed in Osprey aircraft, which at the time of the game's production, had not yet gone beyond engineering and manufacturing development and low-rate production with the United States Marine Corps.

HECU weapons and equipment[]

The Hazardous Environment Combat Unit troops, while utilizing a variety of equipment and firearms, are all equipped similarly. Each soldier is equipped with an urban camouflage Battle Dress Uniform and a Powered Combat Vest and can be equipped with a PASGT helmet and, depending on his specialization, blowtorch or medical supplies.

Powered Combat Vest[]


The Powered Combat Vest, as seen in Half-Life: Opposing Force.

The Powered Combat Vest (PCV) is a protective vest worn by the soldiers of the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit, over which the LC-2 Harness is worn. Part of the combat equipment used by the HECU in their initial incursion into Black Mesa and during the events that occur throughout Half-Life’s storyline, the PCV is designed to protect the user from chemical, biological, radiological and physical threats during operations in the unit's defined battlespace. The vest increases the effectiveness and versality of the user, allowing them to operate in environments which are outside the normal bounds of the regular infantry.

The PCV is compatible with a gas mask resembling the M40 Field Protective Mask with built-in night vision goggles. In addition, the PCV includes a Geiger counter, morphine administrator (which allows the soldier to function normally even after serious injury), anti-toxin delivery system, tactical radio, and a heads-up display (HUD) in the protective mask lens which tracks the user's medical condition and weapon ammunition. The vest contains an on-board computer system that constantly monitors the user's health and vital signs, and reacts to any changes in the user's condition.

Additionally, during the events seen in gameplay, the PCV provides complete protection to the center mass of the user, protecting the torso, abdomen, shoulders, and back. This is provided by the electrically powered shield which stiffens the fibers of the suit to provide a hard, resilient layer of armor to absorb the kinetic energy. With a fully charged vest, the user can survive several dozen rounds of small arms fire or even a direct hit from a rocket propelled grenade. The PCV also provides protection from high level electrical and thermal energy, biological and chemical threats when sufficiently charged. The PCV can be charged by power modules either from the operational area or specially designed models which form part of the unit's arsenal.

It may be noted that the PCV is comparable to the HEV suit, which is worn by several Black Mesa personnel, including Gordon Freeman. This similarity is mostly attributed to the types of equipment included in both. In addition, the PCV's armor charge is also rechargeable at civilian, military or government electrical chargers, including those that are designed specifically for HEV suits. This has led to fans speculating that the PCV is either a precursor, or a derivative of the HEV. However, the PCV includes night vision goggles, as opposed to the HEV suit's flashlight.

While the Half-Life storyline suggests that both the PCV and HEV suit are separate pieces of equipment, the similarities between both may simply be the result of Opposing Force’s programmers modifying the HEV suit's interface from Half-Life to that of a PCV for Opposing Force.

Detailed list of weaponry[]

The weapons utilized by the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit are based on several currently available weapons:

The HECU have also been observed to carry a rocket launcher in trucks that closely resembles the SMAW rocket launcher.



  1. "Half Life 1 Enemies" (HTML). Planet Half-Life. Retrieved 2007-10-16. 
  2. Sweeney, Cheryl (1999). Half-Life Opposing Force: instruction manual. Gearbox Software. 
  3. ""Surrender Freemen!" in-game picture" (HTML/JPG). Pilladin. Retrieved 2007-10-16. 
  4. "All dialogs on Half-Life 1" (HTML). NeverLand. Retrieved 2007-10-16. 

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