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Gordon Freeman

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Gordon Freeman
Half-Life character
A white man in an armoured suit clutches a shotgun. The man has brown hair, a short beard and mustache, green eyes and thick black glasses. The suit is predominately orange with black trim, the Greek letter Lambda emblazoned on the suit's chest.
Gordon Freeman as he appears in Half-Life 2
First appearanceHalf-Life (1998)
Created byGabe Newell[1]
Designed by
In-universe information
HomeSeattle, Washington

Gordon Freeman is the silent protagonist of the Half-Life video game series, created by Gabe Newell[1] and designed by Newell and Marc Laidlaw[2] of Valve. His first appearance is in Half-Life. Gordon Freeman is depicted as a bespectacled white man from Seattle, with brown hair and a signature goatee, who graduated from MIT with a PhD in theoretical physics. He was an employee at the fictional Black Mesa Research Facility. Controlled by the player, Gordon is often tasked with using a wide range of weapons and tools to fight alien creatures such as headcrabs, as well as Combine machines and soldiers. Gordon Freeman's character has been well received by critics and gamers, and various gaming websites often consider him to be one of the greatest video game characters of all time, including UGO[3] and GameSpot.[4]

Character design

An early concept art of Gordon Freeman, wearing a bulkier HEV suit, helmet, and goggles

Valve president and Half-Life director Gabe Newell coined the name "Gordon Freeman" during a conversation with the game's writer Marc Laidlaw in his car. Laidlaw had originally named the character "Dyson Poincaré", combining the names of physicist and philosopher Freeman Dyson and mathematician Henri Poincaré. The texture for Gordon's head was "too big of a job for just one person", so Valve designers combined references from four people. An earlier model of Gordon, known as "Ivan the Space Biker", had a full beard that was subsequently trimmed. Other iterations of Gordon's concept featured different glasses, a ponytail, and a helmet.[5]

Gordon wears a special full-body hazmat suit, known as the Hazardous Environment Suit (or HEV Suit). The suit is designed to protect the user from radiation, energy discharges, and blunt trauma during the handling of hazardous materials. The suit's main feature is its "high-impact reactive armor", an electrically powered armor system that, when charged, absorbs two-thirds of the damage that Gordon would ordinarily suffer in Half-Life and 80% in Half-Life 2.[citation needed] A fully charged suit can survive several dozen hits from small arms and even one direct hit from an RPG. The suit can be charged by various means, and has its own oxygen supply and medical injectors, such as morphine and a neurotoxin antidote. It comes with a built-in flashlight, a radio, various tracking devices, a compass, and a Geiger counter. The suit 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. It also projects a heads-up display (HUD) which displays Gordon's health and suit charge level, remaining ammunition, and a crosshair. As a means of immersing the player in the role, Gordon never speaks, and there are no cutscenes or mission briefings—all action is viewed through Gordon's eyes, with the player retaining control of Gordon's actions at nearly all times. The images of Gordon are only seen on the game's cover and menu pages, and also in advertisements, making them marketing tools rather than pictures of what Gordon is "really like". Gabe Newell has stated that Valve sees no reason to give Gordon a voice.[6]

In Half-Life, Gordon wears the Mark IV suit. Later in the game, the suit is equipped with an optional long-jump module so Gordon can leap great distances. It is charged using power modules throughout Black Mesa. In Half-Life 2 Gordon receives the upgraded Mark V suit, which lacks the long-jump module but gains several new abilities. It features a visual zooming capability, limited sprinting, an anti-venom injector, an optional ammo and health counter on the crosshair, and has been modified to use Combine power nodes to charge the suit.

The Mark V initially used a single power source for the flashlight, sprinting, and oxygen supply; in Half-Life 2: Episode Two the flashlight was given a separate power source to improve gameplay. The symbol on Gordon's HEV suit is the lower case Greek letter Lambda, λ. This symbol is used by scientists to denote the decay constant of radioactive elements (related to the half-life of an element). As well as appearing on Gordon's suit, the symbol replaces the letter "a" in the game title (Hλlf-Life), and is the name of the complex in the Black Mesa Research Facility where teleportation experiments are conducted in the first game. The Lambda symbol is also seen in Half-Life 2 as a marking of the human resistance, seen close to hidden supplies and on the arm bands of better equipped resistance fighters.


In the Half-Life saga, Gordon Freeman is a silent protagonist who, despite lacking formal weapon training, survives a chaotic inter-dimensional incident at the Black Mesa Research Facility. In Half-Life 2, after being kept in stasis for nearly two decades, Freeman battles the Combine Empire to liberate Earth. He gains legendary status and sparks a rebellion, ultimately destroying the Citadel, a major Combine stronghold. The G-Man rescues Freeman after this critical event, praising his accomplishments and placing him back in stasis.

In Episode One, Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance work to stabilize the Citadel's core to prevent a catastrophic explosion. In Episode Two, they work together to transport crucial data in order to close a forming superportal. After a revelation from the G-Man about saving Alyx, they learn about the Borealis, a research vessel with the potential to cause significant events. The game ends with Alyx mourning her father's death at the hands of a Combine Advisor.

Half-Life: Alyx, set five years before Half-Life 2, follows Alyx Vance trying to locate Gordon. In the end, Alyx alters the future by killing the Combine Advisor that was about to kill her father, impressing the G-Man. Gordon's first appearance in third-person perspective occurs as he picks up his glasses. The G-Man places Alyx in stasis and assigns her a new mission. In the post-credits scene, players control Gordon Freeman as Eli Vance realizes his daughter's disappearance is linked to the G-Man. Eli then hands Gordon his signature crowbar, signaling a new mission.

Critical reception

Gordon Freeman quickly became and then remained one of the most popular video game characters ever. In 2008, The Age ranked him as the 16th-best Xbox character of all time, adding that "no one has done more for the reputations and street cred of theoretical physicists than Valve."[7] In 2009, GameDaily listed the "strong and silent type" in their top 25 video game archetypes, using Gordon Freeman as an example.[8] In 2010, Empire ranked him as the number one Greatest Video Game Character, commenting that "the character is the quintessential geek fantasy" who "has become a gaming icon, synonymous with the apotheosis of first-person action."[9]

He was also ranked 14th on UGO.com's list of top 100 heroes in all media, with a comment that "an MIT graduate, donning black-framed glasses and a goatee, he's not the guy you'd picture decimating the alien threat."[3] In 2012, GamesRadar ranked him as the sixth "most memorable, influential, and badass" protagonist in games, adding: "It's how the characters of the Half-Life universe treat Gordon Freeman, not the way he treats them, that shape such a compelling character."[10] In 2013, Complex ranked him as the 45th "most badass" video game character of all time.[11] On the other hand, 1UP.com's Marty Sliva included him among the most unrelatable narrators, stating, "I'm sure some people love the fact that they can become Gordon Freeman -- I just think I'd be a little happier if there was anything there to become."[12]

In 1998, readers of GameSpot ranked him as the fifth-Best Hero of gaming.[4] In 2009, a public poll on GameSpot resulted in him being voted the All Time Greatest Video Game Hero.[13] He was also voted as the eighth-best video game character of all time in the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition 2011.[14]


  1. ^ a b c "The Top 100 Game Creators of All Time - 16. Gabe Newell". IGN. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Marc Laidlaw". Giant Bomb. Archived from the original on March 1, 2014. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
  3. ^ a b "UGO's Top 100 Heroes of All Time". UGO Entertainment. Archived from the original on February 2, 2009. Retrieved October 15, 2009.
  4. ^ a b "TenSpot Readers' Choice: Ten Best Heroes - GameSpot". Archived from the original on June 12, 2009. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
  5. ^ Hodgson, David (2004). Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar. Prima Games. pp. 30–31. ISBN 0-7615-4364-3.
  6. ^ Ingham, Tim (April 4, 2010). "Gabe Newell: Next Half-Life won't change Gordon Freeman". Computer and Video Games. Archived from the original on April 9, 2010. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  7. ^ "The Top 50 Xbox Characters of All Time". Theage.com.au. Archived from the original on October 6, 2010. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
  8. ^ Mitchell, Richard. (September 23, 2011) Joystiq [dead link]. Gamedaily.com. Retrieved on 2011-09-30.
  9. ^ The 50 Greatest Video Game Characters | 1. Gordon Freeman | Empire Archived March 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. www.empireonline.com. Retrieved on September 30, 2011.
  10. ^ 100 best heroes in video games Archived November 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, GamesRadar, October 19, 2012.
  11. ^ Drea Avellan, The 50 Most Badass Video Game Characters Of All Time Archived February 19, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, Complex.com, February 1, 2013.
  12. ^ "The Most Unrelatable Narrators in Gaming". 1Up.com. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  13. ^ Park, Andrew (October 15, 2009). "GameSpot's All-Time Greatest Game Hero Draws to a Close. And the Winner Is..." GameSpot. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved October 15, 2009.
  14. ^ "Guinness Names Top 50 Video Game Characters Of All Time - News". www.GameInformer.com. February 16, 2011. Archived from the original on December 10, 2014. Retrieved September 2, 2013.

Further reading

External links