The mysteries of Half-Life 3 and episode three of Half-Life 2 may never officially be resolved. Extensive, investigative work has resulted in little to no revelation, and whenever information does crop up, it’s delivered at the most unexpected times in the most roundabout manners.
Valve may have abandoned its silent theoretical physicist, but other developers have brought him into all sorts of video games over time. Freeman has received plenty of subtle textual and visual nods in titles like Call of Duty: United Offensive or Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, so we’ve limited our list to actual sightings of Dr. Freeman’s likeness. Let’s see what other worlds the scientist has explored over the years.
The Punisher (2005)
Loosely inspired by the 2004 movie starring Thomas Jane, The Punisher is a third-person shooter where Frank Castle takes on a load of gangs with plenty of guilty-pleasure cameos from Iron Man, Wilson Fisk, and more. However, the cameo we’re interested in happens during the introduction of the Stark Towers level. A tour guide shows Castle all of the scientists working on projects when the facility goes on lockdown. One of the scientists asks “Dr. Freeman” what’s going on, to which he replies, “Maybe the quantum physics group finally opened that extra-dimensional portal!” Sadly, the enthusiast scientist perishes when an Eternal Sun gang member breaks into his lab, so you’re unable to save him. Although Portal wasn’t released yet, this version of Dr. Freeman seemed to be working on a device that looks awfully similar to Chell’s Portal gun, too.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl (2007)
If you look to your left next to a fallen helicopter in Wild Territory, you’ll see an underground tunnel filled with electro anomalies, which plays a key role in the “Find the Family Rifle” side mission. If you carefully navigate the area using bolts or your detector, you’ll find a deceased Gordon Freeman with his signature glasses. Looting his body will uncover his PDA, where he chronicles being sent to Chernobyl (possibly by the G-Man) following the Black Mesa Incident. Apparently, he didn’t fare well in the radioactive landscape, but you can benefit from the fallen scientist by taking a Black Kite pistol off his body and a modified version called the Big Ben in a box lying next to him. GSC Game World planned to add a mission where Barkeep gives you a mission to recover the Black Kite pistol, but the quest was scrapped from the game.
In Chapter 4 of Penumbra, you encounter a locked door that blocks your way to the incinerator room. The only way to get through is to carefully venture across a frozen lake to retrieve a crowbar, which must be sawed from the previous owner’s cold, dead hand. Should you inspect the item’s description, it reveals that “There’s a name scratched into the metal: ‘Freeman.’” The scientist can’t seem to catch a break from harsh landscapes, whether it be frozen tundras or radiation wastelands.
Metro 2033 (2010)
After Rangers Pavel and Ulman save Artyom from two Nazis in the Trolley Combat mission, you’ll notice a bloodied door down the hallway as soon as you assume control of Artyom. The Rangers head left, but if you open the door and turn on your flashlight in the pitch-black room, you’ll find a Gordon Freeman who’s been long dead. There’s no way to tell on appearance alone since he’s a skeleton, but a pair of glasses and red crowbar leave no doubt. The similarities between this and the Shadow of Chernobyl Easter egg are likely not coincidence. Metro 2033’s developer, 4A Games, was founded by former S.T.A.L.K.E.R. developers.
Renegade Ops (2011)
Your car is your weapon in this interesting take on the twin-stick shooter. You upgrade your arsenal and tour different locations as you blow up all sorts of different vehicles. The Steam version of Renegade Ops comes with a Half-Life-themed buggy that Gordon Freeman himself drives. His unique ability allows him to send out giant Antlions to destroy enemies.
Shoot Many Robots (2012)
It’s hard to say whether this counts as an appearance or not, but it’s close enough to warrant our list. This side-scrolling shooter features customizable clothing with varying stats, and one of these outfits is the Steam exclusive HEV Suit with Gordon Freeman’s glasses. These items were available for anyone who pre-purchased the game, which interestingly increased the likelihood of encountering a Portal turret in-game. Unfortunately, Shoot Many Robots was removed by Ubisoft from the Steam store, so this is an appearance that’s disappeared into the nether.
The eponymous character of McPixel is put through dozens of rapid-fire situations where you interact with his environments to figure out how to prevent explosions from going off. In one of the downloadable content scenarios, the hapless guy finds himself at Black Mesa Research Facility, where Gordon Freeman and Gabe Newell are roasting hot dogs over a fire. Saving the facility entails kicking Newell into the fire, eating his hot dog, and vomiting on Freeman, which will cause him to vomit rainbows that put out their campfire. We can’t help but think there’s some metaphor behind all of this.
Steamworld Dig (2013)
In the Old World section of this adventure mining title, the second upgrade cave houses an ancient store you can visit if you venture to the upper-left portion of this area. Once you steam jump across a chasm after blowing up a wall, you encounter a GameGo store with a row of people who died waiting for Half-Life 3. Advertisement posters and a billboard are all over the place, and one of the fans is wearing a HEV suit. We wouldn’t count this as a Freeman appearance, but his likeness (with appropriately graying hair) can be seen on one of the store’s posters.
Mad Max (2015)
If you move south from the center of the Grit Canyons area, there’s a cliffside with an opening below. Entering this well-hidden haven will lead you to a pile of boxes, but you’ll notice that a bigger wooden crate has an orange “3” blazoned on the side. A severed arm with a crowbar rests on top of it and, lo and behold, a rotting corpse with glasses lying next to it. You can collect some scrap and eat some maggots straight out of Freeman’s corpse while you’re there, too … appetizing, right? In addition, Avalanche Studios developed this game as well as Renegade Ops; the team clearly has an affinity for Half-Life.
Final Fantasy XV (2015)
The latest in the strange world of Gordon Freeman appearances comes from Square Enix’s partnership with Valve to deliver Final Fantasy XV on Steam. Players can wear Gordon Freeman’s HEV Suit, glasses, and use a crowbar with their own customizable characters, but can play as the man himself if they so choose. The extra content is exclusive to anyone who purchases the game on Steam before May 1. As a side note, Final Fantasy XV creative director Hajime Tabata said that “The Half-Life team at Valve” sent him a headcrab hat to wear while announcing the DLC … the wording is a bit curious, wouldn’t you say?
What are some of your favorite appearances of Half-Life’s star character? Are there any games you’d like to see him appear in? Let us know in the comments below. You can also check out our thoughts on the canned script for Half-Life 2: Episode 3 by clicking here.