The Special Secrets and Strategies Guide for Half-Life 2 (PC version)
This FAQ is copyright (c) 2004, 2005 by Stanley E. Dunigan
This FAQ may be posted and used anywhere by anyone as long as it's unaltered,
but always check one of these official sites for the latest version:
Also, check the Universal Hint System website (www.uhs-hints.com) for
my complete Half-Life 2 hint file. It's not a FAQ-style walkthru, but it
includes a lot more game details than this FAQ does.
This FAQ isn't a walkthru of any sort, but only contains details on super-
special secret areas, big shortcuts, and inobvious strategies for tough fights.
I thought of making it while playing through the game on Hard difficulty
without any cheats, and that's the sort of thing that it's most useful for,
since so many parts of the game are significantly harder when played that way.
For instance, most gunship fights and all three antlion guard encounters are in
here. Hopefully, this FAQ will be useful to those who don't want to use
walkthrus but sometimes get stuck in very tough areas.
If you have a super-special secret or strategy that I don't (or if you have an
improvement for one that I have), send me an e-mail at the address listed in
the copyright section.
VERSION 2.4 (6/7/05) NOTES AND CREDITS:
This version adds in a secret area near Gate 5 in Chapter 4 that DarkLordSkippy
helped me find.
NOTE: In many of these tips, I refer to the quicksave and quickrestore keys. If
you're not already intimately familiar with them, get that way at once! To find
out (and/or change) what keys are defined for those functions, go under
"Options" on the game's main menu, choose the "Keyboard" tab, and scroll down
to the "Miscellaneous" section.
*** Chapter 3: Route Kanal
^^^ Hard-to-get-to secret area
In the big room with all the explosive barrels and manhacks in the fourth
chapter section, the manhacks all come out of one certain vent shaft near the
top of the room. You can get into that shaft and claim an armor battery if you
can manage to carry an item with you up the big ladder and onto the big light-
blue pipe. Drop the item on the light-blue pipe next to the large metal beam
that's next to the manhacks' shaft opening. Jump onto your item and then the
beam, and then across to the shaft opening (not forgetting to hit the Crouch
key before you land in the shaft).
The best way I've found to handle this whole situation is to not blow up the
explosive barrels at all. As soon as you drop into the room, head down the
ladder and drop into the shallow water below. It's very hard for manhacks to
hack you if you're crouched in the water, and it's easy enough to whack them
with the crowbar when they approach. Stay down there and whack manhacks until
they're all destroyed, not forgetting to jump up every now and then to get a
quick breath of air when you need to.
Then climb up the ladder and move along the pipe until you get to where you
need an item to jump onto. Look down and to the right to see an explosive
barrel that's within reach if you crouch down and carefully pick it up. Once
you have ahold of it, carefully swing it around the end of the big pipe where
it curves downward, then set it gently in the right spot on the pipe, then use
it to jump to the vent shaft.
CONTRIB NOTE: GoldenWyrm wrote in saying that he found it much easier to blow
up the barrels and then use a wooden supply crate to jump onto in order to get
into the vent shaft. If you didn't bring an unbroken supply crate with you from
the previous area, you can get the one that's floating in the water in the tall
pipe room with the valve wheel, but you have to make a lot of long, hard trips
up ladders with it.
*** Chapter 4: Water Hazard
^^^ Big shortcut at the closed gate that's opened by swinging beams
NOTE: This is the first situation you encounter in the second chapter section.
You know if you've played through this part before that the gate is opened by a
bundle of large metal beams that are attached to the big crane that you can
easily see towering up over the gate. Also, the beams are resting on a rather
flimsy wooden platform on the side of the canal opposite the crane, and you get
the beams to bash open the gate by blowing up some explosive barrels that are
near the base of the platform the beams are on.
Here's the shortcut, courtesy of contributor Kusanagi: you don't have to go all
the way through the building and fight all the soldiers and manhacks to get to
where you can blow up the barrels. Instead, stop and exit the airboat somewhere
near the gate, then move to where you can lob an SMG grenade high into the air
so that it drops near enough to the explosive barrels to detonate them. (Yes,
you can have one SMG grenade by now if you got it from a certain lambda-marked
secret stash in Route Kanal and didn't use it.) You need to stand in just the
right spot and look up just the right amount to get it to work. Quicksave
before you try and keep quickrestoring and trying until you get it.
Some alternatives that I came up with include using frag grenades and the
pistol. You can sneak carefully into the building and fill up on frag grenades
from the first infinite grenade crate in there without having to fight
anything. Then you can come back out here and toss frag grenades instead of the
much rarer SMG grenades to send those metal beams swinging. Or you can walk up
near the gate and use the HEV suit's zoom feature to spot the platform the
metal beams are resting on, then back up to where you can see the vertical
wooden supports for that platform. Use zoom mode to help you decide exactly
where to aim, then de-zoom and use the pistol to shoot out the wooden supports.
(Note that you'll be shooting through a large hole near the top of the gate.)
GoldenWyrm and Brendan wrote in at the *exact* same time with another tip on
doing this. If you climb up the ladder that leads to the building's door and
then stand on the tiny balcony where you can see the gate and crane off in the
distance, you can target the explosive barrels directly with your pistol. As in
the above pistol tip, use the HEV zoom feature to see exactly where you need to
shoot. (Note that blowing up the nearest barrel won't work -- you need to
carefully maneuver to where you can zoom-see the barrel that's behind it, then
shoot that one.) If you do it right, you'll only use 2 or 3 bullets instead of
the 18 or so needed to shoot out the wooden platform's support beams.
*** Chapter 4: Water Hazard
^^^ Big shortcut at Gate 5, including total hunter-chopper avoidance
In the third chapter segment, where Gate 5 is closed before you can get through
it, look at the structures to the right of the gate to find a white handrail
going along a raised cement walkway near the water. Find the small gap in the
handrail near the right end of it. You can jump through that gap if you park
your airboat next to it, exit the boat, and jump up onto the boat and then
through the handrail gap. It's a tough maneuver to pull off, and may require
many tries. Your airboat has to be parked in just the right position, and
jumping around on it can accidentally push it away from that position.
If you can make it, it's just a short jog along the walkway to reach the ladder
that leads up to Gate 5's control room. The only problem is that you'll be
skipping your first opportunity to get the .357 Magnum and a bunch of ammo for
NOTE: After you open Gate 5, you could move on past the gate control tower to
get to some of the areas you were supposed to come through from the other way
and get stuff without having to worry about the helicopter showing up (just a
NOTE: If you avoid "activating" the chopper here, you won't have to deal with
it again until the next chapter section loads. That'll make the canal run that
immediately follows Gate 5 nice and easy!
CONTRIB NOTE: GoldenWyrm wrote in with another good shortcut for this area.
Instead of messing with the rail-hopping routine (which can be *very* hard to
pull off), go through the padlocked door that you're "supposed" to go through,
get the .357 Magnum and shoot up the cops, and then head up the stairs that
lead to the large outdoor crate storage area. Shoot the cop who's out there,
then find the nearby spot where you can use several wooden crates to hop up
onto a large blue storage container. Once on top of it, you can run across and
jump over the fence and land in the same spot that my rail-jumping tip gets you
to. Unfortunately, you'll be under chopper fire as you do this, and the chopper
will be active in the area past Gate 5, too. But you do at least get to skip a
lot of combat in the container area and large warehouse.
*** Chapter 4: Water Hazard
^^^ High-up secret area near Gate 5
I never thought it was possible to get up onto the upper dock structures that
you can see near Gate 5, but DarkLordSkippy wrote in with a tip that helped me
figure out how you can. After you go through the padlocked door and get the
.357 Magnum, move on until you're outside again, but don't go up the steps that
trigger the appearance of the enemy chopper. Instead, look for a spot near the
doorway that leads back into the building where the dock structure is right
above you. To get up to it and over the chain-link fence, push the nearby large
crate over to the fence under the walkway you're trying to get to, then stack
the boxes from the .357 Magnum's room on top of it so you can climb the boxes
and jump over the top of the fence. (If you destroyed some of the boxes, such
as the supply boxes, you can use barrels instead, but it's harder.) The thing
that makes this a secret area instead of just a tricky place to get to is the
large blue trash bin in the back corner past a small ramp. You'll have to carry
over and stack up some barrels to get into the bin. Inside it, you'll find a
watermelon to slush with the crowbar (what fun!) and a frag grenade.
Of course, you're probably all full up on fraggies from the infinite grenade
crates earlier, so you figure "Why bother?" I'll tell you why! It's because you
can easily bypass the chopper-activating stairs from here. Just take one
upright barrel and carry it up the ramp with you, then turn left and set the
barrel down near the edge of the concrete so that you can use it to jump up
onto the nearby wooden beam structure. From there, you can easily jump over the
nearby fence and end up in the warehouse's freight container yard. Sure, you'll
still have to deal with all the soldiers in and around the warehouse, but the
chopper won't make an appearance until you've passed Gate 5 and moved on to the
next chapter section. (Some people may find this a bit easier to do than the
above chopper-avoiding method.)
*** Chapter 4: Water Hazard
^^^ Safe way to destroy the two APCs in one area
Right before you get to the area where you can shoot down the chopper once and
for all, you'll come to a place where there are two elevated APCs (black
rocket-firing tanks) near a ramp you have to take. There's a way to carefully
shoot both of the APCs without them being able to fire one rocket at you.
Notice that to get to where you can see either of them, you have to pass a huge
red-and-brown beached boat to your left. Get up on the narrow slanty bit of
land between the boat and the water and slowly edge forward until you can see a
small part of the first APC to the right of the wooden plank ramp that's just
past the boat. I you do it just right, you can shoot that APC into scrap
without it even seeing you, then reposition yourself carefully for the next
For the second APC, back up and then approach slowly on the land to the right
of the water (the side opposite the one you were on before). Slowly sneak
forward until you can see a small part of the APC above the wood ramp and to
the right of the ship's big rudder, then blast it!
NOTE: It's hard to slowly maneuver the airboat into just the right position,
and even harder to make it stay exactly there while you shoot. You'll have to
quickly retreat behind the big red-and-brown boat (or quickrestore) if you
accidentally go out too far and start taking fire from the APCs.
*** Chapter 4: Water Hazard
^^^ Another way to handle the APCs in the same area
Brecht Claeys wrote in again to tell me that once you get the gauss gun on the
airboat, the APCs start acting a little funny. If you can't see them, they
can't (usually) see you! Dumb, but true. So approach them while driving
backward (or looking off to the side) so that you can pass them without seeing
them. You can start doing this with the first APC in the seventh chapter
section, but even if the APC isn't firing at you as you go toward the bridge
backwards, the cop on the side will, and it's way too easy to back up into
something that you can't get past without slow and careful maneuvering before
you can get under the bridge. However, if you're familiar enough with the
terrain there that you can back all the way up to the bridge without hitting
anything, you can quickly blast the cop, turn around, and head on down the
"road." The APC will start firing at you after you pass under its bridge, but
it'll be very easy to zoom around the corner before it can hit you with much
(or you can carefully move back out to where you can see a part of the APC and
shoot it without it shooting you).
A similar no-look technique can be used with the two APCs in one area mentioned
in the previous Chapter 4 tip. You can drive into their area going forward as
long as you keep looking to the right so they never come into your view. Drive
all the way to the back and then make your way along until you're right along-
side the vertical logs that hold up the ledge that the first APC is on. While
facing away from the second one, slowly maneuver to where you can see a small
part of the first one and shoot it to pieces. Then back up until you're against
the bottom of the ledge that the second one is on and maneuver to get a shot at
it. If you're careful, you can pull it off without ever coming under fire.
(However, I still think my other way of using the big boat for cover is easier,
just because I can always see where I'm going!)
*** Chapter 4: Water Hazard
^^^ Safe and easy way to finish off the hunter-chopper
In the final chapter segment, where you're supposed to fight the chopper to the
death in a big arena-like area near the dam, there's a great alternative way to
do it. First, do *not* take the airboat out of the tunnel you go through to
enter the large area where you fight the chopper. See all those logs strewn
about the tunnel exit? They make it very difficult (though not impossible) to
get the airboat back into the tunnel later. (If you want to do this, you need
to hit the logs just right on their left side and keep pressing forward.)
Park the airboat a ways back in the tunnel, then head out to the outdoor arena
on foot. Go over to the right where you see a large red-and-brown boat lying
around and find the partially buried concrete pipe near it. Crawl into the
pipe's open end to find two health kits and an armor battery. What the nearby
supply crates have depends on what your health and armor values are. If either
is low, you'll get recharging items -- otherwise, just ammo. (Thanks to Fang
Xianfu for confirming this.) Anyhow, pick up and carry every health pack and
armor battery that you can't use now back to your hidey-hole one at a time.
It's a good idea to drop the items on dry ground a ways back from the tunnel
entrance. This is so you can heal up if you take damage later without having to
leave the safety of the tunnel. (Note that this step can be slow and time-
consuming, and isn't really necessary if you're careful later on. But better
safe than sorry!)
Now walk out toward the dam area until the alarm sounds, alerting the chopper
to your presence. Immediately turn around and sprint back for the tunnel. Your
auxiliary power will deplete very rapidly on this run, so seek cover (like
inside the big cement pipe and next to the larger rock formations) to use while
waiting for auxiliary power to recharge. When you're nearing the tunnel
entrance, use the cement ledge along the right to get in more quickly and
easily than log-hopping.
Get back into your airboat and start shooting that chopper. Note that if you're
sitting in the tunnel entrance, the chopper will often hover nearby and shoot
you with its cannon, so you'll want to move back to just out of its range so
you'll be safe while it's doing that. As soon as it stops, move forward to
where you can shoot it as it flies by dropping mines (but be careful not to go
over the logs, since it'll be a pain to get back into the tunnel if you do).
Keep shooting the chopper as it flies by (and retreating when it shoots back)
until it goes down. Nice and easy, huh?
NOTE: Sometimes the chopper will hover and fire its cannon continuously at the
tunnel entrance for a very long time. When this happens, try moving way back in
the tunnel and then forward again. If that doesn't work, just wait it out.
*** Chapter 5: Black Mesa East
^^^ How to use your new gravity gun to set fallen-over things upright
Before you get the gravity gun, the best way to set things (like a fallen-over
barrel) upright is to grab the item while looking down at one end of it, then
lift it up and drop it so that its top hits the edge of a table or railing and
its bottom falls all the way to the floor. Then you sometimes have to pick it
up and hold it against a wall and drop it in order to get it fully upright
After you get the gravity gun, there's an easier way. Use the gravity gun to
pick the item up from the bottom as before, but then look straight up in order
to hold the item almost directly above your head -- this will straighten it
out, with its top side up. Release the item from the gravity gun's hold, then
quickly grab it again (preferably with the Use key) before it hits the floor.
It should now be upright and easy to set down without it falling over. This can
be very useful with overturned barrels and enemy sentry guns. (Remember that
all you have to do with friendly sentry guns is pick them up and give them a
shake or two, and they'll automatically right themselves.)
*** Chapter 6: "We Don't Go to Ravenholm..."
^^^ Fun tip for using Dog's ball in Ravenholm
Skys_end wrote in with a fun thing you can do with Dog's ball. After Alyx tells
Dog to throw something bigger when you're still in the Chapter 5 outdoor
playground area, pick up the rollermine ball with the gravity gun and start for
the exit. Keep ahold of it as the Combine attacks and you are sent down the
tunnel to Ravenholm. It's a bit of a pain to climb the long ladder with, and I
advise you to drop the mine, start up the ladder, then turn around and face
down and suck it in with the gravity gun, then make your way the rest of the
way up the ladder while facing down. At the top, turn around and drop the mine
on the nearby floor before getting off the ladder.
Once in Ravenholm, you can fire the mine at zombies to kill them in one shot,
or you can have fun letting it roam around and distract zombies and kill
headcrabs for you. It can't actually hurt zombies on its own, but they can't
hurt it either, and it'll serve as a distraction while you casually crowbar-
whack or shoot the zombies to death (or throw things at them with the gravity
gun). In other words, the mine gives you a lot more time to decide how to
dispose of zombies and to do it without rushing. This can be exceptionally
useful in the areas where you're attacked by several fast zombies at once --
stand back and carefully pick them off one by one as they cluster around the
WARNING: You need to be very careful not to let anything explode next to the
mine, or it'll blow up, too. Also keep it away from fire. A small amount of
water won't hurt it, but it'll blow up if you submerge it too far (like if you
drop it into the big underwater passage in the mineshaft area).
NOTE: It can often be easier to throw the mine ahead to where you know you're
going to go rather than trying to carry it there. The car-crusher area is one
example -- just toss the mine through the window you know you're going for,
then take the car-crusher ride to get up there yourself. The part where you
ride Grigori's lift across is even more important. You can't carry the mine
across with you on the lift due to invisible barriers that it can't pass
through. What you need to do is stand next to the lift and fire the mine toward
the church at a very steep angle (nearly straight up) so that it goes over the
invisible barriers and lands in the church yard. That way you can take the mine
with you all the way to the mineshaft area.
TIP: In the big headcrab-infested room at the bottom of the first mineshaft,
you can drop your rollermine to the floor to let it slowly but surely finish
off all the headcrabs for you. You could also use it to distract all the
headcrabs while you make a run for the exit. (You probably won't want to go to
the trouble of taking it past the water-filled shaft that's just ahead,
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