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Iconic Half-Life character isn’t who we think he is, Valve dev says

Half-Life characters like Gordon Freeman and G-Man may be shrouded in mystery, but one Black Mesa scientist is definitely not who we thought, a Valve dev says.

Half-Life characters: A scientist in glasses, Gordon Freeman from Valve FPS game Half-Life

Half-Life characters are still, to this day, hiding a lot of secrets. We know very little about Gordon Freeman. G-Man is a total mystery. And even with the latest entry in the Valve FPS game series, we’re still learning a lot about Alyx and her background before the events of Half-Life 2. One recent fan theory, however, involving Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and one of the iconic scientist NPCs from Black Mesa, has led us to an unexpected revelation. It turns out one of the most recognizable faces from Half-Life doesn’t belong to who we thought.

It all starts with scientist_04, better known within the Half-Life community as ‘Slick.’ You’ve no doubt seen him around Black Mesa – he’s the younger scientist with the slicked back black hair. With the release of Oppenheimer, Half-Life players began to speculate that perhaps Slick was based on the famous physicist himself. Admittedly, there is a resemblance.

Half-Life characters: A scientist from Valve FPS game Half-Life next to Robert Oppenheimer

Naturally, this warranted further investigation. Enter The Gamer and Valve designer Chuck Jones. Jones worked at Valve between 1996 and 2003, and performed much of the 3D modelling and character work for the original Half-Life.

Though Jones doesn’t address the Slick/Oppenheimer connection, the Valve dev offers a startling secret about another Black Mesa NPC, scientist_02, better known as ‘Einstein.’ You can guess why.

Half-Life characters: A scientist from Valve FPS game Half-Life who looks like Einstein

But here’s the twist. It turns out Einstein isn’t Einstein at all. He’s actually based on a very different, but similarly significant, historical figure.

“As far as the scientist [scientist_02] I took the biggest visual cliche of what a scientist would look like and went from there,” Jones says. “The one you mentioned that looked like Einstein? I think I got the inspiration from George Washington.”

So Einstein is not Einstein at all – he’s George Washington. We need to change the nickname. The whole fabric of what we thought we knew about Black Mesa could fall apart. Is Gordon Gordon? Are headcrabs actually just cute? Can you actually blow up a lamb casserole using a microwave?!

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Jones does confirm one thing we all suspected about G-Man however, that he is based on the Cigarette-Smoking Man from The X-Files. “Gabe Newell mentioned that’s what he wanted to see,” Jones tells The Gamer. “X-Files was huge at the time, so the design followed.” So, not everything has been flipped upside down.

If all this Half-Life has your nostalgia going, check out some of the other best old games on PC. You might also want to find out whatever happened to Half-Life 3, which we still believe – still, still believe – will one day arrive.