Barney Calhoun
Half-Life series series
Barney Calhoun (Half-Life)
First appearance Half-Life ([retcon])
Voiced by
Michael Shapiro

Barney Calhoun is a fictional character in the Half-Life series of first-person shooter computer games by Valve Software. Although initially considered a "throwaway" character (in fact, an entire class of throwaway characters), Barney has played increasingly prominent roles as the series has progressed.

While Barney Calhoun is the name of a specific character in the Half-Life story, the name "Barney" also applies to the Black Mesa security officers in general.

Concept and creation

Michael Shapiro provided Barney's voice in Half-Life and its add-ons as well as Half-Life 2. Scott Lynch, Valve Software's Chief Operating Officer, lent his face to the game for use in-game as Barney in Half-Life 2. When Barney is seen again in Episode One, he gains a much more dirty and worn out face as his stubble has grown, his hair is somewhat ratted, and a patch of blood on his forehead; presumably from the long and hard struggle as he fights off the Combine forces while Alyx and Gordon were in the Citadel.

His name is never mentioned in the original Half-Life, but the file name of the character model was "monster_barney", and in multiplayer the model was simply named "Barney". The name was born in the earlier alpha versions of the game where the model for the security guards held a resemblance to actor Don Knotts, which, combined with the status of being a security guard, inspired comparisons with Knotts's character "Barney Fife" from The Andy Griffith Show, which in the U.S. has long been a disparaging term for an inept policeman or security guard. Initially, the "Barneys" were intended to be hostile NPCs who would attack the player. However, to test certain AI scripts and combat subroutines, Barney was temporarily changed to work with the player. Testers grew so fond of Barney's (occasionally bumbling) behaviors that his role and AI scripts were rewritten to set Barney as a friend. Blue Shift would reveal that the Barney Calhoun was the security guard pounding on a door as Gordon Freeman (the player) passed by in a tram during the opening sequence.


Barney Calhoun, an undecided two-year major from Martinson College, is employed as a mid-level security officer at the Black Mesa Research Facility, with Level 3 security clearance. His duties include guarding assigned sections, performing general maintenance, and assisting the Science Team as and when he is required. His "Disaster Response Priority" is to protect the Black Mesa facility and its equipment in the event of an emergency. His secondary priority is to safeguard members of the science team, while his own personal safety is of relatively low importance. During the course of his daily duties, he is required to repair an elevator in Sector G of the Black Mesa compound, and, while traveling in the elevator with two scientists, witnesses firsthand the effects of the resonance cascade on the facility. After the elevator plummets to the ground, killing the two scientists and knocking Calhoun unconscious, he wakes up and fights his way to the surface, seeing the panic of facility personnel desperate to escape Black Mesa by any means available. While fighting his way through the facility, he stumbles across Dr. Rosenberg, a high-ranking researcher working on teleport technology. Rosenberg takes Barney to an abandoned area of Black Mesa filled with prototype teleporter machinery, and with the assistance of two other scientists, Rosenberg teleports Calhoun to Xen, where he reactivates an old triangulation device. When Calhoun returns to Earth, he and the three scientists are able to teleport to an overlooked entrance of Black Mesa. A momentary malfunction leads to Calhoun being rapidly transported through the facility, but he is ultimately able to escape with Rosenberg and the other two scientists in a Black Mesa SUV.

Appearance and role


In the original Half-Life, "Barney" was the collective name for a class of identical NPC security guards.

Multiple guards could be encountered and allied at once. In the game, the Barneys served a role much like the equally ubiquitous scientists: providing conversations that revealed small parts of the story. Additionally, they could support the player as allies in combat. Although each Barney carried a handgun, their effectiveness in combat could often be hampered by poor pathfinding and slow response times. However, some players have remarked on Barney's unusual combat capability as compared to the HECU, as during their rare battles he is capable of killing one or occasionally several of the more heavily armed and armoured soldiers, most likely due to his accuracy at long range. For some reason, the Barneys never have to reload their guns, enabling them to fire infinitely at targets.

Half-Life: Opposing Force

The first Half-Life expansion, Half-Life: Opposing Force, confirmed Barney's first name in dialogue. Barney was joined by his co-worker Otis (named after another character from The Andy Griffith Show); both Barney and Otis helped Adrian Shephard, the protagonist of Opposing Force, in much the same way that Barney had helped Gordon Freeman in the original game, such as opening authorized access doors and killing some enemies along the game.

Half-Life: Blue Shift

Barney gained a starring role in the following expansion, Half-Life: Blue Shift. He was finally given a surname (Calhoun) along with an improved appearance. Unlike Gordon Freeman and Adrian Shephard, Barney lacked any form of power armor and was equipped only with a simple armored vest and helmet. Thus, instead of utilizing HEV recharging stations, Calhoun would restore his damaged armor by picking up fresh vests from fallen comrades along the way. Note that unlike Freeman and Shephard he does not come across any living security guards after the cascade except for one towards the end of the game. This one only lives long enough to tell him about recharging the power cell.

At the beginning of Blue Shift, the player may notice strange material in the character's locker: books titled The Truth About Aliens and Government Conspiracies that show that Barney may be paranoid, or at least something of a conspiracy theorist. This could also be general foreshadowing, since the game centers on aliens and government conspiracies. Also seen in Calhoun's locker is a picture of a young woman, which suggests, along with the fact that the Blue Shift manual says "Buy flowers for Lauren," that Calhoun has a wife or girlfriend. A box in his locker reveals, when destroyed, a chumtoad creature as a small Easter egg.

At the end of the game Barney, along with a few scientists, manages to escape from the Black Mesa Research Facility, and he is described as being "Out of range" by the textual summary, as compared to Gordon Freeman, listed as "hired," and Adrian Shephard, listed as "detained".

Half-Life 2

Barney is one of the primary characters in Half-Life 2. How he ended up in City 17, or what has happened to him since the events of Half-Life, and what happened to the scientists he escaped with in Blue Shift, is not explained. Barney works undercover as an officer in the Metro Police Civil Protection Unit for the Combine. He is first seen at the beginning of Half-Life 2 and provides insider information to Gordon Freeman and the resistance on the Combine. It becomes gradually clear that Barney is one of the leaders of the rebellion against the alien empire.

Toward the end of the game, Barney participates in City 17's armed uprising against the Combine and briefly fights alongside Gordon through a Combine command nexus located in a former museum building. Barney's health regenerates extremely rapidly; although he is not invincible, it is highly difficult for him to die unless the player sends him in against overwhelming odds.

Half-Life 2: Episode One

Barney is also in the first episode after Half-Life 2, Episode One. Alyx and Gordon encounter him in an apartment complex along with some resistance fighters, looking a little worse from wear. He provides Freeman with his iconic crowbar, as he already did in Half-Life 2, and comments amusingly that he doesn't have many more of these. After splitting up, they regroup back at the train station, where Barney has brought some of the last of the resistance and citizens of City 17. He is then seen leaving the city on a train, while Gordon and Alyx act as a diversion so he and the rest of the evacuees can escape safely. This is Barney's last sighting in the series so far as he does not appear nor is mentioned in Half-Life 2: Episode 2.


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