You probably know Gordon Freeman is, the silent protagonist of the Half-Life games. And I’m guessing you know other Half-Life characters, like Alyx Vance, Dr. Kliner, the mysterious G-Man, and Barney. But a recent YouTube video pays homage to the very first character you encounter in Half-Life: Gus the forklift driver.
YouTuber MarphitimusBlackimus makes videos about the minutiae of Half-Life, among other games. Their most recent one is about the forklift driver you can see at the very start of the game. I am ashamed to admit that I never noticed Gus — I’ve played the first Half-Life game many, many times, and I’ve definitely seen the forklift driving around during the opening tram ride. But I never stopped to think about who was driving that forklift.
Gus (identified by his nametag) and his twin brother (who is also named Gus) appear right at the very start of Half-Life. They work together, zipping along in their forklifts below Gordon’s iconic tram ride. Even when Gordon is gone and Gus is no longer on camera, he keeps working, raising his forklift’s arms up even though they’re empty. He works hard, not smart.
Gus has one more brother, also named Gus, who appears later during the tram ride. You’ll spot a few more Gus cameos if you look around Half-Life: Blue Shift and Half-Life: Decay, too.
Gus the forklift driver was created by Valve artist Steve Theodore and was based on a janitor from Theodore’s college who — you might have guessed this already — was named Gus. The forklift brand HaiHan, seen on the bottom side of the machine, is named after Theodore’s wife Hai Han. The forklift and Gus are fully rigged and have working animations, even though that’s basically never used anywhere in the game.
It seems like a lot of thought went into the character, though Half-Life series writer Marc Laidlaw wrote in an email in 2011, “I wasn’t aware his name was Gus, that’s how little backstory he has.” I’m sorry, Gus. At least you got a cool forklift and some brothers.