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They Hunger is a single player horror mod for Half-Life developed by Black Widow Games. It is divided into three chapters, which were distributed on the internet over a span of three years. Current distributions of the game include all three chapters.
They Hunger focuses on a small American town in the 1950s, where the player is an author that has moved to the town to get inspiration for his new book.
The player is suddenly forced to fight for his life against zombies after a freak accident that forced his car into a lake. After fighting through the countryside, he manages to get to the small town but learns that it is overrun as well. However, he is captured by the evil sheriff and is nearly killed when a non-zombified police officer rescues him. The player then fights through the town and ends up at Dr. Franklin's Asylum, the nexus of the zombie outbreak. After meeting Dr. Franklin and his army of new zombies, called Zorks, the player nearly sacrifices himself to destroys the asylum and Dr. Franklin, who is still in the building when it is destroyed. However, he wakes up in a hospital later and learns that the zombies are still spreading.
He goes back to the Asylum and finishes off Dr. Franklin. Another non-zombified police officer offers to fly the player out of the city after Franklin is killed. However, while the player is flying away, the sheriff appears in a helicopter and attempts to kill them. The player kills the sheriff and manages to escape the doomed town.
One twist in the game is that the player is stripped of all their weapons at the start of each chapter, forcing the player to start from scratch. Otherwise, it plays very similar to Half-Life.
They Hunger borrows some of its art from other GoldSrc games, such as Team Fortress Classic and Counter-Strike. However, it also uses original art developed for the mod and art that was included with Half-Life, mostly the indoor textures.
In the first episode, the player takes the role of a troubled writer who has gone to a country retreat to work on his next masterpiece. However, the player soon hears news over the radio of 'strange atmospheric phenomena', and his car crashes into a lake after being hit by a lightning bolt. He escapes the lake and arrives at a mortuary chapel from a maze of catacombs. Here, he discovers the zombies attacking the town. He moves on, passing through a swamp and a volcanic rift called Devil's Rift, gaining weapons and encountering zombified policemen that are still smart enough to handle firearms. He gets to the town by commandeering a train. At the town, he manages to reach the radio station seen in the intro and call the state police for help. The state police tell him to wait for them at the police station. There, it turns out to be a trap, and he is captured by the undead sheriff Chester Rockwood, who puts him in a prison cell. Trapped, the episode ends with a zombie approaching his cell door to eat him.
They Hunger 2: Rest in Pieces
The protagonist begins the game where the last left off: unarmed and trapped, however just as the zombie is about to enter his cell, the player is saved by a police officer with a rocket-equipped truck. Still unarmed, the player is forced to restock his arsenal himself (though it is possible to re-enter the police station and regain several lost weapons).
The player soon after enters the sewers. There he encounters bizarre aquatic creatures and encounters several state police officers who have been zombified after arriving at the town. The player later makes it to the Rockwell water treatment plant, and it becomes apparent that the army has taken notice of the problem and had started sending troops in to take care of the zombies, though their operation is failing.
A major part of this episode is spent exploring the 'Rivendale Asylum for the Criminally Insane' operated by the mad Dr. Franklin, creator of the undead horde. Once inside the player meets Alfred, Dr. Franklin's former assistant, who tells the player that it was he and Dr. Franklin that discovered strange things in the local water supply that bring anyone alive or dead to a state of half-life. He tells the player that Dr. Franklin was trying to figure out how it was causing the zombies but ended up being infected too.
The player then enters Dr. Franklin's underground laboratory where he witnesses several of the doctor's horrid experiments, such as dismembered heads being kept alive. Soon the player is forced to fight an army of undead Frankenstein-like monsters brought to life through Franklin's machine. Afterward, Dr. Franklin is chased out of the area by one of his own monsters. The player also encounters reanimated skeletons that can shoot bolts of electricity.
The episode ends with the player attempting to escape the asylum, only to set it aflame. The player is caught in a massive explosion which ends the episode.
They Hunger 3: Rude Awakening
The final episode opens as the player awaken to find himself in Rockwell community hospital. A little exploration reveals that it too had been overrun by zombies before the player woke up. After the player leaves the hospital he, on foot, covers several miles of open countryside and arrives at a small farm which has been overrun by the undead. Besides the farmers, most of the local cattle and other animals have also been infected and prove to be quite a danger. He also bypasses a Stonehenge-like structure on the way.
Eventually, the player returns to the now-destroyed asylum. However, the player is again captured and taken back to the countryside at the Stonehenge-like structure. Here, the player witnesses Sheriff Rockwood giving a speech to the zombie hordes which is soon broken up when the army attacks. The player escapes and retraces his steps back to the farm train yard, along the way witnessing the fact that the army is clearly overwhelmed by the zombie threat. After boarding a rail car he once again arrives at the asylum. There he meets Deputy Jerry Hoobs, who has a plan to get himself and the player out of the town through a helicopter. However, he can't open the hangar door, so the player must fight through the asylum, which is now overrun with zombified soldiers, to meet him on the other side. On the way to the hangar, Sheriff Rockwood and Dr. Franklin (who survived the asylum's explosion and has been rebuilt as a half-zombie, half-machine cyborg) see the player in the asylum and trigger the alarm. The player manages to reach the helicopter and escape with Hoobs before the zombified security could stop him.
The game reaches its climax as the player and the deputy are forced to fight the cyborg Dr. Franklin at the asylum's train yard. After the doctor's defeat, the player is pursued by Sheriff Rockwood in another helicopter with a mounted mini-gun. The player defeats the sheriff and sends him plummeting toward one of the great lakes before exploding. The game ends with the player and the deputy flying off into the sunset while the mod plays "You Are What I Eat" along with the end credits.
As in most Half-Life games, the player is never seen. He is a male writer, visiting the town to relax and get inspiration for his next book.
Sheriff Chester Rockwood
Rockwood is a slightly overweight man; he wears sunglasses and a 10-gallon hat, and he carries his trusty Magnum pistol with him at all times (although he is never seen using it). He was near his re-election campaign before the zombies attacked. Early on in the game, the player learns that Rockwood disregarded the odd reports about zombies as "just hearsay and rumors, likely spread out by his rivals to undermine his position in the upcoming elections.". Rockwood disappeared while investigating a disturbance at the city morgue, presumably leading to his zombification. He works with Dr. Franklin, even in undeath, as he is seen many times through glass and other obstacles talking to the doctor, planning the next stage of the zombie attacks or conversing with his fellow zombies. He dies when the player shoots down his helicopter. His model is a retextured G-Man Model.
Franklin is a scientist in biology as well as the administrator of "Rivendale Asylum for the Criminally Insane." He appears to have had an accident in the past which has caused damage to the right side of his face. He only has one working eye and a smirk on the right side of his mouth. When the player meets Franklin for the first time it is revealed that he has long felt a calling to re-animate the dead. He was friends with Sheriff Rockwood before the Sheriff became a zombie; they still work together. After the explosion at the end of Episode 2, he is rebuilt as a cyborg, with his left eye, right arm, and leg all mechanical. He also wields a Hivehand-like weapon in his right arm that he uses against the player during his fight. Franklin's past — with his attempts to re-animate the dead and subsequent exile from the scientific community — may be a reference to Dr. Herbert West from H. P. Lovecraft's Herbert West, Re-Animator. His model is a retexture of a Black Mesa scientist model.
Deputy Jerry Hoobs
A Sheriff's deputy, Hoobs is heard on two tape recorders before appearing in person near the end of the game. He tried to reason with Sheriff Rockwood but failed and barely escaped the police station. He stayed at the hospital for a while before asking people to come with him to escape the city on foot. After he left the hospital, he left another tape recorder at the cattle ranch. This recording said the Pentagon had authorized the Sherman Scorched Earth policy. At the remains of the ruined asylum, the player meets him in person. They must work together to escape Rockwell and stop the zombie horde. His model is a retexture of a Black Mesa Security Officer Barney model.
A relatively minor character, Alfred was the assistant for Dr. Franklin during his scientific experiments. He only appears in the 'Rest in Pieces' chapter, discovered after opening the front door of the asylum for the player. Alfred dispenses some exposition as to the beginning stages of the zombie outbreak and of Dr. Franklin - stating that doctor was actually a good man and was only trying to help, before they found something strange in the sewer systems and saying that after the accident doctor started becoming more possessed on his "work" - and allows the player to progress by opening another locked door. He serves no use afterward. He can be seen in Episode 3, dying with several other civilians in a furnace. His model is a retextured Gordon Freeman model.
- Alien Grunt - appears as a huge bulky zombie named Zork, does not have a Hivehand.
- Vortigaunt - appears as a skeleton named Kelly. Smaller "baby" variants appear in Episode 3.
- Headcrab - appears in three forms; a retextured version of the HL1 headcrab, a mutated chicken and as a dismembered hand. The HL1 headcrab is apparently supposed to be a human head with spider legs, as it appears as such in the Sven Co-op campaign version.
- Houndeye - appears as a dog and lacks the "sound wave" attack.
- Zombie - appears with a variety of new models, male and female.
- HECU soldiers - retextured to look like regular American soldiers from 40s-50s, undead and alive.
- Black Mesa Security Force - retextured to look like either undead police officers or undead asylum guards. There are also friendly non-infected police officers and asylum guards. Sven Co-op campaign also features zombified police officers with magnums, which are retextures of Otis-type guards.
- Panthereye - reskinned as a zombie bull. Also appears in it's normal form during a nightmare sequence intro of Episode 3.
- Barnacle - unchanged.
- Bullsquid - appears in two forms; a variant with grey skin and red acid spit and a gigantic variant with the original skin who appears inside a lake in episode 3.
- Ichthyosaur - unchanged.
- Leech - unchanged.
- Snark - has a greenish skin and doesn't appear as a weapon. Also doesn't die on it's own after some time. In Sven Co-op campaign they appear as infected rats.
Half of the weapons in They Hunger are taken directly from Half-Life while the other weapons are new, though all of the weapons from Half-Life have new models or textures.
- Old Weapons
- Crowbar - Uses the Team Fortress Classic Umbrella model.
- Glock 17 - Retextured to look like a Beretta 92. Alt fire switches between the semi-automatic mode (which is represented by having the Glock 17's unused silencer on the gun) and automatic mode (which is represented with the gun having no silencer on it).
- .357 Magnum - Unchanged.
- MP5 - appears as a Heckler & Koch G3 and a faster rate of fire compared to the MP5.
- HECU SPAS-12 - Appears as a Mossberg 500. Looks like a retexture of Team Fortress Classic's Single Shotgun.
- Mk 2 Grenade - Appears as a bundle of TNT sticks.
- New Weapons
- Sniper Rifle - The Sniper Rifle is a powerful weapon and is the only weapon in the game that can zoom in. If fired unscoped, it has very high recoil, but is semi-automatic and has no recoil if fired scoped. Its five round magazine means the player will have to reload often. Its model in Episodes 1 and 2 is the Team Fortress Classic Sniper Rifle, while the Episode 3 Sniper Rifle is a Heckler & Koch G36.
- Wrench - The Wrench is a faster Crowbar. Its view model is TFC's Wrench, while its world model is a reskinned version of the TFC Backpack. It is found in Episode 2 and 3.
- Shovel - Essentially a Crowbar with a new model. It is found in Episodes 2 and 3.
- Kimel AP-9 - A slow firing submachine gun that has large recoil, but does more damage than the MP5. It is found in Episodes 2 and 3. The primary firing mode is slow automatic mode while the alternative firing mode is a 3 round burst, (which fires a little more accurate than automatic mode). This weapon can be fired underwater.
- Taurus PT145 - A pistol with a ten round magazine. This weapon is only found in Episode 3.
- Flamethrower - Technically a direct copy of TFC's Flamethrower, but uses the Gluon Gun's model.
- Portable Medkit - A portable Medkit that the player can use on himself. This weapon's model comes from the TFC portable Medkit. It is only found near the end of Episode 3.
- Minigun - A powerful, multi-barreled weapon. This weapon's model comes from the TFC Minigun. Uses the same ammo that the Glock 17 and MP5 use. It is only found in Episode 3.
They Hunger: Lost Souls
A They Hunger game using the Source engine was announced to be in development in 2005. The full title was given as They Hunger: Lost Souls, replacing the rumored temporary name They Hunger: Source. They Hunger: Lost Souls supposedly entered its final stage of development in September 2006. However, little information has been released about the mod since then. According to Black Widow Games' lead programmer Einar Saukas, Neil Manke became ill during the development of Lost Souls and he has been unable to contact him since.
Story-wise the game had nothing to do with the original trilogy. The only known thing is that it was supposed to take place somewhere in the Northern-Eastern part of Europe in early 60s, and that protagonist was a tourist.
A They Hunger-themed deathmatch mod was also released.
- Though Black Widow Games claimed the game is set in the 1950s, the player is seen using a Kimel AP-9 and a Beretta 92, which suggests the 1980s. However, several other weapons are inconsistent with this estimate: in the second and third chapters, the player uses a G36 (1996) and a Taurus PT145 (2005). The Beretta in Lost Souls would've been replaced with an M1911, among other changes, in order to fix this error.
- The final fight with the sheriff's helicopter at the end of Chapter 3 was originally so hard that the player needed to use his entire supply of pistol rounds, Kimel AP-9 rounds, G36 rounds and a large portion of his shotgun shells to destroy it. Given the fact that the sheriff could break most of the player's cover, this made the fight nearly impossible without cheating. After several months, an official patch was released in which the health of the helicopter was lowered to a more reasonable amount.
- There are some errors in Episode 2 and 3 where some police officers and an asylum guard in the end of Episode 2 are hostile to the player while having normal (uninfected) look.
- Unique zombies seen in Episode 3 during the sheriff's speech use models of zombies from Quake, just retextured.
- Oddly enough, vests of asylum guards still have Black Mesa written on them.
- The Rockwell county sheriff's badge is, in reality, a pixelated version of the Pima County, Arizona's Sheriff's badge.
- The abbreviature of BMRF radio is a reference to Black Mesa Research Facility.
- Various severed head models that can be found in the campaign are modeled after the developers. One of the zombie farmers also uses a head model designed after Neil Manke.
- There is a dog sound taken from the movie The Night Of The Living Dead.