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They Hunger is a single player horror-based mod of Valve's first-person shooter Half-Life. It was released by Neil Manke's Black Widow Games in three episodes, the first in 1999, the second in 2000, and the final installment in 2001. All three were at one point bundled with PC Gamer magazine.
They Hunger features little original Half-Life content apart from the revolver, some sound clips, a few types of ammunition the player can pick up, and a few other minor details, although many weapons and NPCs are simply re-skins of the content in Half-Life. For example, the civilians are re-skins of a scientist found in Half-Life. It also includes the sniper rifle from Team Fortress Classic, though it features a different view when scoped. In addition to these modifications, it changes the sounds of certain characters, for example one friendly NPC features the same sound clips as Barney Calhoun from Half-Life but has been edited to affect a deeper voice. Zombies and headcrabs have also been given voices, which add to the horror aspect of the game.
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 struck by a lightning bolt. Severely wounded and armed only with a recharging flashlight, the player moves out to find help. His only means of escaping the lake is by swimming through a drainage pipe into a maze of catacombs. He comes to a mortuary chapel and finds an umbrella and med kits to heal himself with. Along the way, he's had several disturbing experiences: an unfinished catacomb is empty, and has a splash of blood near it. The pathways are echoing screams of the damned. A bloodied skull rolls out of an ossuary, and as he enters the chapel, he hears someone screaming "No! No! Get it off me!", from who he takes his umbrella. As soon as he starts to leave, strange things start happening. A zombie breaks through a coffin and starts chasing him. The player has to smash the zombie down with the handle of the umbrella he took. He climbs the ladder to the church bell, only to find hostile headcrab-like creatures and a dead body. He takes a silenced 9mm Beretta pistol and rings the church bell for help. A vent opens and he climbs in to find some dynamite. The writer finds himself fighting for survival against zombies, going through the church grounds, passing a swamp, running in a volcano rift (called Devil's rift),driving a train through tracks full of zombies, and finally getting into the town, where finds the BMRF radio station and the police station, his main destination. To make things worse, the police who have been sent to investigate the strange happenings have also been turned into zombies and are still capable of using weapons and equipment, and prove to be a constant threat (as well as a source of ammunition). Once the player gets into town, he uses the local radio station to call for the state police. In the end, the player is captured by the undead sheriff and imprisoned. 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 a zombie is about to enter his cell, the player is saved by a state police officer with a military-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. He also 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. It becomes apparent that the military has taken notice of the problem and had started sending troops in to take care of the zombies and determine what was happening to the civilians. However, the player does not actually meet up with any living soldiers (as they are quickly killed by zombies when encountered) until the next episode.
A major part of this episode is spent exploring 'Rockwell Asylum for the Criminally Insane' operated by Dr. Franklin (who could possibly have created the headcrabs from the previous chapter). 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 contaminants in the city water that brings anyone alive or dead to an intermediate 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 under ground 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. Shortly after, Dr. Franklin is chased out of the area by one of his own monsters.
The episode ends with the player inadvertently setting the whole asylum 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 awakens to find himself in Rockwell Community Hospital. A little exploration reveals that it, too, had been overrun by zombies before the player woke up. The player's fight continues. The player must find a way out of the hospital. After the player leaves the hospital, he, on foot, covers several miles of open countryside and arrives at a small farm which has been over-run by undead. Besides the farmers, most of the local cattle and other animals have also been infected and prove to be quite a danger. To make matters worse, the human skeletons that have been resurrected through experimentation in the previous episode now appear frequently, and have the dangerous ability to channel electricity.
Eventually the player manages to get back to the asylum which has been destroyed by the fire. However, the player is recaptured and taken back to the country-side to a Stonehenge-like structure. Here the player witnesses Sheriff Rockwood giving a speech to the zombie hordes, which is soon broken up when the military attacks. The soldiers also target the player and any surviving civilians (probably because of the risk of infection) The player escapes and retraces his steps back to the farm train yard, along the way witnessing the fact that the military is clearly overwhelmed by the zombie threat. After boarding a rail car, he once again arrives at the asylum. There he meets a lone deputy who has a plan to get himself and the player out of the town. However, he can't open the door. The player must fight through the asylum and the local theater, which is now overrun with zombified soldiers, to meet him on the other side. The player and the deputy take off in a police helicopter.
The game reaches its climax as the player and the deputy are forced to fight Dr. Franklin, who, after taking the full impact of the blast in episode 2, has been rebuilt into a Necroborg. After the doctor's defeat, the player is pursued by Sheriff Rockwood in another helicopter with a mounted mini-gun. The player must defeat the sheriff and send him plummeting toward one of the great lakes before exploding. The game ends with the player and the deputy flying off into the sunrise while the game plays "You Are What I Eat" along with the end credits.
The County of Rockwell
They Hunger takes place in a town called Rockwell, also called "the valley" by Deputy Jerry Hoobs. The location of the town is never revealed. The town is surrounded by many cliffs and canyons; many sections of the town are separated by tunnel systems. On the outskirts there is "Rockwell Stud Bulls," a family owned cattle company. One of the town's more notable landmarks is a large volcanic chasm, which appears to be the town's main tourist attraction dubbed "Devil's Rift." It also has a Stonehenge-type structure. The town has its own local radio station, BMRF radio (a reference to the Black Mesa Research Facility from the Half-Life series).
- The Player
- As in most FPS 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 and planning the next stage of the zombie attacks.
- Dr. Franklin
- Franklin is a scientist in biology as well as the administrator of "Rockwell 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 in 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. 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.
- Deputy Jerry Hoobs
- A Sheriff's deputy, Hoobs is heard on two tape recorders before appearing in person at towards 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 train yard. This recording said the Pentagon had authorized the Sherman Scorched Earth policy, explaining the hostile actions against remaining civilians.
- 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.
- 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 - who he describes as a "good man" - and allows the player to progress by opening another locked door. He serves no use afterwards, and can be seen on a conveyor belt in episode 3 doomed to die in a boiler with other civilians if the player pushes a button.
They Hunger: Lost Souls
A They Hunger game using the Source engine was under development for a time, but has since been canceled. The full title of the installment was They Hunger: Lost Souls, replacing the rumored temporary name They Hunger: Source. The installment had been under development since 2005, although over the years, little information was released, apart from sparse updates at the company's official website and a few specialized game magazines. However, recently, one of the developers confessed that Neil Manke has been very ill and as such the game is on hold.
- Black Widow Games mods website
- Official Black Widow Games website
- Five Days of Fear
- They Hunger: Lost Souls profile on moddb