Free Games I Like: They Hunger

Written by Joe Martin

April 29, 2010 | 13:54

Tags: #free-games #free-games-i-like #half-life #zombies

Companies: #indie #mod

I've always loved zombies and I’ve got piles of comics and books and games about them at home. The fascination probably comes from the fact that an apocalypse filled with slow-moving already dead things is likely the only type of survival situation I’d stand a chance in, though there are forum members who might disagree with me.

And as zombie games go, They Hunger is one of the best. Well, to start with anyway; the series was spread over three separate mods and, as time went on, they got increasingly ambitious.
Free Games I Like: They Hunger
Yes, it looks dated.

The first mod starts quite simply, casting you as a writer who crashes his car on his way through a small town in America. There’s a storm on and it’s night time and you’re lost and things don’t get better when zombies swarm at you and all you have to defend yourself with is your umbrella. So, you head to the police station – traversing sewers, caves and empty, blocky houses in the process. It’s a real testament to the quality of The Hunger that it manages to be such a fun game despite throwing you into some of the most abused and least interesting types of environment.

On the way you grab some decent guns to fend off these classic slow zombies with, eventually ending up at the town’s police station and discovering the Sheriff is in on it. The second episode has you fleeing the police and investigating the cause of the zombies – a plot line that extends through the third episode as you deal with the villainous Dr. Franklin, battle zombies with machine guns and eventually flee the city in a helicopter.

Now, all the games are definitely among some of the best singleplayer mods I’ve ever played, if only because of the zombies, but to me the series definitely started to go downhill the moment it began to have a plot. In the first episode there was a sense of mystery and of being constantly on the defensive; you were always low on ammo and unsafe. Later instalments though moved from the tense to the fantastic, trading hordes of zombies for herds of undead moose and giant stompy robots. Farmhouses and abandoned streets were swapped for missile silos and underground labs.

Free Games I Like: They Hunger
Yes, it is still amazing.

It’s an understandable evolution for the series and only natural that as the game was prolonged it would have to up the ante and unveil parts of the story…but in this instance mystery would have been preferable to exposition. Part of what makes the original Night of the Living Dead so good is that you never, ever find out what created the zombies. Instead, the focus is on survival and battling against the odds with ingenuity and scavenged weapons.

It’s a shame that They Hunger eventually abandoned that mystery in later episodes, though that definitely never stops them from being well designed and hugely enjoyable mods. What’s even more of a shame is that nothing has been heard of the Source Engine sequel in years…

You can download They Hunger at ModDB, but be warned that it requires a copy of Half-Life 1 to play.
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