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 the PC Gamer magazine.
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 the lake after being hit by a lightning bolt. Severely wounded and only armed with a recharging flashlight the player moves out to find help. He heads out to a local church and finds an umbrella and med kits to heal himself with. As soon as he starts to leave strange things start happening. A zombie breaks through a coffin and starts chasing him. 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 "head crabs" 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. He quickly finds himself fighting for survival against hordes of zombies. 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 the a zombie is about to enter his cell the player is saved by a 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 army has been sent in to take care of the zombies and kill all civilians (possibly because of the risk of contamination.)
A major part of this episode is spent exploring 'Rockwell asylum for the criminally insane' operated by Dr. Franklin. 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 city water that brings 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 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. Afterward 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 and Dr. Franklin are 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. 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.
Eventually the player manages to get back to the asylum which has been destroyed by the fire. However the player is again captured and taken back to the country-side to a Stonehenge like structure. Here the player witnesses Sheriff Rockwood giving a speech to the zombie hoards which is soon broken up when the army attacks. The player escapes and 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 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 has been rebuilt, after taking the full impact of the blast in episode 2, into a half zombie half machine cyborg. 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 sun set while the mod 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 Jerry Hoobs. It is never told in which state it is located. The town is surrounded by many cliffs and canyons, many sections of the town are separated by tunnel systems. Of course, technically this is a limitation of the game engine. The town is also part of the rail road system and has its own train station. On the outskirts there is "Rockwell stud bulls," an apparently family owned cattle company. One of the town's more notable landmark 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. The town seems to be fairly old, most of the buildings seem well aged and still use coal burning furnaces for the local heating.
Like most FPS games, the player is never seen. He is a writer and is visiting the town to relax and get inspiration for his next book. It is not known if the player has ever been to Rockwell before.
Sheriff Chester Rockwood
Rockwood is a slightly overweight man, he wears sunglasses and a 10-gallon hat, he carries his trusty magnum pistol with him at all times. He was near his re-election campaign before the zombies attacked. Early on in the game over BMRF radio the player learns that Rockwood blames the odd reports about zombies are "just heresay and rumors, likely spread out by his rivals to undermine his position in the upcoming elections." Sheriff Rockwood was friends with Dr. Franklin, judging from pictures on Franklin's wall, they enjoyed going duck hunting together. Though never seen by the player, Chester disappears while investigating a disturbance at the city morgue. This is almost certainly where he was zombified. It is not sure how much of his original personality was present when the player encountered him. But he is heard swearing a lot. Chester becomes the leader of the zombies after his infection with Dr Franklin by his side.
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. It isn't known if these facial problems are a result of the zombie infection or something from years prior. When the player meets Franklin for the first time it is revealed that he has long had a mission to re-animate the dead, it is not known why. He apparently underwent great scrutiny by the scientific community because of this. This is probably what caused him to go to such lengths to study the zombies and the contaminants in the city water. He is friends with Sheriff Rockwood and enjoys hunting.
Nothing is known about the lone deputy but he helps the player escape Rockwell in the end. He also knows how to fly helicopters.
Deputy Jerry Hoobs
Jerry is an unseen character, he is only heard on two tape recorders in the game. He appears to have had the same adventure the player has. He tried to reason with Sheriff Rockwood but failed and barely escaped the police station. He at least stayed at the hospital for a while before asking people to come with him to escape the city on foot. It is known that he at least made it to the county side as another tape recorder is found at the cattle ranch. He tells the player that the pentagon had authorized the Sherman Scorched Earth policy. It is not known if he ever managed to escape the town or not. It is quite possible that he is the same character as above.