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They Hunger: Lost Souls

One of the best series of mods for Half-Life returns on Source to eat our brains

I've been to Eastern Europe. It seemed quite nice, if a bit stark: quite a few beards, devastatingly beautiful women, bears surprisingly thin on the ground. At no stage did I realise I was standing in zombie central - even if HL2, Resi 4 and, now, They Hunger: Lost Souls are insistent on the matter. Maybe it's the eerie Soviet architecture, or maybe there's just something in the water - whatever, there's certainly something rotten in the Baltic states.

They Hunger: Lost Souls is the commercial follow-up to Black Widow Games' stellar line of Half-Life mods - a heritage that cannot be ignored. It sets you up as a tourist recovering from a tragic accident who's sought ill-advised shelter in a monastery - only to discover (and you've probably seen this one coming) that the dead have woken.

"Our zombies range in looks from healthy living dead to fully decayed corpses. And because real zombies have a rather tough lifestyle they will, as a whole, be a rather damaged bunch," explains game designer Einar Saukas.

"Plus, unlike most action games where you suddenly become a highly equipped super-soldier, in Lost Souls you're a simple tourist struggling to survive in a hostile environment. So you'll have to rely mostly on everyday objects utilised as melee weapons, old rusty pistols or rifles, improvised Molotov cocktails, TNT sticks and a few special weapons."

As well as the ancient monastery complex you find yourself in (odd how undead monks are, by and large, scarier than undead nuns isn't it?), Black Widow intend to lead you into isolated farmsteads, fog-shrouded swamps, a salvage operation of sorts and even (gasp) a cemetery. Although quite why anyone would want to visit a moonlit graveyard during a time of increased zombie activity is yet to be explained.

The 1960s setting, meanwhile, not only provides a more retro arsenal (and corresponding decreased rate of fire), but also some Cold War paranoia to knit together a neat fabric of tension that goes beyond a dead man in a cupboard saying 'Urgh' and trying to kill you. It won't all be chills though, there are also spills promised; following up on the marvellous moment that saw you running down countless moaning misters with a train in the original mods, you'll now be able to career around on a dilapidated tractor dealing
the zombies' second deaths via the medium of squashing.

I myself ran over a hedgehog with a tractor once, and can testify it's a plan that works. Lovingly basted in Source engine, and hugely likely to be hurled at you through the wonders of the Web via Steam, the only question that needs answering is whether these are traditional zombies controlled by forces beyond the veil, new-fangled 'plague' zombies or the nu-technology zombies provided by Half-Life? Einar Saukas is remaining tight-lipped. But will they at least like brains?

Saukas concludes: "According to practical experiments, we've observed real zombies and yes, they consistently demonstrate a preference for fresh brains. Since our goal is to provide a gameplay experience as realistic as possible, the zombies in Lost Souls will present exactly the same behaviour." At least some things are sacred...