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The Poison Zombie is the resulting Zombie of a human host under the control of a Poison Headcrab. The mutations that take place produce a bloated, slow-moving zombie that is capable of carrying additional Poison Headcrabs.
Poison Zombies are bloated, reddish purple, slow-moving menaces. They are almost always seen carrying an additional 2 or 3 Poison Headcrabs on their back. It appears that the Poison Zombie's model is of an old man's, but it's stooped posture and shuffling gait could also likely be caused by the weight of the attached headcrabs and that it is missing most of the the supportive muscles from its back (as shown by the exposed spinal column and ribs.)
The Poison Headcrabs riding on the zombie's back can leap off when needed to attack on their own, but cannot reattach themselves to the poison zombie once left.
Another trait that distinguishes the Poison Zombie from other zombie types is its endurance. Poison Zombies can take 3 times more damage than other zombies before collapsing.
Poison Zombies themselves are not poisonous, and rely on the hitch-hiking Poison Headcrabs to attack first. Then, it resorts to its claws. Poison Zombies can be detected by their loud, strangulated breathing and muffled groans. They also emit loud, whale-like howls.
Poison zombies are unique in the fact that the headcrabs attached to their bodies appear to be interacting with their host. While other Headcrab Zombies serve as a host for individual headcrabs, the poison headcrabs attached to a poison zombie appear to be from it. The fact the poison zombie is off color and bloated would suggest that the headcrabs are either sucking nutrients from the body (which would explain why the headcrabs on a Poison Zombie's body seem to pulse), are causing enough damage to make the host lose almost all of his blood, or are using the body to store or create their acute neurotoxin. It has also been speculated that poison headcrabs may lay their eggs in their hosts' bodies, which would explain the hosts' bloated appearance and the multiple poison headcrabs which cover them. It should be noted that unlike other types of zombies, Poison Zombies cannot be cut in half.
Poison Zombies are first encountered in Half-Life 2 Chapter 6: "We Don't Go To Ravenholm".
Poison Zombies can take a lot more damage than other zombies (roughly 300%), and have better attack capabilities. Thankfully, they are rarely encountered.
The best tactic when facing a Poison Zombie at close range is to move around while attacking to avoid being hit by the thrown headcrab. Normally there are 3 riding headcrabs. When a thrown Poison Headcrab comes into contact, health points will drop to 1 but will gradually increase by increments of 10 as the HEV Suit administers an antidote to the poison. Therefore, it is advised not to use the crowbar against incoming thrown headcrabs. It is best to gain some distance to avoid the reach of the headcrab.
The most effective weapon against Poison Zombies is fire: when hit, the zombie will set alight the headcrabs as well when dying. A very good tactic is to grab a propane tank or gas canister, pop out of cover, light up the zombie then take cover before it throws headcrabs. It will die and take its passengers with it without causing any damage. If no flammable objects are present, take advantage of headcrabs and their host's flammable nature by chucking hand grenades or firing Submachine Gun grenades.
If none of the methods above can be practiced, another tactic, when the player has energy cores to spare, is to equip the Pulse Rifle and use its alt-fire on the Zombie. It will disintegrate the zombie with all passengers because as soon as it dies, all headcrabs will detach; however, they instantly touch the fusion orb as well, which means immediate death.
Because Poison Zombies tend to move quite slowly and are a big target, it shouldn't be hard to hit them. Emptying a magazine into a Poison Zombie from a Submachine Gun or any other firearm will generally kill it. Explosives, such as Submachine Gun grenades and regular grenades, also work well but using the rocket launcher is a little wasteful, as there are better things it can be used for unless there is a rocket ammo crate nearby. It is, however, quite satisfying. The Shotgun, though, is a good way to kill individual Poison Headcrabs. Also, they can easily be killed with one hit from the crowbar because of their delay in jumping at you. A longer-ranged weapon may be advisable, though, because one does not want to get too close to this zombie.
In the Ravenholm chapter there are at least four Poison Zombies, and it is possible for them to spawn all at once, that carry three or more headcrabs each, but there are plenty of explosive barrels and gasoline containers that come in handy.
If there is no available AR2 secondary fire, SMG secondary fire, grenades, or flammables to kill the zombie with, another tactic is to wait until all its headcrabs are thrown off and killed. The zombie should be a minimal threat without the hitch-hiking poison headcrabs on its back.
- There is no difference between the Poison Zombie and the Half-Life 2 leak "Fat zombie" Aside from the spine on its back and the skin, this is easily notable by the feet.
- The Poison Zombie appears to be several times stronger than its brethren, on multiple occasions, Poison Zombies can destroy entire doors. In Half-Life 2: Episode One, in the hospital level, several regular Zombies are seen trying to claw open a doorway, but it is not until the Poison Zombie arrives when, with tremendous, seemingly explosive force, the door is destroyed.
- When the Poison Zombie dies, there are two sounds for his death. The end of one of the files sounds like the laugh (or possibly a cry) of an old man, indicating that the zombie NPC seen in-game could have been an older man when he was human.
- Oddly, some of their sounds seem to be reversed donkey and bovine sounds.
- When a Poison Zombie makes it into the path of a Barnacle, the game will crash. This can be seen without the use of cheats/mods towards the end of Anticitizen One in the tunnels after Alyx is captured. The player should lure the Poison Zombie towards the nearest Barnacle using the chain-link fence as a ramp. No attempts have been made to fix this.
- The file cfg\skill.cfg suggests that Poision Zombies originally had a "spit" attack, which would have done 20 damage (the same as a Manhack)