"Run or shoot? Run or shoot!?" "Both!"
Okay, a Zombie Apocalypse
is cool and all, but the audience is getting tired of the usual zombie, shambling and shuffling and moaning with no variation in their tactics or dramatic potential. So, what does a writer do? Why, give the zombies superpowers, of course! Yes, this very specific combination of Our Zombies Are Different
and Elite Mook
. When regular zombies aren't enough, they give the zombies special abilities.
These can include strength
, intelligence (from Artificial Stupidity
to normal human to Artificial Brilliance
) to more esoteric Magic and Powers
, such as ranged attacks
, usually in the form of bile or acid for the disease and horror theme, the ability to leap huge distances
and cling to walls and ceilings
for drop scares, and fangs and claws for deadlier melee attacks.
There are a number of recurring elite zombie types used in various zombie media:
- Brutes - The Mighty Glacier of the zombie world. These guys usually have increased muscle mass and size, and can soak up much more damage than the other zombie forms. They're usually either extremely slow and lumbering or as fast as regular zombies, though there are exceptions.
- Armored Zombies - Undead Stone Walls. These types were typically once soldiers or SWATs and still wearing their old body armor. Unlike brutes, they are practically the same as regulars, only tougher, especially against firearms, and will sometimes act (intentionally or not) as meat shields to other more fragile zombies behind them.
- Hazmat Zombies - Former doctors and researches whose protective suits protects them from environmental hazards, most notably fire. Their air tanks will will explode under pressure, making them a sort of mini-Boomers.
- Ferals/Hunters/Stalkers - As the name implies, these zombies act like predators. They love to ambush and pounce on unsuspecting survivors and are usually more quick and agile than their shambling brethren. Due to their predatory nature, they are a bit smarter as well. Sharp claws and teeth mutations seem optional. They are usually seen moving on all fours and acting bestial. Sometimes they can even crawl on walls and ceilings.
- Undead Animals - The "animalistic" zombie taken to its logical conclusion. Usually restricted to domestic animals such as dogs and cats (see: Resident Evil and Pet Sematary) and the odd household rodent. Of curious note is that this version tends to be limited to animals one might find around the house, meaning that one is more likely to encounter a zombified dog than they are, say, a zombified chimpanzee. If other animal species are allowed, expect it to be predatory or scavenger species such as wolves, bears, and perhaps carrion birds. Note, however, that a zombified bear would be more of a Brute zombie that a Stalker, and a zombified wolf with enough of its instincts intact might also double as a Screamer, howling to draw in other zombies.
- Screamers - Their specialization is to call out to any other zombies around, usually via screaming or screeching. They are usually less physically threatening than other zombies, having disabilities like the lack of arms or bound ones (usually a straitjacket), thus forcing them to rely on their calls to defend themselves.
- Vomit Zombies - These zombies use their gastric juices as weapons. Sometimes they produce other fluids that cause a different effect, such as slowing survivors down, making them more vulnerable to attack, or attracting more zombies to them. They usually appear with bloated bodies and/or mutated mouths. Sometimes they are also highly contagious and able to spread the zombie virus very quickly. Their remains are usually highly acidic or toxic even post-"death", and they may even burst into a cloud of poison when destroyed.
- Boomers/Bloaters - A subcategory of vomit zombies. These guys are almost always bloated. Instead of using their vomit as as projectile (though they still might within limits), they use their gastric juices to build up pressure, making them (un)living water (acid?) balloons that explode when they take enough damage (sometimes even exploding on contact or close proximity), covering anyone nearby with acid or some other hideous liquid. These will definitely burst when destroyed. Keep your distance.
- Spitters - A more specialized vomit zombie that can spit their bodily fluids with extreme velocity and range. They usually appear with heavily mutated heads.
- Regenerators - They usually have the same toughness as regular zombies but they heal wounds incredibly swiftly and regenerate limbs. How fast they regenerate varies. Sometimes they require to feed in order to accomplish this. Sometimes other elite zombie types have this ability as well.
- Mutating Zombies - Regenerators taken up to eleven. The longer they survive, the more they feed, the stronger and more dangerous they become, often gaining the properties of the other elite zombie types and more in extreme cases. This is often a sign that these zombies were experimented on.
- Smart Zombies - These guys are usually very rare but are extremely dangerous. They possess increased problem solving skills (so don't expect a door knob to stymie them for long) and are capable of using tools, usually melee weapons. They sometimes even lead the horde towards survivor camps and help them avoid and overcome traps.
- Zombie Person - A smart zombie taken up to eleven. He or she is just like any other person except for the decaying body and the need to eat people. They can talk, reason and have a sense of morality. Their problem-solving skills and tool-use are almost human, albeit a bit sluggish. Their recall ranges from photographic memory of their human existence to total amnesia. Some of them constantly struggle and fight off the urge to eat humans while others relish it. Depending on the fictional work, their intelligence and memory may or may not gradually deteriorate through time and damage until they become just like the others. Sometimes it's the reverse: a regular zombie becoming smarter and smarter with age and experience.
- Horde Master - Smart zombies who lead and command a horde. How they accomplish this or how they came to be varies, and is often left ambiguous. You can often see them pointing, moaning and groaning towards things they want the horde to interact with, or alternatively to stop them from doing something. Zombie hordes with a horde master within their ranks are often the most dangerous because they're organized.
- Trap Zombies - Zombies that use deception to lure survivors to them or just make themselves seem harmless. There are a number of types depending on what method they use:
- Possums - The most common one. These zombies like to play dead (very convincingly, since they are technically "dead") until a survivor is close enough for them to catch. Players are almost always wise to this tactic now, but there may not be anything they can do about it.
- "Help Me" Zombies - Zombies that lure survivors by mimicking a survivor calling for help, usually by crying or by literally saying "help me" over and over again, appealing to compassion to stage an ambush.
- Pregnants - Pregnant women who have turned into zombies along with the child they're carrying. Killing the mother would often lead to a nasty surprise as the baby will suddenly burst out of the mother's womb and get any unsuspecting survivors. Frequently the smaller zombie moves with unusual speed, or acts similar to a Possum Zombie.
- Child Zombies - Usually found at playgrounds and schools. They typically move much quicker than their adult counterparts due to their small size and are quite numerous as well. Adding the fact that they're children may cause hesitation in killing them, especially for adult survivors who have just encountered zombies for the first times and/or have children of their own. Sometimes a survivor develops a bond with with a child zombie, possibly because it was his/her own child or foster child, and hide them from other survivors. This usually leads to an infestation from inside the camp or the keeper in question going rogue if the other survivors discover their secret.
- Test Subject/"Enhanced" Zombies - Zombies that have been experimented on (usually by the organization responsible for the zombie apocalypse) and imbued with special properties similar to the other elite zombie types. In some cases they're even given cybernetic implants, extensive mutations and other things to further their capabilities and keep them controlled, though this usually goes very wrong. They usually look like Frankenstein's monster, but with bionic parts attached.
- And then there are the less common, but equally plentiful Elder Zombies, which are old, very smart like Horde Master types but less inclined to eat or kill living people. However, they will still curb-stomp your face in if you annoy them or don't leave them to their own devices. These ones may end up crossing over with the archetype Revenant Zombies if they have a purpose.
This is most common in video games to add variation in combat.
- The horrible rat-monkey/Freudian symbolism giant mother zombie in Braindead counts for this.
- The Doom movie had three possible outcomes. If you aren't awesome, you become a zombie. If you're awesome but evil, you become a monster. If you're awesome and good, you just become more awesome.
- In the fourth Return of the Living Dead movie, there are two of these who turn out to be the main character's parents. The male has miniguns for arms, while the female has circular saws for hands.
- The movies based (loosely) off Resident Evil follow in the footsteps of the games but the only true elite zombies would have to be the ones locked in the crate outside Las Vegas in Resident Evil: Extinction. The second film also features zombie children and a few Mutant Zombies appear throughout the franchise.
- In a mild example, one character who becomes undead in Cockneys Vs Zombies has a metal plate in his forehead due to an old injury. When the other characters try to shoot him in the head, the bullets just glance off the plate. They deal with him by sticking a small explosive in his mouth and blowing his head to bits.
- In Frankenstein's Army, a descendant of the original Frankenstein constructs dozens of Elite Zombie variants for the Nazi war machine, using surgery, electrical reanimation, and Diesel Punk cyborg modifications.
- Dragonetti becomes one at the end of Die Zombiejager.
- In Masques, Aralorn faces undead who can talk, in the voices of the people they once were. This is highly unusual, as the standard zombie in that setting is very dumb, has no memory of the human being it was, and the pre-improvement zombie wasn't even able to carry out orders. The ae'Magi has made some improvements. He can even ask the undead who once were Aralorn's friends about her weaknesses
- The spy thriller/zombie apocalypse novel Patient Zero features generic Muslim terrorists planning to destroy western civilization by infecting the president of the United States and members of Congress with the zombie plague, while giving themselves an improved version that gives them all the advantages of zombiedom without turning them into homicidal flesh-craving lunatics.
- The Zombie Tyrannosaurus rex from The Dresden Files. In the Dresden-verse, a zombie's power is proportional to A. how much of the 'original' is left, and B. its age. Most of the zombies in Dead Beat are, at most, 100-200 years old or so. To fight back, Dresden animates Sue, the T. Rex skeleton in the Chicago museum, which is one of the most complete Rex skeletons in the world, and 65 million years dead.
- All zombies in the Dresden-verse have superhuman strength and endurance, as Harry explains that there's not much point in working powerful and illegal dark magic to create a dead guy that shambles around in the vaguely pathetic fashion of a typical movie zombie.
- Humans are preferred for zombies because they tend to make better zombies than animals, but it's Black Magic on the highest order. Like, chop your head off highest order. Hence why the bad guys might not consider Sue in favor of human corpses.
- Day By Day Armageddon has much deadlier zombies nicknamed 'The Talented Tenth' by Kilgore (Due to 1 in 10 typically being one). They're the result of people killed by nuclear fallout rather than bites and in addition to a body that won't rot (since it's too radioactive for bacteria to break it down), the radiation has preserved their muscles and higher brain functions meaning they can run and possess some reasoning abilities like tracking, playing dead, ambushes, and using weapons. Also, since they're radioactive, merely getting too close to one can result in radiation infection, death, and reanimation as another Tenth.
- In World War Z, the crew of a nuclear submarine fears the creation of Elite Zombies in the event of a nuclear war, because of the effects that radiation-induced mutations could have on creatures incapable of being killed by them. The trope is averted in the actual plot, however.
- There are many, many different varieties of zombie in Dungeons & Dragons. Justified by the fact that they're basically magical constructs pumped up with bad energy from the Negative Energy Plane/Shadowfell.
- One of the oldest types is the juju zombie, which retains most of its intelligence and personality from when it was alive. The zombie lord is basically a zombie "boss" that can create and control other zombies.
- And then there are monsters like undead dragons. All the power of a dragon with none of the squishy weaknesses of the living! (Of course, Revive Kills Zombie is still an option...)
- The Bleakborn, or Moil Zombies from Forgotten Realms is a particularly nasty variant of this. It often lays dormant, albeit obvious due to the frozen appearance of the corpse. The problem is its Heat-Draining Aura ability, which deals 2d6 Cold damage to every living things per turn while healing the zombie for the same. This aura also makes it immune, and in fact healed by fire attacks. And even if you take it down, the Aura will remain active as an attempt to heal itself, and given enough time and living creatures to drain heat from, it will stand back to its feet.
- d20 Modern sourcebook D20 Apocalypse introduces the Viral Deathspawn template. Viral Deathspawns can infect others with the zombie virus, and they actually only have a -2 intelligence modifier. It mean your average zombie has an IQ a bit below the human average.
- Last Night On Earth features multiple flavors of this — the basic game had the fallen Heroes rising as tougher, faster-moving Zombie Heroes, the first large expansion offered Grave Dead with unique abilities (extra toughness, speed, or attack power), and then later powerful zombies wielding weapons and special traits of more pronounced nature — such as the Crawling Torso, or the rather dense zombie who died carrying dynamite...
- All Flesh Must Be Eaten contains rules for many different zombie scenarios, with a chapter devoted to customizing the undead. The various settings and fiction pieces in the book include zombie dogs and cows, intelligent zombies, and zombies that can control the weather and/or other zombies.
- Unhallowed Metropolis has the zombie lords — animates with intelligence that can telepathically coordinate normal animates. Three or four of these working together can field a virtual army of the undead capable of coordinating their attacks for maximum effectiveness.
- Magic: The Gathering has many cards under the Zombie creature type that fit this trope. Some of the many effects Zombies can have include reanimating other creatures as zombies, making zombies hurt your opponent when they die, reanimating themselves, sacrificing other creatures to do something useful, and granting all Zombies abilities or a boost in power.
- In Zombicide, the Walkers are your typical, slow-moving zombies. Then, there are the Fatties, who are basically Walkers, except they can take way more punishment. The next steps up are the Abominations, which are basically tougher, slower Fatties; and the Runners, who are fast versions of Walkers. The Toxic City Mall expansion adds toxic zombies, who are divided among the four categories and release a cloud of toxic gas upon dying, causing injuries to every survivor in the same area as them unless they have a skill making them immune, or are carrying a gas mask. The Prison Outbreak standalone expansion adds Berserker zombies, who are also divided in the four aforementioned categories. Berserker zombies are zombies who are Immune to Bullets and can only be hurt in close-quarters combat.
- Resident Evil is one of the trope codifiers due to the many, many horrible monsters spawned from the T-Virus, the most notable ones being Lickers and Tyrants. Perhaps the most literal are the Crimson Heads in the REmake, which mutate from regular zombies that you "killed" but didn't either burn or decapitate.
- Half-Life had normal shambling headcrab zombies... but that wasn't enough. So Half-Life 2 introduced Fast Zombies, headcrab zombies with super speed and Le Parkour abilities, and Poison Zombies, another variant that could soak up over three times as much damage as a standard zombie and throw poison headcrabs at you. Standard zombies also like to play dead (giving them traits of Possum zombies) and have some enhanced abilities compared to normal humans, including greatly enhanced strength, resilience, and durability. Standard zombies can soak up as much damage as a fully armored soldier, can come keep coming at you after being cut in half (indeed, some zombies seem to do this intentionally so they can catch prey in the vents) and in various scripted sequences are seen doing stuff like killing humans in one hit and tearing through solid concrete.
- Opposing Force also introduced a larger, stronger version of the headcrab zombie called a "Gonome", that could throw acid, soak up twice as much damage as a standard zombie, and sprint. Zombies made from former soldiers can also soak up more damage than standard zombies, but it's hardly noticeable.
- Half-Life 2's episodes had the zombines, headcrabbed Combine soldiers equipped with body armor who could use grenades. They could also sprint, unlike normal zombies.
- Left 4 Dead has them in the Special Infected, whom you can actually play as. They include:
- Smokers and Hunters, as well as Jockeys and Chargers in the sequel, who ambush and then incapacitate their target in various ways before the target's teamates kill them. All are of the Feral variant, and the Charger doubles as a Brute.
- Boomers are, well, Boomers.
- Left 4 Dead 2 adds Spitters, who can spit the zombie equivalent of the Molotov Cocktail.
- The Tank (pictured above) is a Brute, and the Witch is a Trap Zombie with a characteristic crying, extremely dangerous when provoked. Both are the toughest enemies of the game.
- In the second game there are the lesser Uncommon Infected, who comes in several variants, like Hazmat zombies (fireproof suits), clown zombies (squeaky shoes that attracted Common Infected), mud men (screen-obscuring mud and motor oil), and riot zombies (bulletproof riot armor).
- Plants vs. Zombies has nothing but zombies as enemies, so naturally some of them have special abilities to mix things up. Several of them just have armor for added toughness, but there's also zombies with pole-vaults and pogo sticks to jump over your defenses, miner zombies who can tunnel under them, a dancing zombie who can summon backup dancer zombies, a Zamboni-driving zombie that freezes the ground behind him, among other things. To top it all off, the final boss is a mad scientist zombie piloting a giant robot zombie.
- The Undead Scourge seen in Warcraft III and later World of Warcraft. The first units you fight are usually skeletons, zombies, ghouls and the necromancers that raise and control them. Later, you face abominations, crypt fiends, death knights and frost wyrms.
- Crazy Monkey Games' Zombie Horde 2 has Gunarms — armored zombies with built-in ranged weapons.
- The "ultimate zombie" from Disgaea.
Aramis: The fists of a Dark Karate master... The legs of the fastest demon in the Netherworld... The brain of Mahogany, a famous sorcerer... The iron body of Hercules... And a horse wiener!
- TimeSplitters: Future Perfect has several different types of zombies. There are some that are on fire and will burn you if you fight them in melee range, there are some that can run at damn near lightning speed, and there are some that shoot lightning at you. Later in the second zombie-themed level, you enter the lab where the special zombies were made and can experiment on giving two subjects these abilities as well as many others. If you give them every ability at once, they'll just explode.
- In Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green, "evolved" zombies are equipped with melee weapons, have more health, and cannot be decapitated or dismembered (thus no one-shot kills by headshot). The game also mixes things up with crawlers, vomiting zombies, exploding zombies, and screamers.
- In Prototype, advanced infected have superhuman speed, Le Parkour abilities, and enhanced health when compared to the basic zombie-like infected. You can still kill them in just a couple punches or one swipe from your blade, spikes, or hammerfists, though, so they're still hardly a threat even in large groups. Prototype is just that kind of game.
- The standard zombies would also be considered this by most standards; they can run faster than a normal human and have a degree of super strength, letting them kill a human in one hit.
- Taken to an extreme with Hunters, if they can even be called zombies; basically, imagine a Tank, except several times more agile with the ability to run up buildings and jump hundreds of feet. And they hunt in packs.
- Leader Hunters are a particularly extreme example, being able to soak up several anti-tank rockets and destroy armored vehicles with their bare hands.
- Prototype 2 ups this to extreme levels. There are Brawlers, Juggernauts, and the massive sized super fast Goliath who is completely unhindered by his size and is comparable to a bulldozer and a race car. This is pushed even farther as many of the enemies in the game are Evolved, individuals infected by the same virus you are with the same powers. And there's always Alex himself.
- Gas Zombies in Dead Rising 2. Compared to normal zombies, they're twice as durable, twice as fast, do twice as much damage, are harder to escape from after they grapple you, are immune to Queens, can scream to draw in more gas zombies to attack, and have a spitting attack that can stun you. They make up about a third of the zombies near the eleventh hour, turning the game from a mindless zombie killing party into a living hell where keeping yourself alive is a huge chore.
- Doom 3 has your fair share of Romero-esque zombies, that normally originate from civilians. Then you step up to the Z-Secs, the zombies of possessed security guards and marines, which can run, communicate and fire guns. And then there's the Commando class, composed of gigantic humanoids spawned from human marines, which come in two flavors: Combat Tentacles and Gatling Good. This class can also verbally insult the marine, as their speech is the only one of the bunch that is recognizable as English (zombies only moan and Z-Secs send garbled, unrecognizable messages by their intercoms).
- In Dead Island, you encounter some special zombies that are tougher than the average ones, or take some different tactics to defeat, such as Thugs (slow but towering zombies strong enough to send you flying with one punch), Floaters (bloated zombies puking a flammable vomit), Suiciders (kamikaze zombies that explode if you kill them or approach them), and Butchers (HP and strength of a Thug, but capable of running and dodging attacks).
- Dead Island: Riptide Adds the Grenadier, an infected scientist that throws exploding body parts at you, the Screamer, a fast zombie with a special scream that stuns you, and the Wrestler, a massive zombie with powerful smash attacks. It also goes From Bad to Worse with a number of Diablo-style King Mook zombie bosses with enhanced health and regenerating health. Imagine a Genre Savvy zombie fan who turned himself into a Butcher because he thinks it will save the world, or drug trafficker who had become one of the Infected. They are tougher, faster, deal more damage and that particular zombie's hat is turned Up to Eleven and their weaknesses are turned into strengths.
- Dead Nation has 'em in a similar vein of Left 4 Dead. There are fat zombies and soldier zombies who take a couple hits to go down, along with morbidly obese "boomers", colossal "tanks", and horde-calling "sirens".
- In Team Fortress 2, there is a mod called 'Zombie Fortress'. The zombie classes are Scouts, Heavies, and Spies. Every zombie has a default 'rage' perk that grants them overheal and increased speed, but can only be activated at 80% health or higher. Zombie servers with perks take the abilities a step further and also grant perks to the Survivors.
- It seems that the Cordyceps Infected in The Last of Us grow Stronger with Age. The most recently infected aren't that much of a threat, at least when not in groups, but the Clickers are older zombies that kill in one hit and take several rounds pumped into them to kill, and don't flinch when shot. Then there's the Bloaters, which are incredibly old Infected from the original epidemic 20 years ago, and they are faster and tougher than Clickers while also capable of killing in one hit, and they are the only Infected that have a ranged attack. Fortunately, molotov cocktails and the flamethrower are very effective against them.
- Minecraft has standard shambling zombies, who are the game's weakest enemies. Later updates added three elite variations, all of which have a rare chance of randomly spawning. The first is the soldier zombie, which is a zombie that spawns with armor and a sword, increasing its health and attack damage. The second is the baby zombie, which is very similar to the standard zombie, except it is much smaller and faster, making it more of a pain. The third type is the spawner zombies, which only exists on Hard or Hardcore mode; it looks and acts just like a standard zombie, but it will randomly spawn two or three or more zombies when near death.
- State of Decay has Screamers, Exploders, Armored Zombies, and the two deadliest zombies in the game, the Feral Zombie and the Juggernaut. The Feral is insanely fast, exceptionally strong, and can instantly kill downed survivors. The Juggernaut is a huge zombie that can soak insane amounts of damage (running into it with your car will do more damage to your car than to it), can charge at high speed, and like the Feral is also capable of dealing out instant-kills.
- StarCraft 's infested terrans. Starcraft I Infested Terrans explode. StarCraft 2 's Infested Marines have a ranged attack as opposed to the standard Infested Colonists claws, and Abberations (which fit into the Brute subtype,) are massive, centauroid infested terrans with huge zits all over them. Due to the Zerg Healing Factor, all three also count as Regenerators. StarCraft Adventures by Alternity (a liscenced Tabletop RPG) has mutates, which fit into Person Zombies and Test Subject zombies.
- A rare protagonist example, RTS title Zombie Tycoon 2 features the intelligent leader zombie Archibald Brainhov commanding one of the game's two zombie factions, the speedy, blue-skinned Ferals.
- In Sonny, you play as the eponymous zombie, who falls under Zombie Person. More examples appear as you play on.
- Kingdom of Loathing's Zombie Slayer challenge path sets you up as a Zombie Person and Horde Master trying to end the Zombie Apocalypse that struck the Kingdom while you were in Valhalla.
- There are a few types in Dying Light, including larger monsters called Goons and Demolishers, child zombies called Screamers, and the annoying, spitting Toads who spew poison from their mouths. The most notable elite zombies in single player, however, are the Volatiles, Lightning Bruisers who come out at night and make the streets nearly impassable in the early part of the game. Exaggerated with the Night Hunter, who appears in the online "Be the Zombie" mode and is a human-controlled character capable of fast-travelling with tendrils and killing human beings in one pounce.
- We're Alive has "runners," "jumpers," "smart ones," "behemoths," and "little ones" on top of the regular "biters."
- The Zombie Hunters has a few detailed but due to the nature of the comic are very rarely seen.
- Com'c has Jane, a smart zombie of the zombie person variety. She is in fact one of the smartest characters in the comic.
- In Sluggy Freelance zombies mostly vary by how much intelligence they've retained. When the heroes made an assault on the zombie base the dumb zombies moved forward in a standard shuffle; the smart zombies set up an ambush; the really smart zombies pulled out automatic weapons; and the really really smart zombies snuck out the back and drove away in the heroes' car.
- Gawain the zombie from The Adventures of Wiglaf and Mordred is a fusion of Regenerator and Person Zombie. He seems to operate much like a Revenant Zombie, but there's a bullet in his brain that makes him forget his reason for hunting the story's Big Bad, so he's decided to work for him until he can figure out why he was so pissed with him to begin with.