Okay, a Zombie Apocalypse
is cool and all, but the audience is getting rather tired of the usual boring zombie. 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 more strength
, intelligence (from Artificial Stupidity
to normal human to Artificial Brilliance
) to more esoteric Magic and Powers
. Commonly they include: Super Spit
distance attacks, In a Single Bound
and Ceiling Cling
for drop scares, and fangs and claws for deadlier melee.
There are a number of recurring elite zombie types being 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 slow or as fast as regular zombies though there are exceptions.
- Armored Zombies - Undead Stone Walls. These types were typically once soldiers or SWATs. Unlike brutes, they are practically the same as regulars but due to the armor that they're wearing making them harder to take down, especially with firearms, and will sometimes act (intentionally or not) as meat shields to other less tougher zombies behind them.
- 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 there shambling brethren. Due to there 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 act more beastly. Sometimes they can even crawl through walls and ceilings.
- Screamers - Their specialization is to call out to other zombies from far away usually via screaming or screeching. They themselves are usually less threatening than other zombies, usually giving them disabilities like the lack of arms or bound ones (usually a straight jacket).
- Vomit Zombies - These zombies use their gastric juices as weapons and are way more acidic than normal stomach acid. Sometimes they produce other fluids that cause a different effect such as being sticky slowing them down and making them vulnerable. They usually appear with bloated bodies 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 when come into contact.
- Boomers / Bloaters - A subcategory of vomit zombies. These guys are almost always bloated. Instead of using their vomit as projectiles (though they still can but is usually limited), they use their gastric juices to build up pressure making them (un)living water (acid?) balloons and explode when they take enough damage (sometimes even exploding on contact or close proximity), covering anyone nearby with acid or some other liquid substance.
- 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 and regenerate limbs really fast. 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 to some extent.
- 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 nob to stop them for very long) and are capable or using tools, usually as 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, be reasoned with and have a sense of morality. Their problem solving skills and tool use is almost human albeit a bit sluggish. Memory of their past lives vary from remembering everything, parts of it or a complete amnesiac. Some of them constantly struggle and fight off the urge to eat humans while others relish on 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 - They are 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 it wants the horde to go or stop them from doing something. Zombie hordes with a horde master within their ranks are often the most dangerous as they are more 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 (and very convincing as well since they are technically "dead") until a survivor is close enough for them to catch.
- "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.
- 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 usually with unusual speed or act similar to a Possum Zombie.
- Children Zombies - Usually found at playgrounds and schools. They usually move much quicker than their adult counterparts due to their small size and are quite numerous as well. Add to the fact that they're children adds hesitation towards killing them, especially for adult survivors who have just encountered zombies for the first time making them quite dangerous. Sometimes survivors develop a bond with them, usually because they were their child once or their guardians and secretly keep 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 before scenario 1 happens.
- Test Subject / Experimented 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 are even given cybernetic implants, extensive mutations and other things to further their capabilities and "controllability" though this usually goes very wrong. They usually look like the old Frankenstein's monster of old but with bionic parts attached.
Usually this is most common in video games due to the fact that most players are probably going to get tired of fighting the standard zombie at one time or another.
- 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 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.
- 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...)
- 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...
- The RPG 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 zombie cards with powerful abilities, such as reanimating other creatures as zombies, making zombies hurt your opponent when they die, being able to reanimate themselves, making all your creatures able to drain your opponent's life and more.
- Resident Evil is one of the trope codifiers due to the many, many horrible monsters spawned of 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.
- 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.
- Would the "ultimate zombie" from Disgaea count?
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 Game, "evolved" zombies are equipped with melee weapons, have more health, and cannot be decapitated or dismembered (thus no one-shot kills by headshot).
- 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 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.
- 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.