In there’s one word all experienced Project Zomboid players fear, it’s Helicopter.
In every other piece of Zombie-related media, a helicopter would represent a symbol of hope and escape from a dire situation, but the presence of such a vehicle in this game only amplifies the horror.
A mid to late-game struggle for all players, the appearance of the Helicopter – officially referred to as the Helicopter Event – can scupper the plans of even Project Zomboid veterans if they’re not careful. I have fallen to the big bird many times over, so in this Project Zomboid Helicopter guide, I hope to prevent you from doing the same.
Bottom Line Up Front
This article provides an in-depth guide to preparing for and surviving the helicopter event, but if you’re in a rush, here are the key points:
- The helicopter event is a Metagame scenario in which a helicopter pursues the player and draws all nearby zombies in a 200-tile radius
- The best way I’ve found to deal with it is by getting out of town and camping in the woods. Alternatively, you can use a car and drive around slowly to manage the horde.
- The event lasts for a few hours and occurs during the sixth and ninth days of your adventure.
Be sure to check out the Frequently Asked Questions section for some answers to questions you might have asked yourself, and if you have time, skim the Some Extra Tips section for a bite-sized expansion on the above.
What is the Helicopter Event?
The Helicopter Event is a specific period in the game where a helicopter begins hovering over the game world. This will happen during days six to nine and between 9 A.M. and 8 P.M. on those days. It’ll remain in the air for one to four hours.
The event is part of what is referred to as the Metagame. This is an umbrella term used to define simulations that occur off-screen – events where the game world interacts with other elements irrespective of the player’s actions.
It was introduced in build 33 and served as a major shake-up to the survival tactics players had been practicing up until that point. And that’s really the whole point of the event – to throw a spanner in the works and push you out of your comfort zone.
By days six to nine, players have most likely started to find a groove: they might not be comfortable, but their structured routines have carried them through.
The problem with the helicopter event is the age-old nemesis in this game: sound. If you’re caught outside traveling to a store, and the helicopter is flying overhead, the immense amount of noise will draw all zombies from a huge area to your exact location within a 200-tile radius.
The vehicle essentially acts as if you have a wide-range noise generator on your person: it’ll pursue you relentlessly, and even if you try and escape its gaze by dashing into a building, the horde it drew will corner you for certain death.
How to Prepare
As is the case with many aspects of life, preparation is the key to success. This is no more apparent than in this sort of situation. Being caught off-guard when the helicopter event strikes increase your chances of death massively, so here’s what you need to do to get ready for it!
The Radio Broadcast
This is a simple step, but definitely one of the most important. When the helicopter is approaching, an emergency broadcast will be sounded on a random frequency, so make a habit of checking any radio you come across when you’re about the world looting buildings.
The radio info refreshes at 9 A.M.: listen all the way through until the end, where if the helicopter is coming, the sentence Air activity detected will be broadcast.
A better solution to receiving radio broadcasts is to use a Walkie Talkie. You can most commonly find them on desks and tables in houses, at stores, or on zombie bodies.
You can either carry one around with you or set it on a hard surface to listen, and if you find some earbuds (you’ll find these most commonly at electronics and department stores), you can listen silently at all times without alerting any zombies.
This way, you can ensure you hear that all-important broadcast the second it hits and start preparing instantly.
I’d also recommend getting yourself a watch. Because I didn’t usually have a Walkie Talkie on hand and had to rely on checking the radio, I’d often forget and miss the broadcast. Getting a watch and setting the alarm to, say, 8 A.M. will remind you to head to your nearest radio set to check for the warning.
Watches are usually found on zombie bodies but can be found in stores sometimes, and there are two varieties: analog and digital. Both display the time on screen as part of the User Interface when worn, though the latter will also display the date and your temperature.
By the time the helicopter event approaches, you’ll want to make sure you have all of your essentials:
- Bottles of water and a spare bottle (found in homes, stores, and many other buildings)
- Ready-to-eat-food (found in homes, stores, and many other buildings)
- A decent melee weapon in good shape (check out our Project Zomboid Weapons Guide for more information on that topic).
- Bandages and alcohol wipes (alcohol can be found in kitchens and general stores, while bandages can be located near the home and at hospitals and medical centers)
- A small tool kit (hammer, screwdriver, nails, and a saw – each found in homes, general stores, and hardware stores)
- A knife (a kitchen knife will do)
- A Radio or Walkie Talkie (to listen for when the helicopter event is over)
As we’ll delve into soon, the best way to survive the helicopter event, in my experience, is by camping out, so not only should you have the above items covered, but you’ll also need some appropriate camping items.
Having the tools above on your person means you can craft stuff for yourself while out in the wild, and you’ll also need a backpack to carry the amount of stuff you require. The above list covers the basics, but for camping, you’ll also need the following:
- A lighter (for starting fires – found in many draws and counters and sometimes in vehicle gloveboxes)
- A tent kit (for sleeping out in the wild – you’ll need four wooden stakes [crafted using a knife and tree branches], one tarp [warehouse storage crates], and four study sticks [crafted by sawing wooden planks]
Note: Make sure you’re proficient in the skills required, such as Carpentry and Maintenance. Not only will you be doing a lot of woodwork, but if your tools break, you need to know how to repair them to continue. You can check out this page for a data rundown of the necessary skills.
How to Survive
Now that you’re suitably prepared, let’s investigate how we can survive this thing! Below, you’ll find my recommendations for survival and a bonus strategy many people like to use.
Head Out of Town
The most surefire way to survive the helicopter event is to leave everything and head into the woods to camp out until the whole thing blows over.
For this, you’ll most definitely want to locate a car so you can speed off out of sight when the helicopter begins circling the area. Once you’ve gotten going, head for a nearby woods.
Regarding exactly which woods, that will depend on what map you’re playing on, but the key thing to consider is how large the wooded area is and if there’s a nearby water source.
The area needs to be big enough that it’s mostly away from urban areas that are populated with zombies and close enough to water that you don’t ever have to venture back into town to avoid dying of thirst.
Position your temporary camp close to this water source once you’ve located it: the less traveling you have to do to get to it, the less chance of you running into any straggler zeds which have stumbled into the forested area.
Into the Forest
Considering your lack of amenities in the woods, getting a head start is important, and nothing fulfills that goal better than one of the many wooden cabins situated around the world. Cabins are essentially small wooden buildings that provide basic shelter and storage, and they make the whole camping experience a lot better.
It’s not essential, though. The most simple way to choose a temporary camp location is to take a look at this interactive map and pick somewhere that is both by a body of water and is near enough to your current location.
I highly recommend installing Pillow In-Game’s Cabin Spawn Point Pack if you’d like to utilize a cabin. The mod adds several guaranteed cabin spawn locations. Using the map below, you can preemptively choose one close to your base before the helicopter event.
Whichever route you go, don’t pick a location that strays too far from your original base location. The further you have to travel back the more likely it is you’ll run into trouble – it’s just the law of averages!
I once got caught out and bitten on the way back home, so don’t be like me and survive the helicopter event only to get killed doing something mundane. If my route back had been half the distance, I might not have succumbed to the hordes.
Once you’ve arrived at the new patch of grass you’ll call home for the next few days, don’t set up yet. Do a check of the immediate area of ten tiles or so. If you see the odd zombie, deal with them immediately.
Then do the same with your route to the nearby body of water. I’d also recommend chopping down trees in your immediate area. You don’t want a zombie popping up out of nowhere because it was obscured by the nearby foliage!
Once you can be sure the area is safe (as much as any area can be in this game), set up your tent and campfire. Then you wait. Check your radio routinely each day for the broadcast, keep yourself fed and watered, and chances are, you’ll come out of this unscathed.
If you want to be fully prepared, I’d head to your desired forest location before the helicopter event. Sus out where you want to go first, travel there, set up as directed above, and then leave and carry on with your usual tasks. That way, there’s no ambiguity to your helicopter survival plan: you know where you’re headed and you know it’s safe.
If you secure a pen or pencil, you can even annotate your plan on a map so that your strategy is dialed-in to the letter!
Bonus Strategy: Hop in a Car
This isn’t my preferred method of survival, but hopping in a car and slowly driving around is another way I’ve used to mitigate the effects of the helicopter event.
In reality, even walking is faster than a horde of zombies, and a skilled player can, in fact, walk about in the thick of it and avoid hordes during the event. If you want to stay close to your base, however, then a car is your best bet.
Being careful, locate a relatively depopulated area to drive about in while the helicopter is flying overhead. Note the direction that the horde comes towards you and slowly snake it through the streets.
Beware of any zombies up in front of you, too – you’ll want to avoid crashing into any zombies head-on and causing unnecessary damage to your vehicle as if it conks out; you’ve had it!
Also, ensure your car is well-fueled and in good condition for the same reason. This is more dangerous and can require more effort than the camping option, but some players prefer this laborious yet simple strategy.
Another benefit is that, when the event is over, you now have a gigantic horde of zombies that you can safely transport to a location you desire which is far away from your base. This way, you can use the chaos to your advantage to mop up many zombies in one go.
I must say, though, that this method does get tedious after a while, and when we get bored, we tend to make mistakes. If you’re going to go this route, you’ll have to ensure you stay hypervigilant at all times.
If Things don’t Go to Plan
If you do get caught outside, don’t panic and run off aimlessly – try to plot your escape routes on the fly.
If you have a horde chasing you, dash into a nearby building: not only will this slow the speed of the horde as they try to clamber through windows and narrow doorways, but you can also quickly lose their line of sight by running out of a door or climbing through a window on the other side.
If you have most of the essentials in the first list from the preparation section of this article, you’d do well to make your way to the woods and tentatively stay there. There’s plenty you can make from wood, so if you’re lucky, you should be able to make do there until the helicopter event is over.
Some Extra Tips
Head Straight for a Wooded Area if you have a Horde Chasing You
Zombies will still chase you into the woods, but because of the trees, it’s very easy to lose their line of sight. The woods are also one of the least populated areas in the game, meaning that if you escape your undead adversaries, it’s much less likely that the helicopter will draw another group toward you.
Don’t Choose the Deaf Trait
I’d recommend steering clear of the deaf trait – you won’t hear the announcements warning that the helicopter is inbound. You must know about the helicopter event in good time, as the worst thing is to be caught out in the open with no place to hide.
Even if you find a clear building, remember that the helicopter will follow you to it and draw zombies; so having that audio tip-off is essential!
Stay Vigilant – even if You Avoid the Helicopter, You’re not Always Safe
Even though technically the safest way to avoid the trappings of the helicopter event is to stay hidden away, that doesn’t mean you’ll be totally safe from its effects when you venture back into the city. The sound of the helicopter will cause large groups of zombies to migrate, irrespective of whether or not they’re following you.
As such, you might find zombies have repopulated an area that you previously cleared out, or notice groups in areas where they wouldn’t have ordinarily gone to. Stay cautious, even when traversing areas you once considered safe.
Considerations for Multiplayer Mode
When the helicopter event occurs in multiplayer mode, the vehicle will focus on one player to peruse at a time. While this may make it seem like the other players get a free pass, they don’t.
The helicopter significantly disrupts the movement of zombies, so if someone gets caught out, keeping track of their location is crucial; when playing with my friends, I had the unfortunate occurrence of running headlong into the chaos left by my friend’s escape.
Treat everywhere as dangerous if all hell breaks loose for one of you, and if you can, try and stay within reasonable proximity to one another.
When You’re Out in the Woods, Bring some Books or Magazines with You
Being out in the wilderness for several days as you avoid the watchful eye of the helicopter can make you restless.
By this point in the game, you’ll have something to keep you busy all the time whilst at your normal base and scavenging around town, so the abrupt switch to having none of that is jarring. In my opinion, the best way to make use of this downtime is by taking books and magazines with you.
Before you leave, be sure to stock up on any further reading on skills you want to get better at. Reading is a passive task: if you’re going to be just hanging around most of the time, you can use your time wisely to get learning!
Consider Using the Wooden Dowels Mod
It’s difficult to know how many nails you’ll need to take with you, and inevitably, you always end up wanting more once you get to the woods. For this reason, I highly recommend the Wooden Dowels mod by Onkeen over at the Steam Workshop.
Dowels are wooden nails that, once the mod is installed, can be crafted easily using a saw, knife, and a plank of wood.
You’ll have all the wood you could ever want, which means you’ll never run out of makeshift nails to keep you going while the helicopter is about.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Why don’t We See the Helicopter?
Answer: When they first hear of the event, most players assume that they’ll see a helicopter in the sky. In reality, we only ever hear the vehicle. There has never been an official answer as to why we never see the helicopter depicted, though there are a couple of likely reasons.
The first is to create suspense: the whole thing is much more terrifying if we can’t see the enemy, meaning we have to rely on audio cues to tell us where it’s coming from.
Secondly, the logistics of implementing a helicopter model would likely have been a hindrance to the gameplay. Given Project Zomboid’s top-down isometric style, a large object obscuring a good portion of the screen may have ruined the player’s awareness of their surroundings and distracted them at an already difficult portion of the game.
Question: Will We See other Events Like this Come to Project Zomboid in the Future?
Answer: As of the writing of this article, the developers have not spoken about adding any game-changing events to the game in future updates – but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
The developers have already done a great job at improving the base game and adding more content, so I’m sure we can expect something big in the future.
This would likely come with one of the major updates, and the studio will most definitely be expanding upon the Metagame events I discussed above.
Question: Considering many New Players Get their Game Over due to the Helicopter Event, is there a Way to Switch it off?
Answer: If you want to, you can turn off the helicopter event by going to setting up your new game as a Sandbox game by making a new map, and then turning the helicopter event off from the Meta Events tab. I’d advise against this, however. If you follow the steps and recommendations in this guide, you’ll be capable of surviving it.
The helicopter is a big step in putting all the skills you’ve learned so far into action, so for this reason, to turn it off would be a missed opportunity to get exponentially better. In many ways, it’s a right of passage.
I hope this guide has provided you with everything you need to brave the dreaded helicopter event for yourself. For more on Project Zomboid, I recommend checking out our other articles like Project Zomboid Traits Explained – You Take the Bad with the Good or Project Zomboid Farming Guide – Feed Yourself and Your Friends.
There are many more to read through as well: use the keywords Project Zomboid in the search bar above to find more content. Have fun!
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