Sony has announced a new free-to-play massively multiplayer zombie survival title called H1Z1 for PC and PlayStation 4.

The name is a reference to 2009’s "swine flu" virus, and the game is set 15 years after it appeared, in a world where it transforms people into zombies.

“Humanity has been reduced to hiding in the shadows, searching desperately for food and water and anything that can help to survive even for another day,” wrote Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley on the game’s official subreddit.

“But the Infected aren’t the only dangers in the world. Everyday life in the Apocalypse means dealing with all kinds of wild animals and the brutality of other survivors, as well as finding your next meal and a safe place to sleep.”

Sony announces free-to-play zombie survival MMO H1Z1
Sony announces free-to-play zombie survival MMO H1Z1

Smedley said Sony’s vision for the game is a massive world that encompasses cities as well as desolate wide open places, “all connected seamlessly”.

Players will be able to scavenge resources, build shelters, craft weapons, trade, and more.

There will be vehicles and hunting, but not skills or levels. Players can choose a first- or third-person viewpoint.

H1Z1 will distinguish itself with an emphasis on player ownership and building, said Smedley.

“We want you to be able to form roving gangs that are headquartered out of an abandoned warehouse that you’ve taken over...or a house you’ve built from scratch after having cut trees down and secured the resources to make it,” he wrote.

“We’re building in all the social features you’ve come to expect from an SOE game (grouping, proximity voice chat, voice chat for your gang, and many other cool social features).”

Sony announces free-to-play zombie survival MMO H1Z1
Sony announces free-to-play zombie survival MMO H1Z1

H1Z1 will run on Sony’s proprietary Forgelight engine, and its persistent world will hold thousands of players on Sony-hosted servers.

Player-created items will make their way into the game via Player Studio.

Sony is still figuring out the game’s monetisation, said Smedley.

“We will telegraph our plans early and let people comment and we'll listen if they don't like something and come to a place where people feel good about it," he said.

“We are not interested in selling weapons. The game at its core is about survival. Our preference is not to sell anything that can help with that.”

A release date is yet to be announced, although H1Z1 will hit PC first via Steam Early Access for US$20, and will possibly be playable in the next 4-6 weeks.