The Fungus Among Us: Facing the Infected of The Last of Us

Our first encounter with the Infected of The Last of Us proves to be tense and challenging.

I had the chance to play an early section of The Last of Us at a Sony event last week. I spent most of that time holding my breath.

When you first take control of Joel, the rugged protagonist of The Last of Us, he feels a lot like Nathan Drake. He controls similarly and he moves through the environment with a similar sense of momentum. If you've spent time as that earlier Naughty Dog hero, you might, in these early moments, anticipate combat that delivers the same rush of adrenaline that Uncharted's yippie-ki-yay shootouts could trigger. So many of the other hallmarks of Uncharted are present during your quiet traversal of a bombed-out, post-pandemic Boston--fantastic voice acting and facial expressions, environments so stunningly beautiful that you feel compelled to just move the camera around and take in every detail--that it's easy to expect the game to follow the same tried-and-true template where combat is concerned, too. But as you make your way across the ravaged urban landscape, the calm is interrupted by a piercing wail in the distance; it's an unsettling moment that suggests the dangers lurking in your future are eerily unfamiliar.

The Infected. You can't see 'em here, but they're out there.

The wail comes from one of the Infected, a sufferer of the fungus-based disease that has all but wiped out society. Initially, these poor souls retain some awareness of their humanity, but lack the ability to control their actions. Infected who fit this description are called runners; they still look more or less human, though a pallor to their skin and other details make it clear at a glance that they are not exactly the picture of health. Individually, they don't pose much of a threat, but you don't want to attract the attention of several at once and find yourself swarmed. Because ammo is scarce and weapons like Molotovs--which you can craft from items scavenged from the environment--are so limited, taking a reckless, guns-blazin' approach is a good way to get yourself killed.

You'll spend much of your time crouched, moving silently and trying not to give away your position. Being stealthy and smart is key, but the common stealth game behavior of memorizing enemy movement patterns doesn't work here. These twitchy, miserable wretches behave unpredictably, lurching in this direction or that, so distracting them with a tossed brick or bottle before sneaking past them (or sneaking in for the kill) is a particularly handy tactic. If you can creep up behind a runner, you can strangle it to death or execute it instantly with a shiv (another tool crafted from scavenged items), and if you find yourself face-to-face with one, Joel's brawling skills and his ability to hit really hard with pipes and other heavy objects can usually keep you alive.

But it's not just the runners you need to worry about. Eventually, the infection progresses to a more advanced and more disturbing stage, at which point the fungus visibly grows out from the once-human's eye sockets and covers much of the face. These Infected are known as clickers, and though they are blind, they can still hunt you down. The clicks they make don't just serve to send shivers up your spine; they enable the clickers, through echolocation, to "see," and if one locates you, you're in serious danger. Clickers are far stronger than runners, and in a fight with one, Joel's fists will not save him. Clickers are less numerous than runners, but just one clicker in a group is enough to make you think much more carefully about how to handle the situation. I repeatedly fell into the trap of letting myself get distracted by a runner or two, which enabled a clicker to charge up to me from behind; no sooner did it have its hands on me than its teeth were buried in my neck. In order to survive when clickers are present, staying aware of your surroundings and the locations of those clickers is essential.

Still not pictured: nasty-lookin', fungus-faced Infected.

Luckily, Joel has a gift for situational awareness; by sitting still and listening carefully, he can sense the locations of nearby Infected, who remain visible (even through walls) until you slip out of "listen mode" and start moving again. But while useful, this is no silver bullet for taking care of the Infected. It's still you--not Joel--who has to keep track of how the Infected respond to your behavior once you stop listening and start acting. One group of Infected, roaming around in the gloom of a disused subway station, repeatedly got the better of me as I tried to use a shotgun to take out a clicker, which gave away my position and led to me being swarmed by runners.

Ultimately, I opted for a sneakier approach, tossing bricks and bottles in an attempt to lure Infected towards each other, hoping that I could then take out several with a single, well-tossed Molotov. As I snuck around the station's hallways and put my plan into motion, I never for a moment felt safe. I was constantly worried that one false move would bring all of the Infected bearing down on me, that I'd once again witness the grisly sight of Joel falling victim to a clicker's attacks. It was only after the Infected had all gone up in flames that I finally felt I could exhale, relaxing for a moment but knowing my safety would not last. Facing the Infected made me tense and uneasy, and I can't wait to do it again.

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Discussion

317 comments
ranjangamefreak
ranjangamefreak

Gonna pick this one up and also ..Watch Dogs fer sure!

Jambiya
Jambiya

I am definitely looking forward to this game! It looks like another great idea on a zombie apocalypse... just with more variety on the combat side of things.

tenz01
tenz01

You can pretend they aren't zombies all you want... this is just a different spin on zombies.


Regardless.. it is a must buy.

rodyvanhulst
rodyvanhulst

This will be a awsome game if the fix some things.

The thing that buged me the most is that you only have a revolver with limited ammo and when you kill an enemy that has a machine gun you cant even pick it up ?!

This isent supposed to be a call of duty experiance but this kinda seems un realistic. Other then that i cant wait for this game to come out

cbb1018
cbb1018

looks so epic!!!!11!

chris120379
chris120379

im hoping Nathan Drake will make a cameo apearence and kick the living crap outta zombies

GvonHell
GvonHell

Reminds me of "I am legend".

Redley911
Redley911

The infected sur don't look like the ones we get to see in the first trailer, they look clumsier.

nomailx
nomailx

Isn't this "I am Alive"? WTF? It's even the same cover!! WTF???

noodlzethegreat
noodlzethegreat

From the video to me it gave a bit of a manhunt feel.  with the gruesome action sequences, and the stealth aspect.  I like it, with the whole infected approach


damnstraight003
damnstraight003

Wait, this game has zombies?

HUGE disappointment... I thought this was going to be a different kind of post-apocalyptic thriller. Oh well, it might still be worth a try.

Renunciation
Renunciation

Been lookin' forward to this one for a while.  I wasn't sure what to make of it at first, but it does seem to be inspired by the survival horror genre -- the genre which was originally much more psychological than the zombie warfare titles which are prevalent today. 

The Last of Us seems to revisit the more psychological days of survival horror by removing the sense of security which comes with a wide and powerful assortment of firearms and ammunition.  It invokes tension which is sometimes lost in other games through uninspired (and sometimes downright goofy) dialogue. 

 Joel's age and lack of sophisticated fighting skills make him vulnerable; he's not a soldier, a cop, secret agent, or mercenary.  Ellie provides an extra sense of vulnerability for the player, which somehow seems magnified by her personality:  she is obviously dependent on Joel for her safety, but seems determined enough not to be a liability to him.  She could have had a much brattier or needy personality, which would likely have been annoying for the player to experience.  Instead, we get a "sidekick" who we are more compelled to protect as players -- because she's got more emotional depth than your average "protect the innocent person or you fail the mission" character.


Despite the game's inclusion of "the Infected", it seems Naughty Dog knows a few key things:  You don't need zombies for horror.  Horror isn't the only way to induce a sense of fear and desperation.  A game can feature intense fighting without being a generic button-smashing beat-'em-up title or shooter.   Not every protagonist in our more volatile virtual worlds needs to be a trash-talking badass.

Baroni88
Baroni88

Why do I remember them saying this game was going to be open-world? Damn it, I was looking forward to that aspect. :(

faizanhd
faizanhd

Why does the narrator in the video reference uncharted all day long ? Just because they are from the same developer ? 

IanNottinghamX
IanNottinghamX

"infected" why dont they just say theyre Zombies!!! its what they are this is another Zombie game right?!

jubdeidamasta
jubdeidamasta

Finally a game that looks like it upping the mark for survival horror. Who would have thought the makers of Crash Bandicoot would come this far.

billnye69
billnye69

Microsoft was so stupid to not have this game on there console.  To bad they are always so damn greedy. 

c0deb0x
c0deb0x

looks like max payne u know

Lotus-Edge
Lotus-Edge

This game looks bloody amazing....

Solid_Azeus
Solid_Azeus

Welcome to the new standard in survival horror...only on playstation :(

boricuasnake04
boricuasnake04

Another PS3 Exclusive that Xbox Fanboys are gonna cry about and talk trash about on forums lol

chnplb625
chnplb625

I hate exclusives, this game woud be great on pc with physx.

PriesT282
PriesT282

I thought this was gonna be humans only, when I saw the generic zombies I thought urgh here we go. What is it about computer games and monsters/zombies? Theres a place for em sure but they are part of too many games. In fact last time I thought this was playing uncharted, as you get closer to the end oh look monsters it wasnt right in a "real world". I think this wouldve been better without, you can still have an exciting, enjoyable game with real world NPCs you just need to have a good storyline! Ill still play it tho lol

wavelength121
wavelength121

ewww, are they really going to have those goofy orange eyes in the final game? that is seriously ridiculous looking

stealthyninja81
stealthyninja81

looks sort of similar i quess but that game came out a wihle ago and the cover was alot different

LukeWesty
LukeWesty

@Devils-DIVISION  

Looks amazing

Like the way it doesnt have a constant onslaught of zombies so it looks like there is a sence of exploration to it. Can't wait.

LukeWesty
LukeWesty

@faizanhd  

the answer is in your comment...  

Just like when Rockstar make a great game, they usually reffer them to the makers of GTA even tho it could have nothing to do with that game.

DAWNofALDUIN
DAWNofALDUIN

@IanNottinghamX No, they have been infected with the Cordiceps virus. Youtube some videos pertaining to that.  It's very cool and finally something different than Zombies (even though zombies will never get old).  :)

highlanderjimd
highlanderjimd

@jubdeidamasta nonsense, this will be another pile of horse wank. The only game that will up the mark for proper survival horror is DayZ standalone.

acoastal
acoastal

@PriesT282 I knew this game had some sort of infected, but I do agree with what you said about too many games having monsters/zombies/etc. in them. More often than not it comes off as goofy.

LukeWesty
LukeWesty

@PriesT282 

Why did u think that?, the picture on the home page is of a guy fending off a zombie, was it just from the name you painted a picture of your own imaginary story line?

ID-Lore
ID-Lore

@wavelength121 Those goofy looking orange eyes is Naughty Dogs version of  Cordyceps, a real life parasite. It only affects ants, but forces them to climb to a high place, and commit suicide and spread the fungus. In the last of us, this fungus has been caught by humans, and the way it affects the human body, is by having that mushroom type thing on the faces of clickers. It grows out of their eyes. Runners are in a very basic stage of infection, the fungus has yet to come out of their eyes, so its glossy and red. 


oneEnigma
oneEnigma

@dj_tiesto_9000 @damnstraight003 

 lol whats the difference they are doing the same moaning and sounds and sound even creepier than zombies with their Ju-On/The Grudge woman like breathing sound. Im really dissapointed in the game having zombies aswell hope its just for short parts of the game but i doubt it

LukeWesty
LukeWesty

@highlanderjimd@jubdeidamasta 

I played dayz for around a week and then got bored of it. It has an addiction to it, then you realise that its all pointless, kinda hit me like a brick to the face, but fun if ya wanna watch tv while messing around on a side game. lol

Ow ya comment is dumb, dayz stand alone wont compete in anyway with gameplay or storyline, its just a bitty type game.

Albino_Snow
Albino_Snow

@LukeWesty @PriesT282 With the first trailers in the UC3 multiplayer lobby, the enemies were not obviously "infected". It looked kinda like The Road.

LukeWesty
LukeWesty

@ID-Lore @wavelength121  

It doesnt cause them to commit suicide it eats there insides but when its in the starting stages it influences them to clime a tree before they die and attatch theselves to it so the fungus can grow outta there head.

wavelength121
wavelength121

@ID-Lore @wavelength121 Cool idea, but at the end of the day silly orange eyes is still silly orange eyes. They look like all the generic bad guys from the Blizzard universe.

Baroni88
Baroni88

@oneEnigma @dj_tiesto_9000 @damnstraight003 I'm not sure what people were expecting but they clearly explained even from last years E3 that this game has infected. I'm surprised it has normal humans in it though but I like that they combined for the survival aspect. Should be a great game.

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

@pal_080

No problems at all. I love his accent though. I'm Aussie, but I hope I meet a girl who has a similar accent to Brandy from Joe Dirt *drooling*. Anyway your welcome :)

pal_080
pal_080

@Devils-DIVISION

Looks cool, thanks for the link.  Not a fan of Joels accent, but what can you do!  Lovely looking atmosphere.