Last week Naughty Dog held an event to provide hands on time with The Last of Us. The demo was around 40 minutes or so, which was enough to reveal how horrific and tense the game can be. In the demo the developers wanted to show how the people, or survivors have lived in the post apocalyptic world of The Last of Us.
About 20 years ago civilization as we know it completely collapsed with the advent of the deadly fungal virus known as Cordyceps. This is an actual fungi infection that exists in the real world which mainly infects arthropods, or insects. BBC’s Planet Earth has a special on how this fungi infection attacks the nervous system first and forces the insects to seek highly populated areas to spread the spores.
The Cordycep infection in The Last of Us works similarly as humans who are infected still retain some of their mental faculties but are driven by the strong urge to run towards and attack/bite those uninfected. Neil Druckmann, creative director of The Last of Us described this type of infected as Stage 1, also known as Runners.
Runners can visually see you and can run towards you in packs. Stage 1 types can easily be killed even with your fists. Stage 3 is where things really get interesting as the infected have survived for about a year and the fungus have grown out of every orifice leaving an unrecognizable cauliflower-like head. The stage 3 infected are known as Clickers and as the name implies make clicking noises. Clickers are completely blind but like bats have developed a form of echolocation to sense where you are by sound.
As shown by the demo, Clickers are extremely tough and getting caught by one usually ends up resulting in a one-hit-death. This really forces you to strategize on the fly as you contemplate going around the Clicker via stealth, or performing a close proximity kill with a shiv, or unload several bullets into the infected resulting in alerting others to your location.
Another aspect of the game shown during the demo is the crafting system in The Last of Us. The crafting system allows players to create new weapons and aids on the fly from ordinary objects found in the world. Joel can take a bottle of alcohol and a rag to make a Molotov cocktail. You will have to decide carefully as that same rag can be used as bandages or bindings to craft melee weapon like with a 2×4 and a knife.
According to Druckmann, the things revealed in the demo are only the tip of the iceberg as there is still many more that have not been shown. He also hinted that there may be more advanced stages of the infected beyond the 3rd one. Joel also has a form of echolocation of his own, as he can put his head down and hear where the enemies are nearby, shown as outlines even behind walls. I’m not one to spout hyperboles often, but The Last of Us is truly looking like a Game of the Year contender so far.