The stages of infection in The Last of Us

We take a look at how infection works in The Last of Us.

The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic action adventure that has survivors fighting against zombie-like beings that Naughty Dog refers to as the "Infected." Although they featured heavily in the game's debut trailer, they've since taken a backseat. At a recent press event in Los Angeles, we finally had a chance to get our hands on the game--and fight these non-zombies. The inspiration for the Infected came from ophiocordyceps unilateralis, a type of fungus that takes over ants, transforming them into undead vessels to spread their deadly spores. When infected, the fungus essentially eats the ant alive, altering its behavior in the process. The development team wondered what would happen if the fungus could have a similar effect on humans.

Runners are not unlike traditional zombies

There are multiple stages of infection. In our hands-on demo, we were able to play against two. The first were called "runners." These poor saps have only recently been exposed and are at "stage one" of the infection. "They can still see, and they still have a sense of humanity. They almost know consciously what they're doing, but they can't control themselves," creative director Neil Druckmann explained. "They run fast, they can take you down, and they work in packs." The zombie equivalent would be the zombies from 28 Days Later. Slowly, the infection becomes increasingly visible, leading to the mushroom-headed beasts we saw in the game's debut. "As the fungus spreads, it takes over more and more of the biology of the human. It grows out of the eye sockets, and it makes you go blind. This is a fate worse than death," Druckmann explained. "You're still alive, but you have to suffer through this pain."

Clickers will kill in one bite

"Clickers" represent stage three of the infection. "They're called clickers because they use echolocation. They scan the environment using sound waves… if there's any movement detected, they're on you," Druckmann described. "They might be a little slower, but when they're on you, they're going to be rabid. when they touch you, you're gone." Yes, a single bite will result in a game over--regardless of how much health remains your life bar. As such, a single clicker is already unnerving to deal with--but a pack of them?

Eventually, the fungus will take over the entire body

Eventually, the fungus takes over the body completely. In one section of the game, a body was grafted onto the wall, as the bulbs outstretched beyond the body. Creepy stuff. The Last of Us will be available on PS3 this May. For more, read our full hands-on preview.

Andrew Yoon was previously a games journalist creating content at Shacknews.

From The Chatty
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    February 4, 2013 12:00 AM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, The stages of infection in The Last of Us.

    We take a look at how infection works in The Last of Us.

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      February 4, 2013 1:49 AM

      I've always seen the clickers as "popcorn heads".

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      February 4, 2013 3:18 AM

      I somehow missed that this was what the "zombies" were until now. I like this idea quite a lot.

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        February 4, 2013 3:30 AM


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          February 4, 2013 4:07 AM

          Yeah, I liked the game more before I saw it was a zombie game. I think I'd rather there weren't any enemies at all than have another zombie shooter, regardless of them being "fungus" zombies.

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      February 4, 2013 4:09 AM

      Damned exclusives.

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        February 4, 2013 4:34 AM

        I would love a PC version.

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        February 4, 2013 4:39 AM

        Considering the quality of the PS3 exclusives, I have a hard time understanding how people can make a fuss about buying one, the quantity of good, truly exclusive games is quite large AND it's a good media player / blu ray players.

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          February 4, 2013 4:47 AM

          I made the point and got jumped by many herpa derp, "enjoy games on all consoles". Well I do have all of them (bare wiiu) and the ps3 has the strongest exclusive IMO.

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            February 4, 2013 4:59 AM

            Both consoles has it's weak points, exclusives isn't one of the PS3's. I just hope they modernize and learn lessons for PS4. Then I'll migrate my multiplatform purchases over to it.

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              February 4, 2013 5:06 AM

              What does "modernize" mean? Like make the UI much slower and shittier and fill it with ads? or integrate XBL and online functionality better with the core OS?

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            February 4, 2013 5:05 AM

            My thoughts on this

            Also, personally, I don't have time, so I sold the 2 with no interesting exclusives (well wanting only one isn't enough) so I'm one of those people I whine about I guess.
            Being a single player gamer, I definitely have the right console.

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          February 4, 2013 5:55 AM

          my ps3 sits idly collecting dust. zzz

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      February 4, 2013 4:12 AM

      Is that Zombie Jack Nicholson?

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      February 4, 2013 6:14 AM

      Cant wait to play. Looking forward to this game.

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