- "They might still look like people, but that person is not in there anymore."
- ―Ellie to Sam
The Infected are mutated humans, reshaped into horrific new forms by a recombinant fungal infection. The resulting creatures are highly aggressive, and will attack any uninfected human on sight. The Infected are the main type of enemy in The Last of Us.
The fungus reportedly originated in South American crops; various newspapers in the prologue support this claim. The fungus infects the human brain, growing mycelium inside the brain tissue and killing the brain's cells. This erases their memories and drives them insane, modifying their instincts to seek no goal other than spreading the spores to others. Eventually the fungus will kill its host, and will then grow out of the host's head to spread spores.
Public reaction to the Infected has been catastrophic. As the vicious fungus has taken hold of the majority of the population, spreading havoc and panic far and wide, the worldwide pandemic causes the total breakdown and destruction of society through widespread violence; the failure of martial law to contain the outbreak, the military's increasingly violent efforts to censor information, and the near-extinction of mankind. The Fireflies – a militia group formed in response to military oppression – have conducted a mostly futile war against the dysfunctional government. The group is one of the few remaining organizations that believe they can create a vaccine through study of the fungus and its hosts.
Those who are clear of infection are ordered by martial law to reside within a Quarantine Zone. The military at one point bombed areas outside the Quarantine zones to kill the infected and executed anyone suspected of infection on sight.
- "[...] the antigenic titers of the patient's Cordyceps remain high in both the serum and the cerebrospinal fluid. Blood cultures taken from the patient rapidly grow Cordyceps in fungal-media in the lab..."
- ―Surgeon's recording
For humans that have been exposed to a mutated strain of Ophiocordyceps Unilateralis, the fungus attacks the brain and begins to alter the behavior of its host. The host will then go through four different stages of infection: Runner, Stalker, Clicker, and Bloater; each stage is more dangerous than the last.
The infection is also spread directly through contact with an Infected or via their corpse - that is, the infectious spores created by the Cordyceps and released from the host's body upon death. Spore development is the last stage in the life cycle of the Infected. This lifeless carcass serves as a breeding ground for the fungus to spread throughout the environment. When an Infected feels it is close to death, it will find dark, moist corners to die in. While this may be the end of the line for the host, the fungus will live on. The Last of Us game team has stated that the people in the quarantine zones are relatively safe because in places with significant airflow, the spore concentration cannot build up, which is why the only places with significant spore toxicity tend to be underground or abandoned buildings.
In order for the fungus to infect a host body, the host must first be alive. Dead victims who come into contact with the infection do not undergo transformation.
All of the infected are weak to fire.
As said in the previous section, the Infected humans have since undergone a strange mutation by a specialized strain of cordyceps. Over time, growths protrude out of the orifices of the human hosts and it changes their physical appearance. Their teeth are horribly rotten and jagged. The fungus on Stalkers, Clickers, and Bloaters is bio-luminescent. At later stages, their body begins to bulge, and more fungi growths can be seen on their skin. When the host is killed or dies from advanced fungal growth the fungus continues to grow throughout the body; emitting spores.
- "You know, as bad as those things are, at least they're predictable. It's the normal people that scare me."
Upon becoming Infected, the victims eventually lose any ability to think and begin to behave irrationally as the fungus spreads in the brain. Relying on warped instincts, the Infected will attempt to attack and/or eat any human they find.
As the fungus grows, it spreads to the host's eyes, covering them and blinding them. They then develop a primitive form of echolocation to locate prey, which results in them making a distinctive clicking sound. After some time, the fungus will kill the host if too damaged, usually in a closed-off space so the fungus can spread further.
The Infected, while having a higher pain tolerance than ordinary humans, are still susceptible to conventional injuries. A Runner, when not attacking survivors, will moan in pain due to the fungal growth deforming its body. Clickers will occasionally struggle while being shivved. Sometimes infected that still have their entire faces intact look sad or worried as they attack. This may indicate that first and second stage infected are aware of what they are doing, but cannot control themselves. Gunshots are capable of startling an infected individual, so it is likely they feel fear in the early stages of infection. However, since their humanity is completely destroyed by stage three, most humanistic characteristics cease entirely (e.g. feelings, thoughts, etc.).
Stages of infection Edit
Runners are the first and weakest stage of the Infected who have just recently entered their transformation. Since the eyes are first targeted by the fungus, runners have poor eyesight, but maintain many human instincts. For example, their moans are still human, just like their overall appearance. A way to tell them apart from normal survivors is their glowing red eyes. Their body language is sluggish while they are passive, suggesting they are resisting the fungus's influence. Sometimes they do not attack at all, even when non-infected individuals are right in front of them. These non-aggressive runners will only attack if attacked first or when an object is thrown at or near them, thus losing control. Much like sneezing, the urge to attack after such interactions happens involuntarily and unwillingly by the host. Runners are confirmed to be able to attack in packs flailing their arms trying to trample the survivor. People who have been infected will enter this stage within a few days, with increased irritability and hostility towards others being a key symptom.
Runners seem to have an easier time than humans when it comes to spotting Joel and Ellie, since, with humans, Joel can just walk behind them and strangle them, something that is not possible with Runners without them spotting Joel. Also, moving Runners seem to be capable of spotting Joel when crouch-walking, indicating heightened awareness.
Anything works on them, and generally, the main concern when fighting them is the possibility of being swarmed by them in large numbers, in which case, you may consider attempting to escape their detection by sprinting away to a distance and diving behind cover. Stealth is a very good option while dealing with them, although not entirely necessary, and as with any other choke-able enemy, you need to be careful about being spotted by other nearby enemies while choking them out one by one. Individual Runners are also very easy to melee even with bare fists, so using up any ammo when fighting them can be wasteful when there are only a few of them. Do not waste using a shiv on them as you will need those for Clickers and possibly Stalkers if in large numbers.
Stalkers have the vision and speed of Runners and are no longer bound with human conscience, bearing the ferocity of Clickers. The most notable physical traits that define the "Stalkers" is the distinct croaking noises they make, the beginning of fungal growths on the head and face with only one eye left, the development of pseudo echolocation, and their discretion upon spotting a victim at distance - they will strafe and take cover, eventually closing in on the victim, hence the name "Stalker". Up-close, Stalkers are very aggressive and will charge immediately at the victim without hesitation. Stage 2 may take place anywhere between a week after the start of the infection (Stage 1) and up to a year (Stage 3).
Their strength is equal to a fit human being as their attacks can interrupt actions made by the player.
According to the Stages of Infection collectible found in The Last of Us demo released with God of War: Ascension, the modus operandi of a stalker is to "hide and ambush victims." The collectible implores readers to check their surroundings, but no other information is provided.
Some Stalkers have a bioluminescent vein in the face, making them easier to see in the dark. They are fast and deadly in combat especially when confronted in numbers. Therefore it is best for Joel to keep his distance away when trying to confront a group of Stalkers. The player may lure nearby Stalkers and then use explosives as they approach Joel. Stealth is an option, but not advised due to them being almost impossible to shiv while moving.
They can also be shivved and strangled like Runners but the player must approach them with caution without getting seen or caught otherwise the Stalker will charge at the player nearby. They may also run away to take cover if it sees the player approaching from a distance.
There is a tag worth 100 in-game currency called 'The Hunter Becomes the Hunted' for stealth killing a Stalker from behind for the first time given that they can notice the player unless they do it extremely slowly as simply walking/crawling up behind them just alerts them (not advised when there is a group of them).
Stalkers are rare in the entire game and are only encountered as the main enemy only twice in the whole game. Once in the basement of the hotel in Pittsburgh with a Bloater and once in the Sewers. They are also encountered in the Left Behind DLC by Ellie.
Their "clicking" however may be heard from a distance in various other areas, but it only serves as ambiance.
Clickers are the third and most distinctly recognized stage of the Infected. They have had prolonged exposure to the fungus, and now possess strength that significantly surpasses the average human. This makes them deadlier, but at the price of being completely blind due to fungal infection overtaking their face. However, Clickers are able to maneuver through areas by utilizing echolocation, which produces noticeable clicking noises to locate sources of sound.
Clickers appear less human than Runners and Stalkers, with faces that are completely skewed and scarred by fungus developed from their infected brains. The fungal plates have apparently adapted to keep the host/pathogen alive and able to spread, as a direct shot to the face with a powerful weapon such as a revolver will more often than not just break off a chunk of the mold, leaving the Clicker's brain unharmed. Clickers are dangerous and much more aggressive than Runners, and like Stalkers no longer resist the fungus because their humanity has been completely eliminated. Clickers also possess what seems like very high intelligence, never leaving an area when they know or have heard food run by them, and will constantly check every available nook and cranny to locate the source of the sound with little regard to give up on the task at hand. Interestingly, most of the Clickers seen in the game appear to have been female humans.
When provoked, a Clicker will immediately enter into a "berserk mode," aggressively flailing its arms. At this point, if a survivor has been "spotted" by a Clicker, the Clicker will attack head on and will not flinch when shot unless using high powered rounds.
If Joel is grappled by a Clicker, (which happens every time if you do not have a melee weapon with you) he can save his life if he has a Shiv and at least level 1 of the Shiv Master skill (except if the player is playing on easy mode, where it is possible to survive a grapple even without it.) If not, Clickers will bite and rip into Joel's neck, thus rendering an instant gameover by infecting him if not killing him from the blood loss. It is possible to avoid or distract Clickers instead of fighting them directly by throwing bottles or bricks. Punching a Clicker with bare hands is ineffective — after three punches, Joel will not have time to back away and will be instantly grappled by the Clicker if it was not killed by the third punch, and most of the time the Clicker's berserk mode will override Joel's punch. It is recommended players use a melee weapon if they choose this form of attack. When the Clicker does manage to activate berserk mode, it is advised to keep your distance before aiming at it or trying to hit it to avoid being grappled.
Clickers can be stealthily killed by either using a shiv or the bow and arrow. Still, using an arrow to kill a Clicker requires the player to achieve a headshot, (this has an 80% chance of breaking the arrow) or two chest shots, which will alert them, so unless done fast enough, you could be in trouble. This is risky, however, as the fungus grows around their face it begins to act as a sort of armor, which significantly reduces the chances of killing them with one shot.
It is fairly easy to outrun a Clicker, as their crude echolocation has a short range and, unlike Runners or Stalkers, they jog at a moderate pace rather than sprint. When far enough or behind cover, the Clicker will get confused and click in all directions. This makes them easy to avoid as you just simply have to crouch still behind cover roughly 10 feet away, as the echolocations only range a few feet, unless you fire a gun. In the launch trailer for the game shown at the 2011 Spike Video Game Awards, Clickers had the ability to run as fast as Runners. This ability was removed from the final game.
Clickers can be killed bare-handed if you hit them with a brick or bottle first and attack them while they are stunned. This method could be attempted approaching the Clicker from the front, though the back would most likely be the safer option.
Bloaters are the fourth, final and most dangerous stage of the Infected. Bloaters take the longest to develop, making them the rarest of the infected. They are covered in thick fungus that effectively doubles as armor plate. Due to this protective covering, they can withstand multiple hits from weapons such as the Shotgun and Hunting Rifle, and even hatchets and machetes making them extremely tough to eliminate. Bloaters are extremely aggressive, but are rather slow-moving causing them to be more predictable than other infected. Like Clickers, Bloaters 'see' using echolocation to locate and trap a survivor. Because the fungus has completely deformed their face and blinded them, their echolocation is a lot less refined than the Clickers. If a Bloater grabs a survivor, it will forcefully rip their jaw apart through brute strength, or grab the player's head and smash it, killing them instantly. There is no way to defend yourself if grabbed - the result is an instant kill. Bloaters will throw sacks of Mycotoxin, a toxin produced by many fungi in the real world. The sack will explode on impact, spraying the target with the toxin. The Mycotoxin will hurt the player over time, so it is recommended to avoid these deadly clouds.
Bloaters, like all Infected, have a weakness to fire. When set ablaze a Bloater will wildly thrash around trying to put out the flames. After being immolated, they will be charred, black, and smoking. Their armor will also be charred and brittle, making them vulnerable to low-powered weapons. Despite this weakness, fire-based weapons such as Flamethrowers or Molotov cocktails still require multiple uses before killing a Bloater. Their other, less effective weakness is armor piercing rounds from an upgraded weapon, like the Hunting Rifle. It will take fewer shots to kill if the weapon has the Power and Armor-piercing upgrade.
Bloaters are found in the five following locations:
- 1 in the gym of the High School in Lincoln. (Must be fought)
- 1 in the basement of the Hotel Grand in Pittsburgh (not there on easy mode). (Can be avoided)
- 1 in the dormitories in the UEC. (Can be avoided)
- 1 in the mill during winter. (Must be fought)
- 3 in the underground tunnel in Salt Lake City. (Can be avoided)
- The most efficient way to kill bloaters is to throw a Molotov Cocktail or use the Flamethrower on them. Then, while they are stunned, use a shotgun and shoot two or three shots to kill the Bloater, saving supplies and ammo. Although you can actually just throw two Molotov Cocktails and wait for them to burn out, just don't get too close.
- A burning and thrashing Bloater can still grab Joel and kill him so under no circumstances should you ever let a Bloater come within melee range.
- Another very efficient way shown in "TheMediaCows" walkthrough of the game to kill Bloaters is to throw a Molotov Cocktail, then use a bomb while they are on fire. However, despite the Bloater bursting into flames and shredded pieces of its body, do not get too close, as it will always charge you.
- The Bloater actually draws its Mycotoxin bombs from bright, deformed patches growing on its body. Each Bloater has three: one on its lower right abdomen, one on its upper left chest, and one on its upper right back. Shooting any of these growths destroys them and reduces the damage required to kill the Bloater. Destroying all three will completely disable the Bloater's MycoToxin ability, limiting its only combat ability to charging at the player. This significantly increases the player's options for dealing with the Bloater, as it can no longer harm the player from a distance and is easily lured into traps.
- When dealing with a Runner, Stalker or Clicker, if the player has access to a brick or empty bottle, as well as a blunt weapon, the player can stun the Infected by throwing the projectile object at it, and then continue by running towards the Infected while swinging a melee weapon. This will result in an instant kill.
- However do NOT ever attempt this when facing a Bloater, as its hardened face is impervious to thrown bricks/bottles and standing still may invite it to lob a fungus bomb at the player or close in for the kill.
- The El Diablo, when fully upgraded, is effective against a Bloater because it only takes two shots to kill one.
- You can use your shotgun, but stay as far away from the Bloater as possible. Run in different directions, stop then fire one shot. It is time consuming, but it will work after many shots. If you run out of ammo for the shotgun, quickly switch to using your hunting rifle. These ways are efficent if you have not yet obtained the Flamethrower, or have run out of Molotov Cocktails and Nail Bombs.
- The Bloater will take a short amount of time to throw the sack of fungus, so when you see them raise their arms, run away from the direction the Bloater is throwing the sack.
Death and corpse Edit
Even after an infected individual has died, the fungus will continue to grow. It grows in to big fungal plants around the body so much as only a few inches but can cover large areas. By this point, the corpse becomes skeletal and brittle, and the fungus sticks the body to whatever surface it is on. The fungus will begin to emit spores from the body which will infect anyone that breathes them. To combat this, most survivors carry gas masks, although if the person is immune to the infection they have no need for one.
They are commonly found in places that are underground or wet such as sewers and basements.
- It seems the Infected rest standing up. They do not click or attack even when you are in front of them unless provoked while resting.
- When the Bloaters in the Pittsburgh hotel basement and UEC dormitory kill Joel, his gas mask is nowhere to be seen, though it can be seen on closer examination that this is because the Bloater actually knocks the mask off of Joel's face.
- In-game materials, concept art, and the "Grounded" Making Of documentary all show that the fungus is able to rip through bone.
- The skin of Clickers visibly "chalks," or forms large patches of scale-like tissue that glow in the dark. This is likely an earlier stage of the fungal infection growing out of their hosts's bodies, before said growth engulfs the entire body as seen with the final Bloater stage of infection.
- Runners don't moan as much nor in the same way as in previous beta demos as if in horrific pain but remain silent for the most part. However, they will screech when startled.
- Despite Clickers using echolocation, their echolocation is very crude compared to creatures like bats where they will not notice that something is alive or moving unless it is directly in front of them. This supports the theory of being where the clicks come out, as it is shaped like a megaphone, directing it straight ahead of them, but not all around.
- Clickers do not click the same way as in previous beta demos where it would sound more like constant tapping of the tongue. In the final game Clickers click by waves of croaking rather than constant tapping.
- Even though objects can be thrown to distract Infected, it should be noted that a major drawback to doing so is that it will draw them out of their scripted paths and allow them to freely roam the area, making it more difficult to predict their positions. If necessary, it is advised to have a steady flow of items to throw to keep them in the same area.
- Some of the concept art in The Art of The Last of Us shows Runners wielding tools such as shovels and rakes. This indicates that at one point in development, humans in the early stages of infection would possess enough intelligence to use tools as weapons against Joel. As this concept was not used in the actual game, there is no way of telling if the in-universe Runners and Stalkers were still capable of such actions.
- Early concept art for the infected showed them with an almost alien appearance, with insect like claws and glowing eyes, but the developers choose to maintain a human resemblance so it would make them feel more unnerving.
- Unlike with hostile humans, flashlights do not alert the Infected to Joel's or Ellie's presence, although when the light is shone in their eyes, they do appear to react to it by holding up their hands to shield their eyes. This could be due to their low intelligence, as it seemingly suggests that the Infected are too simple-minded to distinguish flashlights from any other ambient light sources they encounter.
- A Clicker appears near the end of PlayStation's Greatness Awaits trailer.
- In the University Laboratory there is an X-ray of an an Infected (possibly a Stalker) that shows that the fungal growth on the head.
- As was revealed by Naughty Dog at PAX Prime Panel 2013 Event, there were originally supposed to be other Infected animals, including elephants, which are described as having fungal growths on their legs and mushrooms in their heads. However this design did not make it into the final game.
- It is possible to hit or kill a Clicker with Joel's punch, namely when the Clicker is grabbing an A.I. partner, such as Bill.
- Bloaters are the only stage of the Infected that doesn't appear in Left Behind.
- ↑ The stages of infection in The Last of Us
- ↑ The Last of Us NEW GAMEPLAY! Infected Details, Story, Crafting, and MORE! Adam Sessler Interview
- ↑ Demo. The Last Of Us. May 31, 2013.