'The Last of Us': Every Zombie Type Explained, From Runners to Bloaters

The world of The Last of Us is full of threats, some even scarier than the Infected.

A zombie apocalypse is impossible without zombies, and The Last of Us is no exception. This acclaimed video game and upcoming HBO series follows Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsay) on their journey through the zombie-infested ruins of what was once America. Twenty years ago, the world was quickly and violently reduced to zombies, and the story opens with the world seeing its first glimmer of hope, Ellie, a young girl with an inexplicable immunity to the infection. Every zombie story has to somehow set itself apart and make its zombies unique, and The Last of Us addresses this with its own twist that affects both gameplay and world-building. But what exactly are the zombies in The Last of Us?

Contrary to the zombies in many other stories, the zombies in The Last of Us don't actually die. Instead, creatures become infected and become mutated, mindless drones that carry and spread disease. The virus in the world of The Last of Us is based on a virus that actually exists in the real world: Ophiocordyceps unilateralis. it is A fungal virus that infects bugs deep in the Amazon rainforest grows parasitic in their brains and leaves strange fungal growths on their bodies. They lose autonomy over their bodies and essentially become "zombies".

In The Last of Us, the virus mutates and spreads to humans, causing them to experience the same brutal loss of self as they succumb to the virus, which retains only their bodies and not their minds until They become mindless drones that slowly grow those fungal traits. It is most often spread through bites or concentrated spores in the air. The Cordyceps virus in this story takes a day or two to fully take control of the brain, but the longer the host body is infected, the more the virus modifies it, so we see various in the world of "The Last of Us". Types of Zombies.

Stage 1: Runners

After dying from a virus, the body will enter the first stage of a real zombie. This stage of zombie evolution is known as the "runner". It is the earliest and shortest stage of infection, when the host personality disappears and is rendered as a rabies-like animal. Since they are freshly infected, they are most like living people, but are still easily recognizable as zombies. Their eyes look unnaturally shiny and bloodshot. They control themselves in a clumsy, animal-like manner.

They are called runners for obvious reasons, as their muscles do not degenerate, but they can attack at a faster pace than in the later stages, although they are much less dangerous. As you'd expect from zombies, their attacks are generally a bit blunt and sluggish, and they don't yet have any special or dangerous abilities that come from long-term infections. Still, for the average person, one bite is enough to bring a certain amount of bad luck, so they pose a considerable risk, especially as they tend to travel in packs.

Stage 2: Stalkers

The second stage of Cordyceps infection begins anywhere from two weeks to a year after infection. Unlike runners, rogues do not attack directly. As their name suggests, they tend to hide and attack their prey when the opportunity presents itself. Stalkers tend to lurk in dark and quiet places waiting to pounce. Later in the infection, they start to show more fungal characteristics - Some people will stay in one place for so long that fungus starts growing from them into the surrounding environment, but they are still free to attack themselves if the opportunity arises. If a stalker stays in one place for too long, it can end up spreading spores like an infected corpse.

Stage 3: Clickers

Clickers is where the zombies of The Last of Us start morphing into something more unique and dangerous than their predecessors. A host can only become a clicker if it has been infected for more than a year. At this point, the virus has spread throughout their bodies, and fungal growths have emerged as thick protrusions from their skulls.

Unlike runners or stalkers, it is impossible for people to mistake clickers for humans. The spread of the fungus blinds the host so they must use echolocation to get around. Although their blindness seems to put them at a disadvantage, the virus makes them stronger, making them especially dangerous in one-on-one combat. They are easy to find their name by their distinctive click sound Makes them very dangerous and should be handled with care.

Stage 4: Bloaters

The most advanced stage of the Cordyceps virus we see in The Last of Us is the bulge. Bloating only develops years after the infection, but the exact amount is unknown. These are the least common types of infections in the stories because they take a long time to develop. As the name suggests, bloaters are swollen due to the extent of the infection. The fungus has completely eaten their bodies, causing them to swell to utterly inhuman sizes. Their faces are unidentifiable growths protruding from them, and their bodies are covered in wounds and growths. Their size dwarfs any other infected avatar we've encountered so far.

Like clickers, they are very strong, but their extensive fungal growth also provides them with a layer of protective armor. They can tear off fungal fragments and hurl them at enemies in a way that spreads spores like mustard gas. It's extremely dangerous to go head-to-head with them, as bullets are largely useless against them; using fire is your best bet for taking one down.

Hidden Dangers

There are also ways to get infected without being attacked directly by zombies. Like bloating, cordyceps can be spread by spores. These tend to exist where infected corpses have been left behind, or in the kind of dark places rogues like to hide in. In these virus-laden enclosures, even after the host dies, the fungus spreads across the walls and floors, resembling a more traditional fungus, until it begins producing space-filling spores. This makes certain locations very dangerous even without an active zombie presence, as just a breath of infected air can mean death.

With each stage of viral evolution, the host becomes less identifiable and more dangerous. The fact that the zombies of this world are not undead, but brainless husks manipulated by a fungus whose sole drive is to reproduce and consume adds horror to the notion of transformation. The host is alive but completely consumed by the infection.

The world of The Last of Us is full of threats, some even scarier than the infected, but the virus is at the heart of the story. it is the source of the world The downfall, is what makes it so dangerous, and what makes Ellie so good. Years of decay and the extinction of humanity have befallen the world long enough that humans can turn into unrecognizable monsters, starting with a virus that mutates and it wipes out humanity. Another mutation is their failure. But somehow Ellie survived long past her supposed due date, and the bite and spores did nothing for her. Now she and Joel must face the monster she can never be to complete their journey. But the virus is still rampant and dangerous, and the presence of these dangerous mutations in infected hosts is deadly even to those who cannot pass the fungus to them.

The Last of Us premieres January 15 on HBO Max.

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