The Real Science Behind The Last Of Us' Zombie Hordes

Illustration for article titled The Real Science Behind emThe Last Of Us/em Zombie Hordes

It's no secret that the "infected" from Naughty Dog's The Last Of Us are based on the parasitic fungus known as Cordyceps. It even formed part of the game's announcement. But hey, science, it can sometimes be a little dense.


So thank Kyle Hill over at Scientific American for writing a beginner's guide to not just the fungus, but the way it's expressed in the game, a quasi-fiction that combines the "best" of the two real types of Cordyceps into a single killer outbreak.

The Fungus that Reduced Humanity to The Last of Us [Scientific American]

Illustration for article titled The Real Science Behind emThe Last Of Us/em Zombie Hordes

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Part of the reason why I find the Last of Us so eerie is that it always felt somewhat grounded. There were no action-movie chases across rooftops, there was no regenerative health, etc... The infected were also never referred to as "zombies" and the way the fungus slowly consumed their bodies, slowly affecting their vision and altering the way they move around was eerie, and like the combat and gameplay it felt more grounded than most zombie games. A few people (Dunkey comes to mind) complained about how the game feels like a step back from Uncharted in terms of the set-piece moments and action, but I feel like having too many of those unbelievable scripted set-pieces would completely destroy the game's tone. Many of the game's most tense and awe inspiring moments emerged from the gameplay, and were unscripted.

The game is guilty of using a few cliche plot devices (most notably Ellie, and her role in the story) but it's still an important game, and especially important for game storytelling. I wouldn't call the game "fun", in the same way I wouldn't call "No Country For Old Men" a "fun" film. I think it's important for the medium to try conveying new feelings and ideas, the Last of Us is one of the few games I would call "mature". While the plot isn't exactly brimming with originality, no other game I've played has successfully conveyed such a brooding and tense atmosphere...while also keeping it compelling, I never wanted to put down the controller.