PlayStation

Tips For Playing The Last Of Us

Naughty Dog’s much-anticipated action/horror game The Last of Us is fairly straightforward: Keep moving and try not to die. But between the various upgrade trees, the open-ended combat and the crafting system, we thought it would be helpful to offer some tips.

So, here are some tips for playing The Last of Us. These tips do not contain any major story spoilers.

Try it on hard difficulty.

The emphasis here is on “try”. This game is really good on its higher difficulty setting, and you’ll have to play it very differently than if you play it on normal. That said, normal isn’t exactly easy — it’ll test your skills in plenty of places. But for the most intense experience, I recommend playing on hard. Furthermore, you can’t play New Game Plus on a higher difficulty than you finished with, and New Game Plus makes normal difficulty waaay too easy. And if you find hard to be too challenging, you can always drop it down to normal if you get stuck.

Don’t get frustrated on the first major infected encounter.

The first time you take on a group of the infected, you’re probably going to get hosed. A lot. That’s because this game throws you into a room with a bunch of runners (who can see) and one clicker (who is tough to kill and will take you out in a single hit). I loved that the game did this, but only in retrospect — it’s maddening, terrifying and difficult in the heat of the moment. If you got stuck there, take heart — that was pretty much the idea. Just keep moving, and don’t try to fight the zombies all at once like in a different zombie game. You can outrun all of them, and if you don’t get yourself cornered, take them out one at a time. Once they’re all gone, you can take down the clicker.

Don’t fight enemies head-on. If you get spotted, run.

This ties into that last one, and it applies to both human and infected encounters. (You can see some of this in action in the demo video I posted today.) In past games, including Naughty Dog’s Uncharted games, once the enemies spot you, the jig is up. Not so with The Last of Us. The enemy AI is really good, and by really good I mean, it’s possible to fool them and they’ll react in surprising and realistic ways. If you get spotted, quickly run and hide, and keep circling and moving. The levels are huge for a reason. Motion and stealth are your biggest advantages — use them.

Don’t rely only on autosave.

As we saw upon the game’s launch, there was an autosave bug that cost some players a lot of progress. Sony says that Naughty Dog has fixed the problem, but all the same, it’s probably a good idea to manually save your progress from time to time.

Leave no stone unturned.

It’s tempting to run through the story, but if you see an open room off your path, chances are it contains something useful. In addition to useful tools and parts, you’ll also find conversation-pieces for Joel and Ellie. Some of the game’s best little stories are told while rummaging through rooms.

Take all you can carry.

It’s generally wise to leave yourself with enough parts to craft one health kit/molotov and one shiv/melee upgrade. But if you wind up with too many of a given crafting object, make sure you’re carrying the maximum number of items (3) and if you’re not, craft one more and pick up the spare part. Do everything you can to avoid leaving crafting materials lying around.

Save your shivs.

Shivs are probably the single most useful item in the whole game. You can use them to take down enemies silently and quickly, but you never should. Instead, save shivs for use on unaware clickers. That’s partly because even as your shivs get more durable, there are rooms that you’ll have to sacrifice an entire shiv to open. You should always do so, as those rooms will contain enough parts and materials that it’s always worth it. But you never want to be without a shiv.

Don’t waste blades upgrading your melee weapons.

It’s not worth it to upgrade your melee weapons by using an entire set of blades. Save your blades for shivs. There are enough melee weapons lying around that you’ll almost always find a new one when yours breaks, and it’s not worth sacrificing a blade for the extra one or two hits your weapon will get.

Crack all the safes.

At various points throughout the game, Joel will come upon a locked safe. The combination for that safe is always located somewhere nearby, and every safe is worth opening. There’s one in a hotel in Pittsburgh that’s particularly worth getting, as it has an incredibly valuable upgrade manual. Be creative and examine every bit of the room you’re currently in. The Last of Us doesn’t allow for much backtracking, so you’ll always find the combination on a document somewhere in your immediate vicinity.

Upgrade health and listening distance first, then weapon aim.

The first thing you should upgrade of Joel’s is his health. Then, listening distance. Save your upgrade pills, though, as some of the abilities — faster healing, faster crafting — are mostly useless. Also, the single-save against clickers is nice, but it wastes shivs like crazy and I found that I almost preferred to just keep the damned clickers away from me in the first place.

Improve your holsters first.

As you collect parts, you’ll be able to upgrade your weapons and gear on workbenches. Before you upgrade your weapons, save up and upgrade both your long-gun and pistol holsters. That’ll make it possible for you to quick-select two of each weapon, and make it much easier to survive without having to rummage around in your backpack.

Choose your other weapon upgrades wisely.

You won’t be able to craft all of the weapon upgrades in the game, or anything close to it. So you’ll want to choose your upgrades wisely. The next best thing to upgrade is the hunting rifle — add a scope and increase its weapon capacity. Past that, it’s smart to focus more on clip capacity than reload speed, and don’t worry too much about fire-rate and range. Any weapon that can only hold one bullet should be quickly upgraded to hold at least two. Those weapons are powerful, but if you miss, you want to have a backup round ready to go.

Let sleeping clickers lie.

At several points in the game, you’ll make your way through a room or a building filled with infected who are “asleep.” They’re not moving and can’t see you, and won’t react unless you make a lot of noise. If you’re careful, you can get through those areas without alerting them to your presence, and can even grab all the loot around them. There’s no real reward for killing zombies, so save your ammo and materials and just sneak around them.

Save ammo whenever possible.

Ammo is scarce in The Last of Us. Super scarce. As a result, you’ll want to save it. The best way to do that is…

Try everything in your inventory.

This isn’t a game where you should pick one or two favourite weapons and just stick to them. Nearly everything in your weapon inventory, from smoke bombs, to nail traps to different types of guns, is useful. Try them out in various encounters. Only the revolver seems redundant. Everything else has a good use against at least one of the enemy types in the game.

Bricks are your friend.

The brick is the easiest weapon to forget to use, but it’s also one of the most useful. That’s partly because it can be used to take down an unaware clicker or dude, and partly because there are so many cinderblocks lying around that you’ll never “run out” in the way you’ll run out of other things. Save your lead pipe for extreme situations where you’re mobbed, and use the brick whenever you can.

Don’t read anything else about this game.

Really! OK, so you read our tips article. But this game is best experienced completely cold. Just go in, play it, and learn it. Some of the lessons it teaches are harsh. But they’re fun to learn on your own. And you definitely want to go in knowing as little about the story as possible.

Enjoy the game and remember: When the clickers come at you, there’s no shame in running the other way.


Have you subscribed to Kotaku Australia's email newsletter? You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.