In The Last of Us, the Cordyceps virus has mutated and has chosen the human species as its new host. It is unknown how or where this outbreak originated but the result of this viral infection has caused society to come apart at the seams.
Nearly all forms of communication have gone dark. Humans are scared to walk the streets in fear of the infected. This is has brought a once vibrant society to its needs and drove has drove it into silence. Yet in this world, silence can be used as a weapon.
Approaching The Terror of Silence
Silence, in its purest form, is terrifying. The lack of sound in any situation creates a feeling of paranoia that cannot be matched. Humans will do anything to “break the silence.” Whether its talking to yourself or singing a comforting tune, we search to infect sound into silence to create a feeling of safety.
In The Last of Us, this feeling is fleeting at best as the silence will bring chills to your spine when you here the sounds of the infected coming towards you. No matter how often you hear it, you will truly begin to fear the silence.
Clicking. Footsteps. Grunting. Yelling. These are the sounds of the infected. These human hosts of the Cordyceps virus take silence to horrendous new heights. Whenever Joel and Ellie seem to be finding some comfort within their environment, a Clicker can be heard off in the distance, waiting to tear you apart.
The only sound more terrifying is the sound of a Runner aggressively approaching you with murderous intent. Every time you enter a dark room or creep down a narrow corridor, the sounds of the infected will make your heart skip a beat and will force you to think twice before you make your next move.
Fight or Flight
The fungus growing within the brains of the infected hosts is powerful and aggressive. It changes them forcing them to ignore their humanity, disregard their morality, and attack their own kind in hopes to feed and spread the disease to ensure its own survival.
And the infected isn’t the only thing that you will have to battle. Hunters are survivors focused on hurting, injuring, and killing other survivors for persona gain. Some Hunters even see other survivors as food. With the opposition constantly outnumbering Joel and Ellie, fighting is not always the best solution.
As a survivor, fighting is unavoidable. You carry your own life in your hands and it is up to you to fight to protect it. While Joel and Ellie are often forced into situations where they have to defend themselves, direct combat with both Hunters and the infected is optional. You can choose to approach every combat situation differently than the last. You can seek to shiv every member of the infected or you can choose the flight strategy.
With ammo and supplies scarce, going in to a fight guns a blazing is not always an option. With the silence being so heavy within the environment, you can use this to your advantage when facing the infected and the Hunters. The silence allows you to stick to the shadows and attempt to avoid certain situations.
But just as the silence places a blanket over your movements, it can also create and alarm. Any sudden movement can alarm the infected or a Hunter to your presence. Fight or Flight is a choice everyone has to make. Will you fight them head on and risk being overpowered, or will you use stealth and risk an ambush? Either way, you can use the silence to your advantage.
The Beauty of Silence
The silence in The Last of Us allows for some truly memorable moments. The silence creates a sense of peace and wonder that can only be appreciated by those who know what the world has become.
In a culture that is dominated by mobile technology, we forget how important it is to pay attention to the world around us. With the overgrown vegetation throughout The Last of Us giving a home to various wildlife, the silence allows nature to heard and appreciated.
Taking time within the game to appreciate the beauty of your surroundings will give you a new appreciation of the silence in the game. It will also allow you to take part in conversations with Ellie. Ellie is only 14 and has no idea what the world was like before the outbreak occurred. Her naivety and enthusiasm is refreshing and creates great moments of levity.
While Ellie’s scripted moments are great, it is the moments of silence that speaks volumes. Whether its jokes out of her joke book or humming the only song she knows, the silence allow you to become closer to Ellie and therefore care for her well being that much more.