What is The Last of Us hype all about? A beginner's guide to the video game

Ayaan Paul
Ayaan PaulSep 28, 2022 | 09:00

What is The Last of Us hype all about? A beginner's guide to the video game

HBO’s most anticipated live-action adaptation of the multi-award winning 2013 video game has fans drooling with its first teaser. But what has got people so excited about The Last of Us

The horror-adventure game was developed by production company Naughty Dog, helmed by its creative director Neil Druckmann, and was released by Sony Computer Entertainment as a PlayStation exclusive in 2013.


What is the game about? 

The post-apocalyptic video game follows the story of the outbreak of a mutant Cordyceps fungus ravaged the United States, transforming its human hosts into aggressive creatures known as the Infected. Twenty years later, civilisation has been decimated by the infection. Survivors live in totalitarian quarantine zones, independent settlements, and nomadic groups, leaving buildings and houses deserted.

Here's a quick trailer for the PS5 remake of The Last of Us:

The aesthetics:

The world of The Last of Us drew rough inspiration from photographer Robert Polidori capturing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that ravaged New Orleans in 2006. 

Game director Straley indtroduced influences from Polidori’s collection and added environmental elements from the Ukrainian town of Pripyat, which was abandoned following the Chernobyl disaster in 1989.

The vision for the game was to emphasise the beauty of the world, as opposed to a visually dark and dystopian image.

What exactly are the Infected?

The Infected, a core concept of the game, were inspired by a segment of the BBC nature documentary Planet Earth, which featured the Cordyceps fungi. Though the fungi mainly infect insects, taking control of their motor functions and forcing them to help cultivate the fungus, the game explores the concept of the fungus evolving and infecting humans, and the direct results of an outbreak of this infection.


The infected are humans who have been infected by the Cordyceps brain infection and subsequently mutated into horrific new forms. The resulting creatures are aggressive, and will attack any uninfected human and animals on sight. Depending on the degree of infection, the Infected are of many different types,

Whose story do we follow?

Players follow the story of Joel Miller, playing the game primarily through his perspective. After losing his only daughter Sarah during the early stages of the outbreak, Joel became a ruthless and cynical smuggler eventually tasked with smuggling and protecting a young girl while travelling across the United States. 

A brutal survivor with few moral lines left to cross. Joel, now in his late 40s, has been hardened by the ravages of the fungal pandemic that has devastated civilisation as we know it. He’s lost friends, family, and everything he valued in life. Living in one of the few remaining military-controlled quarantine zones, he operates as a black market smuggler, dealing in contraband, taking numerous de-humanising jobs over the years to survive in this new post-pandemic world. Joel’s conscience slowly dwindles away as he shuts down his emotions to cope with his new life.


Joel is tasked with smuggling a 14-year-old Ellie Williams. When Ellie was 14, she was infected with the Cordyceps fungus and discovered she was immune to it. A friend of her mother's believed that she was the key to reverse engineering a vaccine and tasked Joel with escorting Ellie outside of the quarantine zone to a secret facility. The simple drop-off turned into a year-long journey across America, and the two eventually formed a close bond.

Ellie has grown up in this harsh world and it is all she has ever known. She’s an orphan who was raised in a boarding school run by the military within the bounds of the quarantine zone. Naïve and curious about the outside world, she is wise beyond her years and highly capable of taking care of herself and of those around her. Obsessed with comic books, CDs, and other pop culture, her knowledge base is filled by the remnants of a world that no longer exists.

Okay, so post-apocalyptic world, unlikely duo… What makes The Last of Us so special?

Druckmann views The Last of Us as a coming of age story, in which Ellie adapts to survival after spending time with Joel, as well as an exploration of how willing a father is to save his child.

On the face of it the game is terrifying, it’s exhilarating and it's a holistic videogame experience. But under the many layers of its narrative, The Last of Us is an intimate tale of hope and is a testament to the human spirit of survival, some of which many of us have grown familiar with in the past two years.

Though civilisation has collapsed and menacing zombies outnumber the living, the game reminds us that even under such harrowing circumstances, the greatest threat to humanity has always been humanity itself. 

“You know, as bad as those things are, at least they're predictable. It's the normal people that scare me.”
- Bill from The Last of Us

Its large, intricately detailed landscapes are often littered with secrets, making for one of the most immersive narratives to experience. The Last of Us, effectively and gorgeously conveys the loneliness of the story through its complex set of characters who are morally conflicted and sympathetic.

Along comes HBO:

While over the past decade, talks for a live-action adaptation for the video game always fizzled out, Druckmann was finally recruited to write and produce the series under HBO. Craig Mazin, the Emmy-winning writer for HBO’s Chernobyl, has co-written the series along with Druckmann.  

Pedro Pascal as Joel and Bella Ramsey as Ellie in HBO's The Last Of Us

Pedro Pascal, of Mandalorian fame and Bella Ramsey, known for her role in Game of Thrones have been cast as Joel and Ellie in the TV adaptation.

Here is the first teaser for the series:

With a reported production budget of $100 million, The Last of Us is said to be the largest television production in Canadian history, however, according to Forbes, the actual budget could be anywhere in the $150-$200 million range. 

The internet reacts:

Having waited nearly 3 years for just a glimpse of what the series would have to offer, it's safe to say that HBO has more than made up for lost time judging by how the teaser has been recieved...

HBO’s The Last of Us is set to release early 2023. 

Last updated: September 28, 2022 | 09:00
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