Naughty Dog was pretty tight-lipped with regards to the new Grounded difficulty level for the single-player campaign in The Last of Us. Aside from a comment stating that the enemy AIs would be smarter and more aggressive, not much else was said about exactly what this new difficulty would entail. Well, I bought the ‘Reclaimed Territories’ DLC drop last week and the first thing I did was dive into a new game on Grounded difficulty. Just in case you’re still on the fence about checking out the new difficulty level, here are a few details on what it includes.
There are two major changes in Grounded difficulty. The first, and probably the most obvious one is the disappearance of the HUD display. That’s right. No more health meter and ammo counter on your screen. You’ll be going through the entire single-player campaign blind with little indication of how you’re doing on health. You’ll still be able to tell when Joel is low on health based on the way he walks, but you’ll need to rely heavily on your own judgment to decide whether it’s worth using that health kit now or saving it for later.
The disappearance of the HUD display also means that you can’t see how much ammo you have left on your screen. You can still press left and right on the D-Pad to change your weapons and that’ll let you know your total ammo count for a particular weapon. However, you won’t be able to tell how many bullets are left on your current clip. This forces you to mentally keep track of how many bullets you’ve got left in your revolver so you know when to reload. This can be a problem especially when you’re caught up in the heat of an intense firefight. Nothing’s worse than hearing your gun click empty when a horde of infected are heading your way.
The second change in Grounded difficulty is the behavioral pattern of the enemy AIs. More specifically, I mean the behavioral pattern of those damn clickers. Even on survivor difficulty, I had absolutely no problem when it came to fighting clickers. The trick was just to move extremely slowly and they wouldn’t notice even if you shuffled right past them. Well, I’m sorry to say that the clickers have become much more of a threat now.
Even if you move really slowly around them, the clickers will sometimes be able to pick up on the sounds of your slight movements, especially when they’re clicking. They may not notice you right away but if you arouse their suspicion, they’ll start heading in your direction to see what’s up. Basically, clickers have heightened sensitivity now. To quote Tess: “If you hear one clicking, you gotta hide. That’s how they spot you.”
Aside from these two changes, the rest of the difficulty mode is pretty standard stuff: severe scarcity of ammo and supplies, and high damage output from enemies. And I do mean high. If a soldier shoots you twice, you’re done. If a runner gets the jump on you, you’re done. Grounded mode is harsh and unforgiving, even more so than Survivor mode.
But never fear! There are things you can do to make your experience a little more bearable. Listed below are some tips for surviving Grounded difficulty. You may already know of some of them from your own research on how to beat Survivor difficulty but hey, a quick recap can’t hurt, right?