In The Last of Us, Naughty Dog gave us a pretty good rundown of how the cordyceps infection works. When you get infected, the stages progress like this: Runner, Stalker, Clicker, Bloater, then you eventually die.
Wait, Stalker? What’s that? –I hear you ask. The Stalker was only present in a handful of stages in the first game, but with the release of The Last of Us Part II coming up very soon, they could very well live up to their full potential in the sequel.
The Stalker is an enemy type that you can fight in a few stages in The Last of Us: the basement hotel, the sewers, and the underground tunnel. If you’ve only played through the game casually once or twice, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t even know the difference between Runners and Stalkers, especially since they behave very similarly.
Essentially, Stalkers are a smarter version of Runners; instead of charging straight at you when they spot you, Stalkers are supposed to be quieter and more cunning. They’ll observe you from afar and only strike when you’re not looking.
That said, the first game never really adhered to those rules at all. Stalkers would lurk, sure, but give them a few seconds and they’d eventually come out of hiding and run straight at you… like Runners do.
In fact, it’s only in the hotel basement that the Stalkers act like they’re supposed to. As you’re looking around for the key card, you’ll hear guttural sounds all around you but you’d never be able to pinpoint the source. If you turn around fast enough, you might catch a glimpse of a Stalker running around a corner, but you’d never be able to catch it. That’s part of what makes that sequence so harrowing, but that terror is absent for most of the game.
With The Last of Us Part II, Naughty Dog has been making a point to show off the different infected types, including the new Shambler, as well as the return of the Stalker. The Stalker, in particular, feels like it’s been shown off a bit more prominently than the iconic Clicker, which gives me hope that this sequel will finally do justice to this terrifying enemy.
Given that the levels in The Last of Us Part II are going to be much bigger than in the first game, there are definitely going to be plenty of little hidden spaces for Stalkers to wait and watch. With the company constantly talking about how much the AI has been improved in the game as well, it’s also possible that the Stalkers could receive a much-needed upgrade and actually wait till your guard drops before striking.
The Last of Us has always focused on the monstrosity of humans and mankind, and while that definitely serves its overarching story, here’s hoping that the game doesn’t forget it’s infected too.
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