It’s been a whopping seven years since Naughty Dog’s The Last Of Us launched on the PS3 in 2013. Even if you played the improved version of this brilliant masterpiece on the PS4 a year later in 2014, that’s still over six years ago. More than half a decade is a long time, and The Last Of Us Part 2 is only a week away from officially releasing on 19 June 2020.
If it’s been a while since you last played The Last Of Us, or even if you’ve never played the game (you really should, though), I’m going to provide a nifty refresher and story recap in this article for everything you need to know before playing The Last of Us Part 2.
Of course, keep in mind that there will be full spoilers ahead for the original The Last Of Us below. Without further ado, let’s delve into the story of The Last Of Us:
In The Beginning
The Last of Us officially begins with a prologue featuring a flashback sequence set in the year 2013 that introduces us to protagonist Joel, who lives with his daughter Sarah in Austin, Texas. On the night of his birthday, a sudden outbreak of a severe brain infection originating from an unknown fungus rapidly spreads throughout the United States (that day will later be known as Outbreak Day).
As Joel and Sarah attempt to flee (along with Joel’s brother, Tommy), they encounter a lone soldier who is ordered to open fire on them. They try to avoid his shots; unfortunately, Sarah was fatally wounded and tragically dies in Joel’s arms.
This now-iconic opening set the overall tone of the game; grim, sad, and hopeless. Just like Pixar’s Up, the opening doesn’t hold back, starting the game/movie on an emotional high that’s rarely seen in other games or movies.
Sure, The Last Of Us’ opening is more traumatic than Pixar’s Up, but both of them work almost the same way.
What Is The Cordyceps Fungus Brain Infection Virus?
The Cordyceps Brain Infection virus is a mutated strain of the Cordyceps fungus, based on a real-life parasitic fungus that invades living hosts like insects and takes control of their bodies. Look it up, they exist, but the real version of the fungus has yet to infect any humans (that we know of), so we’re safe (for now).
In the world of The Last Of Us, the fungus infects hosts through spores or inflicting injuries (like biting or scratching) on other living things via their host bodies. There are multiple stages of infection, which translate into various types of Infected enemies in the game.
Unlike zombies, dead human beings can’t be infected or become hosts. What’s unique about the Cordyceps virus is that it can only infect living people. However, these people still ‘die’ as a result of being infected, as the Cordyceps gradually replaces their body.
To protect themselves from infection through spores, humans wear gas masks, though spores or ‘nests’ of spores can often only be found in enclosed places like the sewers or inside buildings.
As for examples of Infected, the most common types are the Runners, the first and weakest stage of Infected. However, the most iconic and popular type has to be the Clickers, who are named after the chilling clicking sound they make.
Clickers are blind (as grotesque mushrooms have sprouted from where their faces were), but they can locate prey using echolocation or sound vibrations. In the game, getting grabbed by a Clicker means instant death.
Ellie & Joel’s Journey Kicks Off
After Sarah’s death, The Last Of Us fast forwards 20 years later to the year 2033, where the world has very much changed. The United States Of America is now a collection of military zones under martial law. Joel now lives as a post-apocalyptic smuggler in Boston, Massachusetts with his partner, a woman named Tess. In the two decades since Sarah’s death, Joel has grown into a disillusioned and extremely cynical person.
One day, Joel and Tess are given an offer by a woman named Marlene, who is actually the leader of an anti-military organization called the Fireflies. Their objective is to search for a cure to the Cordyceps fungus virus. Marlene wants Joel and Tess to smuggle a teenage girl named Ellie out of the quarantine zone.
However, Marlene didn’t tell Joel and Tess the reason why the Fireflies wanted Ellie to be smuggled; that Ellie is actually immune to the Cordyceps virus, having been bitten over three weeks ago. Normal human beings turn into the Infected within one or two days of being bitten or scratched.
The Last Of Us Left Behind DLC
Let’s back up a little before we continue with the story. Three weeks before Joel and Tess meets Ellie, Ellie was bitten by an Infected, which players could experience in the Left Behind DLC for The Last Of Us.
Here’s what happened; three weeks ago, Riley (Ellie’s best friend) surprises Ellie at their boarding school by revealing that she became a Firefly during her absence. To celebrate, Riley takes Ellie to an abandoned shopping mall, where the two girls spent time together.
Later, Riley eventually reveals that the Fireflies assigned her to another group in a different city and that she wanted to see Ellie one last time despite Marlene forbidding her to do so.
To cheer themselves up, they danced to some music, which ended with Ellie kissing Riley. However, the music attracted the Infected, resulting in both of them getting bitten, but only Riley ultimately dies.
The story of The Last Of Us is told in seasons, so I’ll be recapping them each briefly and accordingly. On the way to their destination, Joel and Tess discover that Ellie’s immunity to the Cordyceps fungus, realizing that Ellie could be the key to a cure for humanity.
Once they reach their destination, they discover the Fireflies they were meant to meet have been killed. Tess then reveals that she’s been infected, and tells Joel to take Ellie and find the Fireflies while she stays behind to buy them some time. Begrudgingly, Joel and Ellie are forced to escape while Tess holds off pursuing soldiers, sacrificing her life and dying in the process.
The two then plan to travel across the country to reach Joel’s brother, Tommy, as he used to be a member of the Fireflies. This is when Joel and Ellie meet brothers, Henry and Sam, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They hatch up a plan to leave Pittsburgh, but Sam later gets bitten by an Infected but hasn’t told anyone.
In the morning, Ellie goes to check on Sam, who has turned into an Infected overnight. Sam attacks Ellie, and before Joel can get his gun, Henry shoots Sam. Stricken with grief and guilt, Henry then shoots and kills himself.
Several months have passed; Joel and Ellie are now in Jackson County, Wyoming. They’re approaching Tommy’s settlement in Jackson city, but need to make their way through an abandoned hydroelectric plant. They stumble upon Tommy and his people there, who are attempting to get the plant back online and generating power. Joel asks Tommy if he can entrust Ellie to him, as she’ll be safer with him while he figures out the whereabouts of the Fireflies. Tommy agrees to take care of Ellie, but Joel and Ellie argues about the arrangement.
After fighting some bandits, Joel decides to take Ellie to the Fireflies himself. Tommy tells them that the Fireflies can be found at the science lab at the University of Eastern Colorado.
Joel and Ellie find the university and explore the campus until they find the science building. It turns out that the Fireflies abandoned the site, but Joel finds a dictaphone with the final words of a deceased Firefly, confirming that they have moved back to St. Mary’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. Unfortunately, they’re spotted by more bandits before they can leave, and so Joel and Ellie fight to escape the university.
In a struggle, Joel falls over a railing and lands on a metal pipe, impaling him. Ellie defends Joel and helps him up, and they just barely escape. Joel, in severe pain and losing blood, collapses as they ride away.
The story fasts forward in time once again. Ellie is now taking care of an almost-catatonic Joel. She hunts for food in the snowy woods with a bow and arrow. During the hunting, a man named David appears with his friend James. They want the deer (that Ellie just killed) for their people. David offers to trade, and Ellie asks for medicine. While James goes to retrieve the medicine, Ellie and David take shelter from the cold inside a cabin.
A group of infected emerge and force them to work together to survive. Ellie returns to Joel and gives him some penicillin. However, Ellie overhears some men outside, and she decides to throw them off the trail by riding out, but she’s spotted and the horse is killed. She is then captured by David.
She wakes up in a cell and watches someone butchering humans. It turns out that David and his people are cannibals. Meanwhile, Joel wakes up and notices Ellie is missing. Even though he’s still hurt, he gets up and begins searching for her, running into David’s men in the process. He captures and interrogates them about Ellie.
Eventually, Ellie clashes with David in a burning restaurant, but she manages to grab his machete and brutally kills him. Joel finally catches up to her and they head back on the path to reach the Fireflies.
Joel and Ellie finally reach Salt Lake City and are heading to the hospital where the Fireflies are. On their way, they head through an old zoo, where they spot a herd of giraffes peacefully walking through the site. This is one of the most iconic scenes in the game, and also the one which famous YouTuber Dunkey refers to as “The Giraffe Of Us”.
During this beautiful moment, Joel says to Ellie they don’t have to go through with the Fireflies plan; that they can simply live peacefully with Tommy in his encampment Jackson, Wyoming.
Ellie tells him that everything they’ve been through “can’t be for nothing”. The pair approaches the hospital through partially submerged ruins, where they fight more Infected. They ultimately fall into flowing water, and Ellie almost drowns. As he tries to revive her, Fireflies approach and knock Joel out.
Joel wakes up in a hospital room, where Marlene greets him. She assures Joel that Ellie is fine and that she is being prepared for surgery. Marlene explains that to study the infection for a potential cure, they need to remove it from Ellie’s brain, which will kill her.
Growing angry, Joel demands to see Ellie, but Marlene refuses and instructs her men to make him leave. On the way out of the hospital, Joel overpowers the Firefly soldiers and learns that Ellie is on the top floor. He then fights his way up the hospital, killing many Fireflies in the process.
Barging into the operating room, Joel finds Ellie lying unconscious on the table. The main surgeon threatens Joel, but he shoots him. Joel then picks Ellie up and attempts to escape through the parking lot. Marlene confronts Joel, begging him to reconsider his actions, but he kills her to prevent the Fireflies from pursuing them. He drives away.
Ellie wakes up as Joel drives towards Tommy’s settlement. She asks what happened and Joel tells her that the Fireflies had previously found other people with immunity to the Cordyceps fungus like Ellie, but that they still couldn’t produce a cure.
As they approach Tommy’s town in Jackson, Wyoming, Ellie stops Joel and makes him swear that what he said about the Fireflies was true.
Joel lies and says “I swear”, to which Ellie replies, “Okay”, despite what seems to be lingering doubt and scepticism.
Now You’re Ready For The Last Of Us Part 2
While I’ve already gone through most of the important events in The Last Of Us, it’s still probably a good idea to play the first game (if you haven’t) or replay it again if you already have in the past.
In the meantime, check out our full review of The Last Of Us Part 2 here while waiting for the game to launch next week on 19 June 2020.