Spoliers ahead for The Last Of Us Part 2. While I’m mainly going to be talking about the Shambler, one of the new types of Infected in The Last Of Us Part 2, I’m also going to be talking about other sections of the game that you’ll be playing through. If you want to totally avoid spoilers, it might be best to stop reading until you’re at least 15 hours into the game.
The first new type of Infected to be added to The Last Of Us Part 2 was of course the Shambler. These guys featured in marketing videos and screenshots for the game, and they look just as gross in the game as they do in every other place you’ll have seen them. While they’re a new evolution of the Infection in the franchise, they also fit well within the established lore of the world, at least in my opinion.
In the first game, the evolution of the Infection was pretty simple, Runner, Stalker, Clicker, Bloater, and then it was assumed that Infected just died and stuck to a wall where their bodies spread spores to infect more people. The Last Of Us Part 2 does build on those stages in other ways, which I won’t go into here, but the Shambler fits between the Clicker and Bloater. This isn’t a fact from Naughty Dog, it’s just where I think they must fit.
A Shambler is covered in pustules that spit acidic spores, which burn anyone that comes into contact with them. They’re strong, able to smack Ellie against a wall and break her face, but they’re not strong enough to smash through walls like Bloaters are. They also use echolocation, like Clickers do, which is why I think that an Infected person will evolve from being a Clicker into a Shambler if one key element is present at the right time, water.
Bloaters are always found indoors. As far as I’m concerned, a Clicker will sit down and get stuck on a wall as their body evolves, and at some point they will stand up again as a Bloater, hungry to feed their massive bulk. You don’t encounter Bloaters outdoors in The Las Of Us Part 2, and oddly enough they’re always in a location where they couldn’t have come from outside.
Shamblers on the other hand, can be found in areas where they’ve definitely been exposed to water, and the outdoors. Since Seattle is so wet, I think that certain Clickers, which sit down to go through that change into a Bloater, get soaked by local flooding. As a result, the armour found on Bloaters can’t form properly, and I think it must turn into those acid sport-spewing pustules. The flooding may also cause the Clicker to seek shelter before drowning, preventing it from fully becoming a Bloater.
At this point, the Shambler is a half-formed mess, but the pustules act as a pretty good defence against anything that would attack it. These may have formed as a result of the soggy Clicker being vulnerable whilst trying to become a Bloater, and I think they’re a nice fit for the constantly changing weather of the location.
Naughty Dog seem to have done a fantastic job of creating a thematically solid evolution of their pandemic here. I think that it shows that there could be location-specific Infected out there that we’ll never come across, and that’s both exciting and terrifying.