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The Last of Us Part I beginner’s guide: 9 tips and tricks to get started

The Last of Us Part I is a remake of Naughty Dog’s PlayStation 3 classic that brings a variety of visual and accessibility updates that could only be achieved on the PlayStation 5. It comes packing multiple difficulties for any skill level, meaning you should be able to find something that suits how you best want to play this beloved experience. Even at lower settings, though, things can get pretty hairy sometimes. So whether you’re an avid fan revisiting a favorite on Sony’s newest hardware or taking on this post-apocalyptic story for the first time, we’ve got some tips to help you get started.

Further reading

Explore everywhere, examine everything

Joel and Ellie look at a bridge in The Last of Us Part I.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Survival in the apocalyptic world of The Last of Us requires scavenging for materials everywhere you can get them. Much of your success in battles will be decided by how much you’ve scrounged up — be it ammo for your guns, materials for making health kits, or even items for distracting enemies. Because of this, you’ll want to spend as much time as possible examining every nook and cranny of each area you come across to ensure you’ve found all of the useful stuff that can be obtained there. Because you rarely revisit any locations, you’ll usually have one opportunity to grab something — so make it count.

Craft often and leave nothing behind

Once you’ve obtained enough materials to piece together a utility item like a health kit or molotov cocktail, you can open up your crafting menu to do so. It’s a good rule of thumb to always keep those types of items maxed out when possible because you can only carry so many materials. If you stumble upon excess materials like alcohol or rags, use up what you have in your inventory to craft anything you don’t have maxed out to ensure that you can pick up the new stuff. In other words, never leave anything behind unnecessarily.

Use supplements wisely

You’ll probably come across a lot of supplements in the form of plants and pills scattered about the post-apocalyptic world, and using these can upgrade a variety of Joel’s capabilities, like Listening Mode Range, Weapon Sway, Healing Speed, and more. You won’t find enough supplements in a single playthrough to upgrade every skill, so make sure you don’t waste them on something that won’t really make a meaningful difference. Most players are likely to get the most benefit from dumping their supplements into Maximum Health and Weapon Sway. If you manage to have enough supplements to continue upgrading skills later in the game as the difficulty increases, try tossing a point or two into Healing Speed to make sure you can get away and top off your health quicker.

Make holster upgrades a priority

Ellie aiming a rifle.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

As you make your way through The Last of Us, you’ll find plenty of tools and parts that can be used for upgrades at workbenches. As soon as possible, you’d do well to upgrade both of your holsters — one for pistols and one for long guns — as this will allow you to switch among up to four guns on the fly. Map your favorite weapons to those slots and ensure they’re always reloaded before encounters. If you run out of ammo in one, you can still head into your backpack, scroll over to that gun, and then swap it for another one — but having four holsters ensures you don’t have to do this nearly as frequently while surrounded by foes.

Prepare before engaging

Unless you’re playing it on the easiest setting, you’ll find it tough to approach most fights in The Last of Us with a run-and-gun mentality. The majority of encounters in the game will require a delicate balance of stealth, melee, and conservative use of firepower. To ensure you don’t have to fall back on that firepower too much or end up surrounded unexpectedly, make sure to do a bit of recon before engaging enemies. Using Joel’s listening ability can give you valuable intel about where enemies are located and what kind of baddie it is, so use this as much as you can to get a feel for the flow of a room before rushing in to fight. Still, you’ll find that the odds typically aren’t stacked in your favor, so set up some traps and quietly take out lower-threat enemies with stealth attacks before going all out.

Have an escape plan

Ellie walks on a board spanning two rooftops.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

As mentioned above, the odds are not going to be in your favor during most fights, and no amount of preparation can account for every single scenario. Both human and infected enemies pose a significant threat because of their ability to consistently track and run you down once you’ve been seen. Because of this, always try to identify areas in each location that can put distance between you and any monstrosities if things go south. You don’t want to get pinned into a corner, though, so actions like vaulting through windows to the other side of a wall can often give you the short moment needed to heal or craft an item before the infected foe finds a path to you.

Always keep shivs around

Shivs are one of your most precious resources in The Last of Us. If you’re overrun by enemies and find yourself grabbed by an always-terrifying Clicker, a shiv acts as a defensive item that can be used to instantly kill the enemy and let you escape an otherwise guaranteed death. Additionally, shivs can be used to open a variety of locked doors that stand between you and rooms filled to the brim with helpful resources. Sometimes you’ll even find materials needed to craft more shivs inside, making it well worth your while to use one to access the room. All of that said, don’t bother wasting those same materials to upgrade melee weapons, as crafting more shivs will almost always be more beneficial.

Pick up your fired arrows

Ellie draws back a bow in a The Last of Us Part 1 screenshot.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The bow, which is obtained fairly early in the game, is among the deadliest and most efficient parts of Joel’s kit. Its ability to kill enemies with a single arrow at range while keeping you safe in stealth is extremely helpful in large-scale encounters, and with some upgrades to its draw speed, it can even be an impressive weapon during intense shootouts. Best of all, though, is that each arrow has a chance of not breaking upon hitting an enemy, meaning you’ll sometimes have an opportunity to retrieve them from dead bodies. After you’ve downed an enemy, keep an eye out for shiny arrows protruding from their corpses and make sure not to leave any behind.

Save frequently

The Last of Us has a liberal autosave feature, so you typically won’t have to worry about replaying massive segments of the game after dying. However, it’s worth noting that you can also perform manual saves to ensure that you can roll back some of your decisions. If you’ve just survived an intense showdown by the skin of your teeth, you may be disappointed at how much ammo or resources it took to achieve success. There’s nothing wrong with accepting the outcome of that hard-fought victory and pushing forward, but there’s also no shame in reverting to a save just before the battle to give it another go in hopes of walking away in better shape — especially on higher difficulties where every bullet and material is precious. Do what’s best for you.

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Billy Givens
Billy Givens is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience writing gaming, film, and tech content. His work can be…
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