Escaping Bill’s Town our survivors are headed south towards Pittsburgh. I felt like the cut scenes here worked well, serving as a compliment to the opening scenes of the game. The budding relationship between Joel and Ellie is reflective of the bond shown in the prologue. Even from just her humor you start to understand why Joel begins to feel obligated to protect Ellie.
Arriving in Pittsburgh evidence from Joel’s dark years between the prologue and the present begins to surface. Despite his better judgement he decides to brave the roads into the city. Soon Joel sniffs out an ambush (the gang preying on human empathy) and runs down the bait with the truck as his gang lies in wait. A brutal fight in the remains of a convenience store occurs after the truck is run off the road from the well organized band. The chaos of the moment is captured well as Joel and Ellie are outnumbered and disoriented from the crash, giving the player the appropriate sense of panic.
Escaping from the scene Joel and Ellie discover the ambush was orchestrated by hunters, survivors who kill anyone who comes into their territory. Joel also reveals how he knew it was ambush, telling Ellie that he’s been on the other end of that scenario as well. It’s comments like this that hint to Joel’s moral ambiguity. They also render Ellie’s cries of “Holy shit, Joel!” as rather appropriate.
Needing to escape Pittsburgh, which is crawling with hunters, Joel and Ellie head towards the Fort Duquesne Bridge, dodging patrols of hunters. I like the contrast of the encounters with humans against encounters with the infected. It requires a different style of play as humans are more observant than the infected. They also react based on how they’re attacked: if you’re pull out a gun they’ll let their friends know and you’ll soon be under fire yourself. They’re not afraid to hurl molotovs your way as well, often while you are hiding behind some sort of cover.
This is also the first time you encounter humans with most of your kit. The earlier human enemies you had maybe a gun or two but it was for the most part sneaking by them and melee fights. These run ins with hunters are more fraught with gunfire and ambushes, since you have the resources available to pull this off. Plus by now Joel has collected enough supplements for an upgrade or two.
What impresses me the most about this chapter is that it’s the fifth chapter in this game, which only has twelve chapters total, and I still haven’t felt like they’ve recycled something. In the seven hours I have played (again, I’m playing on hard) I don’t feel like I’ve encountered anything that is a rehash of a mechanic or situation from earlier in the game. That is impressive on the designer’s part.
The last type of infected make their debut in Pittsburgh, called Stalkers. They rely on ambush tactics and seem to fall between Runners and Clickers on the life cycle of the of the cordyceps. I didn’t have much problem with them but I think the reason for this is because I apply liberal usage of Joel’s listening mode when things seem “too quiet” for my taste. The flooded basement of a hotel they show up in also featured the first major glitch I encountered, discounting the auto-save glitch.
When I first entered the basement none of story line features and enemies spawned. I was unable to move on, and I didn’t realize the game was glitched until I grew frustrated and looked at my guide. I was correct in assuming there was a key card for a door in the basement but the card was no where to be found. Restarting the encounter fixed that problem though and I was able to move on without a problem. During the second half of this encounter my exact reaction was that of “Screw this, I’m done with this place.” as I sprinted for the exit. No shame in running when you can.
A large part of the chapter, after the infected in the hotel, is avoiding the hunters as they search for you. When you have the resources it’s best to fight but sometimes stealth is best. This is the level that made me realize the most powerful weapon in this game is the bow. I spent the entire chapter searching for arrows, often a fruitless effort. The reason is this: the ability to kill someone from a range without alerting anyone makes every other weapon pale in comparison. That and molotov cocktails. There are encounters in Pittsburgh that can be over in seconds with a well timed molotov.
Pittsburgh was, so far, the longest chapter. Overall I believe it took me somewhere in the ballpark of five or six hours and at least a half a dozen deaths to make it through to the bridge. The time may be because I play extra cautious and restart encounters if I run into problems instead of needlessly dying over and over again. Watching me play would bore some people to tears.
UPDATE: Since a lot of people look this up I’ll provide an answer here as well. The song that plays during the truck ambush is Alone And Forsaken by Hank Williams.