There are various ways to take out enemies. Especially on higher difficulties it's worth the trouble to defeat enemies by stealthily strangling them, or alternatively killing them with bricks to conserve your scarce ammunition.
Approach an enemy from the back by sneaking towards them, the press triangle to grab them. After this you can either kill them with a Shiv (triangle) or strangle them (Runners only, press square).
If you're discovered, use walls and other strong objects to your advantage. Should a Runner grab Joel while close to a wall, there will be more time for you to input the button presses. If Joel attacks Runners or Marauders while close to walls or objects he's likely to perform deadly moves, especially when you corner your foe against a wall or big object.
If you sneak up on a Runner with the intention of strangling them or killing them with a Shiv and they turn around the instant you wanted to grab them, Joel will throw them on the floor and crush their head with his foot. This is an instant kill, but unlike a stealthy strangle/Shiv move, this does alarm any nearby enemies, so it's not the preferred action.
Killing enemies with bricks or bottles helps to conserve ammunition, but is not soundless. Equip a brick to smash your enemy's head; in the case of a Clicker, quietly approach it from the back and smash it three times.
You can also stun enemies by throwing bottles/bricks at them; rushing towards them allows you to get several melee punches in, but be careful around Clickers - they might grab you if you're not fast enough. The stun effect from a bottle/brick lasts 5 seconds.
Equip melee weapons (Wooden Sticks, Lead Pipes) to kill your opponents more effectively. Melee weapons break down and have bars to indicate how many (enemy-hitting) slashes you have left. Some melee weapons, such as the Wooden Stick can be upgraded (in a Nail Bat for example); this grants an instant-kill bar which can be used on one enemy.
This (slightly bigger) bar appears under the regular bars. Most importantly, it is also a stealthy attack; other nearby enemies won't be alarmed when you kill an enemy with your upgraded melee weapon!
|Input time after grabbing a Runner||4|
|Time it takes to strangle a Runner||6.5|
|Time it takes to shiv a Runner||2.5|
|Time-frame to break free from Runner grapple||2.5|
|Time-frame to break free from Runner grapple (against wall)||5|
|Time-frame to break free from Clicker grapple||Less than 1|
Basic Enemy Tactics - Infected Runners
These are in the earliest stage of the fungal infection and haven't lost their vision yet, so stay out of their sight. Runners are just as fast as a dashing Joel and are usually encountered in groups.
If a group of Runners overwhelms Joel, press R2 to break free from their slashes and dash to safety. All types of attacks (Ranged, Melee or Stealth) are effective against Runners, but try to conserve your scarce ammunition.
Stalkers are in the second phase of the fungal infection. They are very fast and will actively hunt Joel; there's no sneaking around once they have detected you. If they grab you, quickly press square (as with Runners) to free yourself, then quickly melee them to death.
Clickers are in the third stage of the fungal infection and have fully lost their sight. They compensate their lack of vision by using echolocation clicks, pinpointing the exact location of even the slightest noises. Clickers are much harder to take down than Runners and cannot be strangled; the only way to kill them stealthily is by using a Shiv. Never approach a Clicker up front or they'll grab you; in order to break free you'll have to use a precious Shiv.
Alternatively you can distract Clickers by making a noise (throwing a brick or bottle will do the trick). Should it come to (ranged) combat, note that it takes at least two headshots to down a Clicker. Should you manage to land a first headshot, the Clicker will be briefly stunned, allowing you to take the second headshot slightly more easily.
Killing a Clicker with a brick is best done by approaching it from the back (never from the front, or it'll grab you); once the triangle button appears, instead quickly tap square. Bashing the brick against its head three times will do the trick.
An alternative method to kill a (sole) Clicker is to stun it by throwing a brick (or bottle) at it. IF , and only IF the Clicker is stunned, QUICKLY dash towards it and rapidly melee it to death. This is a dangerous method and you need to be ruthless during the melee spree or the Clicker could grab you. Alternatively you can hit it three times, back away, stun it again, then finish it off. In either scenario, be warned that this is a tricky method to pull off correctly.
Clickers are not as fast as Runners but are almost as fast as a running/jogging (not dashing) Joel.
These large foes are in the final stage of the fungal infection and move rather slowly. They can sustain a lot of damage; Molotov Cocktails and Nail Bombs are effective on them. Do not get close to them and do not try to sneak up on them; any kind of close contact means instant death. The Bloater will also hurl dangerous spore bombs at you, which you'll naturally want to avoid.