It was easy to gush over every trailer, screenshot, and gameplay presentation for The Last of Us rattled off in those early months of its public existence. Encouragingly, though, the austere appeal of its dilapidated world hasn’t rusted as we draw closer to the game’s early 2013 release.

Naughty Dog‘s panel presentation at San Diego Comic-Con proved yet another example. Not for showing off a sequence of the game’s brutally effective combat or releasing a batch of highly polished screenshots, but rather for a simple, yet stunning portrayal of The Last of Us cinematic ambiance.

Meet Bill, another cast member on the Naughty Dog call sheet revealed at Comic-Con alongside new The Last of Us story details. Bill doesn’t cut corners. Wearing a gas mask and heavily strapped with accouterments, he accompanies Joel and Ellie into his safe house after a narrow escape from a wave of Infected (who are inching ever so close to making their public debut), fuming that all of his traps have now been set-off.

After a tense, physical minute of settling in – which may well be the societal norm for exchanging pleasantries 20 years after the Cordyceps unilateralis virus annihilated the global population – we also learn Bill is indebted to Joel for some past exploit of the two. Why? Naughty Dog wouldn’t go that far. But the developer hinted that it might be pivotal to the events of the game, promising to reveal more on Bill’s backstory in the coming months.

The Last of Us Bill Safehouse Trailer

In any case, despite his initial appraisal that the obliged favors “aint worth that much” – “Actually, Bill, they are.” – the mechanically-inclined acquaintance is convinced to help Joel and Ellie hunt down parts to assemble a working automobile. (The pair’s pick-up truck has already joined the motor vehicle graveyard encompassing most of the world.)

And yet as intriguing as the story may be before the title-screen cutaway, the scene truly captivates for its pristine cinematic realism: breathtaking voice acting as the breathless characters exchange back and forth (Bill is voiced by W. Earl Brown – Deadwood’s Dan Dority), dynamic facial expressions about as lifelike as this generation is going to produce, and spot-on lighting and sound effects intimating that famous Naughty Dog obsession to detail.

The scene was enough to steal the minds of our team in attendance yesterday, and its new official release will doubtless have the same effect on fans – even (or especially) with so much time until the final product is released.

The Last of Us is slated for a release in 2013, exclusively for the PlayStation 3.

Follow me on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.

Source: Official PlayStation Blog