The Last of Us Comic Con Panel

During E3 2012, The Last of Us, Naughty Dog’s new survival action title, that in some capacities deals with a viral outbreak, easily stole the show. Not only was what Naughty Dog had to show emotionally moving, but it was some of the most truly violent content gamers have seen in some time. Needless to say the anticipation for The Last of Us panel at Comic-Con was palpable.

Moderated by Adam Sessler, former G4 employee and host of X-Play, the panel kicked off with an introduction of two of the game’s creative personal, Creative Director Neil Druckmann and Game Director Bruce Staley, along with three of the game’s major voice actors, Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson (who play Joel and Ellie), and W. Earl Brown, who plays a new character introduced at Comic-Con named Bill. Bill is one of the many survivors out there who isn’t part of the rival factions, and hasn’t been infected — he also happens to owe Joel a favor.

The scene that Naughty Dog used to introduce Bill not only was some of the best acted cutcene ever seen in a video game, the authentic character interactions rivaled some big budget Hollywood films. It was blatantly evident by the scene, which featured Bill having choice words with both Ellie and Joel, that Naughty Dog operates on an entirely different level than most game developers.

To help reiterate that point the developers showed off a behind the scenes look at that same scene, only in the motion capture stage, with Baker, Johnson, and Brown wearing those funny spandex suits with the balls all over them. Seeing the scene played out at such an early stage helped fans better understand the gravitas that was added to the scene and also gave them a better understanding of just what goes into making a Naughty Dog game. We’ve seen it before in the Uncharted 3 behind the scenes video, but it’s always interesting to take a peak behind the curtain.

The Last of Us Comic Con Panel - Violence

Beyond this new character introduction, and behind the scenes look, Druckmann and Staley talked a little bit about the world of The Last of Us, and finally gave us a little more insight into the viral infection that has left the world in such decay. While they wouldn’t say exactly what is causing some humans to turn into essentially zombies, the developers said they drew a lot of inspiration from a fungus that causes ants to infect other ants by causing their heads to burst. There were no concrete examples of how that has been adapted to humans, but it did give us a better idea of the “outbreak” element of the game.

Naughty Dog then rolled into a closer look at the demo we saw at E3 2012, the one that features Joel and Ellie cautiously and methodically making their way through an abandoned hotel. At key moments in the demo Staley and Druckmann added a little more context to the scene, essentially explaining the inner workings of the game.

For example, one thing not highlighted the first time the demo was shown was a key moment where Joel could interact with a poster for a faux horror flick called “Dawn of the Wolf.” The importance of the interaction had nothing to do with gameplay, but was meant to serve as a character moment, one where Ellie learns a little more about how the world was before she was born, and before the outbreak. This was also an opportunity for Ellie and Joel to develop the bond that is at the heart of The Last of Us. These moments will apparently be peppered throughout the game, and will be completely optional — it’s up to the player how deep they want to delve into the story.

The Last of Us Comic Con Panel - Gameplay

As far as the demo was concerned, it played out exactly like what was featured during Sony’s Press Conference, and it was just as thrilling the second time around. Staley made sure to point out the value of Ellie as an NPC, and stressed that the player in no way influences her actions, she works in a strictly procerdural fashion. Sequences played out just like in the first demo, but it was no less brutal and got the crowd going.

There’s still plenty more to be revealed about The Last of Us, but what Naughty Dog showed Comic-Con attendees certainly caught their attention. A deeper look into the viral outbreak, a new character reveal, and a little better undersatanding of the relationship at the core of the game were all Naughty Dog was ready to share at this point, and it all looked like fantastic.

What do you make of The Last of Us after the E3 demo and now this new info? Will Naughty Dog be able to top the character interactions of Uncharted?

The Last of Us is slated for a 2013 release on the PS3.

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