It’s been a year since The Last of Us made its world premier at the 2011 Spike VGA’s, then a highly anticipated but largely inscrutable post-apocalyptic thriller from Uncharted developer Naughty Dog. This year it’s back, with brand new story trailer releasing at the 2012 VGAs. And while some of the mystery has faded — 2012 has provided us with a bevy of The Last of Us gameplay footage, story details, screenshots, and even behind-the-scenes insight — the excitement surrounding Joel and Ellie’s quest for survival hasn’t.

Tonight marks the game’s first public appearance since we witnessed an extended gameplay demo at PAX Prime back in September, and not only does the footage expand greatly upon the game world we’ve come to know, it also establishes The Last of Us’ release date as May 7th, 2013.

Introduced on stage by a chilling opening melody from The Last of Us composer Gustavo Santaolalla (Into the Wild), the new trailer began with a brief shot of panicked civilians running through the streets of a burning town. It’s a tone that would be carried throughout the rest of the footage, as we were given much broader picture of the destitute and desperate setting that Joel and Ellie have been portrayed in previously.

New characters are highlighted by quick cutscene flashes: at one point, Joel is seen arguing with a woman named Tess, with whom he appears to have a close relationship with; another woman is also shown asking Joel to smuggle supplies, while a separate sequence shows a captive of his on the brink of being tortured.

VGA 2012 The Last of Us

We already know that Joel and Ellie aren’t the only survivors of the Cordyceps virus; interlaced throughout the trailer are depictions of organized civilization — an armed militia/police force, a guard standing watch at a fortified compound — and it obvious The Last of Us actually contains a large contingent of non-zombified characters that players will have to interact with, discerning friends from foes.

Furthermore, two shots depict our protagonists on horseback, perhaps foreshadowing a new gameplay mechanic that would, admittedly, mesh well with Industrial/Information Age-graveyard setting.

The Last of Us has been nominated as most anticipated game of the 2012 Spike VGA’s, and that sentiment was undoubtedly justified by the trailer we saw tonight.

[UPDATE] The trailer has now been released and can be viewed above.

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The Last of Us will release on May 7, 2013, exclusively for the PlayStation 3.

Source: Game Trailers