Naughty Dog creative director Neil Druckmann and game director Bruce Straley spent some time discussing The Last of Us' two main characters, its world and the changes that world has undergone in a video interview with Game Informer. The game is set 20 years after an apocalyptic fungal outbreak has decimated human society; what little humanity still exists has been relegated to military-controlled quarantine zones that operate under a brutal martial law.
Joel, our grizzled protagonist, is a black-market jack-of-all-trades in his late 40s, emotionally broken by the catastrophe and living his daily life at the edges of his waning moral boundaries. He is contracted by an unknown third party to smuggle 14-year-old Ellie outside of the quarantine zone she was born in, and as events unfold the pair find themselves trapped in the wilds of the dystopian, fungal zombie-filled wastelands, unable to return to the (relative) safety of the military zones.
Despite how jaded he has become, Joel cannot abandon Ellie to the ruins of the world, prompting an all-or-nothing expedition to a secret safe haven beyond the military's grasp. Sounds kind of like Resident Evil 4 meets The Dark Crystal meets the Will Smith version of I Am Legend. Consider our interest thoroughly piqued.