Review: The Last of Us: Left Behind
Oh, Naughty Dog. Why must you always do this to us? As if The Last of Us didn’t already succeed in capturing our hearts and tearing it apart, now here comes their latest offering from the (hopefully-to-become) series, Left Behind. This DLC is the first and only single-player content to come to the game post-launch. And after playing it, I’m left wanting more. But maybe my heart is relieved that there won’t be more…
Left behind is quite possibly the single best piece of DLC I’ve ever played. Keep reading to find out why!
I’ll keep story talk to a bare minimum, especially since you need to have played the main game to play this, but I do recommend reading the “American Dreams” comic book series to get more insight into Ellie and Riley’s relationship. That mini-series is a prequel to this DLC. A DLC that succeeds in continuing to flesh out Ellie’s character and the overall role children now have in this fungus-ridden apocalyptic world. When you go back to the main game (trust me, you’ll want to replay it after this), you’ll definitely have a greater appreciation for Ellie, and feel even more sympathy for her as a person, seeing everything she had to go through.
Things kick off when Riley returns to Ellie’s life by scaring the shit out of her while she’s sleeping, pretending to be one of the infected by nibbling on her neck. Riley had disappeared for weeks, without even saying where she was going. The two girls had a falling out, and it lead to Riley’s membership into the Fireflies. After breaking this news to Ellie, both girls decide to go to the mall.
The writing is just as superb as it was in the main game, with an approach similar to “Gone Home”, where players are welcomed to explore as much as they want to in the content’s mall setting. Here’s the thing, the DLC is actually split into two scenarios: Ellie and Riley before the events of the main game, and Ellie taking care of Joel after a pivotal moment occurs. The way both scenarios mesh together in the end is neat, but I did feel like the Ellie/Joel part was just there to inject some combat into the experience, to appeal to those who might find an issue with putting down $15 for what could’ve been a combat-less piece of DLC. The combat isn’t a problem, of course, but I would’ve been perfectly happy with the DLC just being Ellie and Riley exploring the mall and examining remnants of a long lost society. Their dialogue is what everything forward, making it engaging to see these two girls interact like two girls would when hanging out in a mall, especially two girls trying to heal their friendship.
There are some standout scenes here, with an emotional punch that rivals some of the memorable scenes from the main game. One particular scene will definitely leave players talking, but hopefully not in a negative way (I’ll say no more about it!). Left Behind perfectly illustrates the role of children in world that’s been overtaken by an epidemic. Yeah, survival is of the utmost importance, but kids still want to have some fun despite the dire situations they’re exposed to. And that’s what we see here. Pure fun being had by two best friends. And it makes for some very nice gameplay segments which truly surprised me and left me grinning from ear to ear, like one scene which takes place in an arcade. There are also parts where you can keep the dialogue going between the two girls, like a part in a Halloween store involving masks and a magic 8-ball, and another involving Ellie’s hilarious book of puns. It’s moments like these that bring this relationship to life beautifully, and make things even more heartfelt in the end.
Going back to the actual combat. I really loved the new feature Naughty Dog implemented here, with players being able to throw a brick (or any other throwable object) at a crowd of Clickers and non-infected baddies, and have both factions go against each other. This is a very satisfying distraction tool and it’s something I wish was implemented into the main game. And as it very well should be, you do feel underpowered as Ellie. So things could get a little challenging, especially in the final combat segment which I thought went on for a tad bit too long. But it all lead to an extremely satisfying and emotional ending that houses a line which should definitely be quoted by many. It’s a lesson everyone should live by, even if there aren’t infected walking around outside. I also love how Naughty Dog once again leaves things up to the player’s imagination here, like they did with the main game’s ending. In this case, you know what’s going to happen, but you’re left to imagine all the details on your own. And that’s just so damn perfect.
For $15, you’ll get one of the finest slices of entertainment available anywhere. The two hours it’ll take you to beat this is equivalent to the time you’ll spend watching an amazing film, leaving you with the sensation to revisit it time and time again. This is a gold standard for DLC moving forward, especially with most games putting out content that was initially locked in-game to begin with. Left Behind is unlike any other DLC you’ve played before. And if it wasn’t for the Ellie/Joel scenario being mixed in, then it would’ve been a perfect stand-alone experience.