Review

The Last of Us: Left Behind

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The Last of Us: Left Behind is the first singleplayer downloadable content released for the game consisting of two intertwined flashback sequences played from Ellie’s perspective. Developer Naughty Dog recommends that you play Left Behind after completing the main game as this DLC contains a couple of major spoilers related to The Last of Us’ plot.

What You Need to Know

Left Behind explores a period prior to the main events of The Last of Us when Ellie sneaks out of her military boarding school to accompany her best friend Riley on a trip to a nearby shopping mall that has been abandoned following the Outbreak. These flashback sequences are interspersed with more tense, gameplay-orientated sections that are set during the main game when Ellie is searching another mall looking for medicine to treat Joel’s wounds.

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What’s New?

Left Behind sees Naughty Dog take a number of creative risks to forge a new kind of The Last of Us experience that’s arguably more interactive than the main game was. The sequences where Ellie is scavenging for medical supplies are really just an extension of The Last of Us’ core gameplay but thankfully the flashbacks involving Ellie and Riley are an entirely different beast.

It’s here that Naughty Dog’s talent for interactive storytelling really shines through and there are a number of occasions when the developer channels a game like Heavy Rain to present players with interesting ways to interact with Riley or the girls’ environment. Naughty Dog’s PlayStation 3 titles have all featured entertaining banter in real-time between characters but when you add an interactive layer to these conversations then you’re presented with something very special.

What’s the Same?

Left Behind’s combat sections are virtually identical to the main game so fans who were hoping to get their hands on new weapons or encounter new types of Infected may be disappointed with the DLC’s lack of fresh content in these departments. Ellie’s crafting options are also unchanged from the main game so this is another area that the DLC falls short as far as new combat mechanics are concerned.

The majority of Left Behind’s dark, dingy environments also have a recycled feeling to them although there are notable exceptions including an arcade and brightly lit carousel.

You’ll Enjoy The Last of Us: Left Behind If You Liked…

… The Silent Hill series. Left Behind’s dim interior environments that speak of neglect and a shattered society reminded me of the oppressive atmosphere I felt playing Silent Hill 2 and 3 (the latter of which also has a level set in a shopping mall).

… Heavy Rain. Naughty Dog seems to have been inspired by this game’s focus on player interaction for Left Behind judging by some of the design choices on display in the sections involving Ellie and Riley.

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What I Liked

5.) While Left Behind’s environments aren’t as visually spectacular at The Last of Us’ locales, its cut-scenes are a feast for the eyes thanks to impressive performance capture, lighting and texturing.

4.) Gustavo Santaolalla returns as composer on Left Behind and manages to enhance all the major emotional beats of the DLC with his masterful score.

3.) Ellie and Riley’s dialogue does a brilliant job of capturing the complex relationship between two teenage girls who are just trying to eke out a bit of fun from a very perilous situation.

2.) The voice acting in Left Behind is full of nuance and depth, and both Ellie and Riley’s voice actresses put in exemplary performances that make their respective characters easy to empathise with.

1.) I really enjoyed the way that Ellie can interact with various things in the shopping mall she and Riley explore, and how you can choose to respond to certain situations in different ways.

Favourite Moment

There are a few exceptional moments in Left Behind but the one that I had the most fun playing was when Ellie and Riley have a water gun battle in an electronics store. It was very amusing to hear the excuses Ellie comes up with every time she gets blasted by Riley and vice versa.

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What I Didn’t Like

3.) I would have liked to have spent more time with Ellie and Riley and less time going through the motions to find medical supplies for Joel. Despite featuring more combat-orientated gameplay elements, these sections are not nearly as entertaining as the ones involving the two teenagers.

2.) The majority of Left Behind’s environments are quite boring to look at and don’t come close to matching the visual splendour of The Last of Us.

1.) I think this DLC is overpriced at R140 / $15 since it only provides roughly two hours of entertainment. Perhaps a better pricing strategy would be to make it around R90 if you purchase it as DLC and R140 if you buy it as a standalone product.

Least Favourite Moment

Left Behind’s Clicker enemies are annoying in that if they grab you it’s game over. I’ve never been a fan of instant death scenarios in action games and I don’t agree with this design decision in the DLC. I would’ve preferred a setup similar to the Resident Evil remake where you can stick a knife in a zombie’s head when it grabs you or jam a grenade in its mouth, take a few steps back, and blow its head off with a well-placed shot!



What’s Extra?

If you play through Left Behind carefully you can see practically everything the game has to offer during your first playthrough. There are audio logs to listen to located in out of the way areas, and once you finish the DLC you can view a collection of concept art featuring, among others, different designs for Riley’s character.

I discovered quite a few new items I could interact with during my second playthrough so it’s definitely worth exploring every nook and cranny to expand your understanding of The Last of Us’ setting and plot.

The Bottom Line

The Last of Us: Left Behind takes a few missteps and is on the short side but Naughty Dog’s creative risks ultimately offer up rich rewards for fans of the main game.


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