The Last of Us Left Behind
- Street Date:
- February 14th, 2014
- Reviewed by:
- Trevor Ruben
- Review Date:1
- February 18th, 2014
- Game Release Year:
- Sony Computer Entertainment
- Naughty Dog
This DLC story episode review contains spoilers for both the main game and the DLC. 'The Last of Us Left Behind' is available as a stand-alone purchase (that requires the base game) or as part of the season pass.
After a couple minor multiplayer DLC add-ons for Naughty Dog's critical darling 'The Last of Us,' the Sony-exclusive developer is finally delivering what fans of the game really want: more story. 'The Last of Us Left Behind' is Naughty Dog's first DLC story episode (for any game), and Naughty Dog has made it clear that 'Left Behind' would be the only story DLC for 'The Last of Us.'
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
In this two to three-hour single-player campaign, the game's strongest character, the post-apocalyptic grown Ellie, revisits a past trauma as she struggles to survive on her own in the present day. 'The Last of Us's other lead, Joel, sits this one out as chronologically, the game takes place during a period in the campaign where Joel is incapacitated. In 'Left Behind,' character building is taken to another level as past events shine a new light one of gaming most memorable worlds.
'The Last of Us' ended on a somewhat somber note with the necessities of a demolished world leaving us with a simple truth, survival comes first, humanity second. It's expected then that 'The Last of Us Left Behind' would continue these themes. This time around, Ellie and childhood friend Riley take center stage, with their relationship revealing another layer of mud and paint in the life of everybody's favorite post-apocalyptic teenager.
Without getting into spoilers, Ellie and Riley, after reuniting upon Riley's return to Boston, slip away to the local mall to do some shopping. They dance and they flirt with boys until their cell phones ring with their respective loving mothers on the other end, asking that they come home and enjoy a voluptuous meal with their loving families. The end.
Just kidding. They do go to a mall, a tattered remnant full of miscellaneous crap for which Ellie can't help but remark her confusion for why people would spend their money. And so much like the original content, it's a delight to see how somebody born of this terrible environment might be fascinated in the shadow of the past, this time accompanied by the confident Riley. She reveals that she's joined the Fireflies, a rebel group relentlessly seeking a cure, and must leave Boston within the day. The two spend their time marveling at various atrocities of consumerism and debating Riley's decision.
Again, the writing is both incredibly detailed and lush with characterization, the differences between these two both nuanced and obvious, their relationship clearly special to the both of them in different ways. The ending is both satisfying and revelatory for Ellie's character, and definitely worth it for anybody engrossed in 'The Last of Us' fiction.
But there's a problem. The game is made up of two contrasting sections, which can be jarring as the player moves back and forth. In the DLC's mall sequences, a flashback for present-day Ellie as she tries to keep Joel alive, it feels almost like an interactive exhibit called "The Life of Ellie." There's virtually no combat, no real objective other than to explore stuff with your friend and let the narrative play out as it's supposed to. While the story is indeed compelling, with interactive elements like a photo booth or carousel there as optional digressions for fleshing out the scene, there's no real gaming element to it.
On the flipside, Ellie's present-day search for medical supplies is all about survival. It's only combat, and it's made just barely interesting by one twist. Normal humans and infected, whom you would normally go to blows with separately, are placed into the same space. Ellie doesn't wield the same firepower as Joel, so she must play the two factions against themselves and pick off the stragglers when it all plays out. It's easy to see why she might capitalize on manipulating the battlefield from a distance rather than becoming the center of it. Throwing bricks to lure infected into the humans is a devious joy, but beyond that the combat is much the same. You're sneaking around, finding opportune moments to strike and utilizing limited materials and bullets as well as you can.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
How the PS3 ever pulled of these visuals I will never know. Naughty Dog dipped into a pot of gold and came out with gorgeous disaster for the world of 'The Last of Us.' While the settings of 'Left Behind' are enclosed and, somewhat disappointingly, devoid of naturalization, they're still impeccably detailed and, as a result, ripe for exploration.
And simply put, the cutscenes are worthy of a full-length film.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Again a model of perfection in voice acting. Ashley Johnson returns as Ellie, imbuing in the character both wisdom and loveable goofiness. Then you have Yaani King as Riley, a bit more hardened and successfully fulfilling a role of knowingness and charisma as a model to Ellie. It's a testament to both the writing and the talent of these two actors that you immediately understand a loving history between the two friends, and that perhaps there's more than just friendship boiling underneath.
With variable difficulty settings and plenty of collectibles, exactly as dense in this regard as the original campaign, you'll be rewarded for multiple playthroughs. As anyone who did it before, ramping up the difficulty means finding far less materials strewn about. One playthrough should last you about two to three hours, assuming you're the explorative type.
'Left Behind' makes a very clear distinction between when you're supposed to fight and when you're supposed to watch and listen. That's a flaw. The greatest strength in 'The Last of Us' was its devotion to creating cinematic moments in gameplay, whether through Joel's carrying of his daughter in the original outbreak or the simple menace of a well-armed foe. By design, 'Left Behind' severely lacks this cohesion. At the mall a couple of moments almost break the mold, like when Riley imagines for Ellie a working arcade game, the player actually inputting commands to Riley's direction. It's a great moment among just a few that really use the controller in your hands to tell the story.
Beyond that, the tempo for this DLC episode holds it back just enough to keep it from equaling the original game's level of execution. Still, fans of Naughty Dog and 'The Last of Us' have received an extension of the story so good, it might have served as a stand-alone movie.
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