The Last of Us: Left Behind Review – PlayStation 3

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The Last of Us is one of those games that is still rattling around my brain, and it’s been more than eight months since I’ve played it.  That just goes to show the emotional impact that game is capable of delivering, and now, just in time for Valentine’s Day, Naughty Dog is back to tug on those heartstrings and reconnect you with the game and the character of Ellie in a new DLC story arc that not only fills in some missing information from the core game but also gives us a bit of insight into Ellie before her encounter with Joel.

There’s really not a lot I can say about the DLC that won’t threaten to spoil the sheer wonder of joy and discovery you’ll experience playing The Last of Us: Left Behind.  The story consists of two sub-plots told in a unique parallel fashion; the first dealing with Ellie taking care of Joel after he was injured but before the winter hunting sequence in the main game, while the other story shows us what life was like with Ellie before she was bit and infected.  The majority of both stories take place inside large shopping malls, which the designers use to great advantage to mirror several key story moments separated by years of decay and destruction.

In the prequel timeline you get this wonderful sense of carefree adventure as you and your best friend Riley sneak out of military boarding school and go exploring a large mall.  This timeline is mostly about dialogue and interacting with the environment; basically goofing off and getting into some minor teen mischief.   This almost charming innocence is juxtaposed against the more real dangers of the current timeline in which Joel is slowly dying and Ellie must explore a similar shopping mall in search of supplies and medicine.   Not only must she deal with the terrifying infected, but there are also armed soldiers searching the mall looking for her and Joel.

sharesnapLeft Behind is light on action or any real gameplay for that matter, at least until the final hour of the game where things turn into a very challenging situation of you against the militia.  You are heavily outnumbered but by using your wits you can turn the infected into your own fighting force.   There are a lot of collectibles that flesh out the story and plenty of crafting supplies, although crafting doesn’t play nearly the critical role as it did in the main game.

The entire DLC can be finished in roughly 4-5 hours depending on how much you immerse yourself in the story.  The level design is linear and the puzzles aren’t terribly challenging.  Naughty Dog seems more intent to share their story than provide any real meaningful gameplay, but when the story is this good I am okay with that.

There are some truly smile-inducing moments like goofing off in a photo-booth or riding a carousel or even exploring an abandoned arcade.  These moments pepper the rich and revealing dialogue between Riley and Ellie that shows just how deep their friendship really is; all core traits that carry over to Ellie’s bond and loyalty toward Joel.

Easily finished in a single sitting, Left Behind is fantastic filler material that will not only give you a great appreciation for Ellie, but also in the way Naughty Dog can weave such a compelling tale into a video game.  If you’ve already played The Last of Us then Left Behind is a DLC you cannot pass up and an experience every bit as memorable as the core game.

Check out our review for The Last of Us here.  The Last of Us was also our #3 winner in the 2013 Gamers’ Choice Awards.

 

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