The Last of Us: Left Behind DLC ReviewFebruary 17, 2014
The Last of Us was easily one of 2013’s best games, with stellar acting, an engaging story and a fantastically realized post-apocalyptic world. The Last of Us: Left Behind is a roughly 2-hour long DLC adventure that shows us Ellie’s life before she met Joel, and her relationship with her best friend Riley. While this downloadable chapter certainly took its time getting here – it’s been almost nine months since the game’s launch – the wait was worth it. Left Behind is a solid prequel that provides a lot of context to the main story and adds more depth to the character of Ellie.
If you still haven’t played The Last of Us, what the hell are you waiting for? It won like every award available last year. Go play it now, I’ll wait. Otherwise, be warned that this review contains spoilers for the main game, as well as minor spoilers for Left Behind.
The story for Left Behind begins a little while after the events of the graphic novel The Last of Us: American Dreams, co-authored by The Last of Us writer Neil Druckmann and comics artist Faith Erin Hicks. If you’ve played The Last of Us to its completion, you know that at the end of the game Ellie revealed to Joel that she was bitten along with her best friend Riley, only Ellie never turned – she’s immune to the contagion. While knowing Riley’s fate kind of takes the wind out of the dramatic impact when we witness these events in the game, this DLC is more about exploring the friendship between these two girls as well as the decimated world surrounding them.
There’s a second narrative at play here as well, though, and Left Behind jumps frequently between these prequel events and the home stretch of The Last of Us, where Ellie is tasked with finding medical supplies in a nearby shopping mall for a gravely-injured Joel. The prequel events also mostly take place in a shopping mall, where Riley and Ellie try to mend their temporarily-injured friendship. Riley abandoned Ellie for a few months with no explanation, and throughout Left Behind you witness Riley trying to make it up to her.
She lights up a mall for her, showing her the wonders of the merry-go-rounds and arcades that kids used to play around in before the whole world went to hell. She jokes with her, throws bricks at cars with her, and tries on silly Halloween costumes in a costume shop to cheer her up. They get into an epic water gun fight and dance around in a record store. These are the best parts of Left Behind – seeing the jovial, wide-eyed Ellie having a blast with her best friend.
It feels as though the present timeline is shoehorned in to allow for some combat, because as we know Ellie learned most of what she knows about kicking zombie ass from Joel. While the variety feels good, it does make things a bit disjointed, as the story jumps between time frames seemingly at random, or whenever the developers thought the player may be getting bored. That said, it does shed a light on why she’s so damned determined to save Joel – she can’t suffer another loss like she did with Riley.
Even in the present timeline, Ellie is nowhere near as good at combat as Joel – she has none of his hearing or aiming upgrades, it takes her forever to craft items, and so on. It’s obvious that the devs intended for stealth gameplay for the most part, as Ellie has an unbreakable knife. Ellie will have to take on both humans and infected enemies in Left Behind, and smartly Naughty Dog added in moments where you can make the two sides fight against each other to thin the herd a bit. This is so much fun that it made me wonder how this mechanic never made it into the main game.
There’s not much else that I can say about The Last of Us: Left Behind without spoiling everything, but rest assured that this is a fantastic add-on to one of the greatest games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. While some may scoff at paying $15 for roughly two hours of gameplay, there’s absolutely no filler here – it’s filled with plenty of memorable moments and unique gameplay, and there are lots of collectibles and trophies to collect. If you were as moved by The Last of Us as most of the rest of the gaming world was, you owe it to yourself to check out Left Behind.