Review: The Last Of Us: Left Behind Is An Incredible, Personal Journey
A captivating, touching look at the most interesting character in The Last of Us.
- Worth The Time?Left Behind is a great extension of Ellie's character, with every second engrossing you more.
- Things LovedBrilliantly written. Incredible voice acting and conversations between Ellie and Riley. More exploration focused gameplay helps build narrative tension. Jumps between time periods are extremely effective. A well rounded look at Ellie before and after she met Joel. Narrative risks that aren't usually seen in AAA development. New combat dynamic that mixes Infected and Bandits. Fantastic pace that brings everything to an emphatic close.
- Things HatedFinal combat encounter feels misplaced.
- RecommendationAnyone who finished The Last of Us needs to play Left Behind. Not only is it more of the best game in 2013, it delivers a new, fresh experince while allowing players to connect on a more personal level with Ellie. Don't think twice.
- Name: The Last of Us: Left Behind
- Genre: Survival Adventure
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PS3
- Developer: Naughty Dog
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Price: R140.00
- Reviewed On: PS3
We don’t live in the apocalypse. We get up every morning, have something to eat out of a fridge usually stocked with goods, get in our cars, work to buy more things to put in fridges and cupboards and rooms, get home, eat again and then crawl into a nice cosy bed with the assurance that we’ll wake up to the same, normal world. Our daily struggles are more concerned with our futures rather than day to day struggles, and often we get second and third chances to achieve what we can only dream of. Ellie doesn’t live in that world, and it’s immediately apparent in Left Behind, the only single-player DLC that has released for one of 2013’s finest games, The Last of Us.
It’s oh so evident from the opening of the game. In walks Riley, the new character that Ellie has only mentioned briefly in The Last of Us, who proceeds to jump on an asleep Ellie in her room and bite her neck. Ellie wakes, shoves Riley to the floor and immediately pulls a knife on her. The world doesn’t have innocent, childish moments anymore. It’s kill or be killed, and it’s often the youth that suffer the most. Being forced to adapt to a lifestyle that doesn’t allow them to actually be children all in the name of survival sometimes gets lost in translation, and it’s this exact message that Left Behind tackles. What if for a moment all the worlds’ problems went away? What if Ellie could scream and laugh as loud as she wanted without the fear of a Clicker creeping up behind her? What if Ellie and Riley could just go to the mall, like a normal pair of teenagers? Left Behind answers these questions, and the conclusion makes it clear that the world is no longer free of consequence.
Left Behind is all about Ellie in two very different periods of her life. The very first scene is all too familiar and reminds of the most harrowing events during The Last of Us. Joel gets himself impaled, and Ellie is forced to treat him while he heals from his paralysed state. This was touched on briefly in the main game, but Left Behind gives us a look at the immediate aftermath. With temperatures plummeting and no medical supplies to be found, Ellie is forced to venture out on her own or let Joel die, something which she repeatedly refuses to do. The story then cuts between these more harsh, tense moments to more exploration focused pieces, where Ellie and Riley are exploring a mall they have already visited before, but now with everything lit up in the early hours of the morning. Cutting back and forth between these times, only months apart, have a really great jarring effect. Ellie of the past isn’t exactly care free, but there’s a certain innocence and childish nature to here character that was never explored in The last of Us. Cut back to present day, and Ellie is the hardened heroine we grew to love from the original title, showing just how badly things got for her in a short space of time.
Ellie of the past is rather interesting to watch, despite the lack of any real combat throughout her adventure. You’ll visit an abandoned shopping mall, which Riley manages to power up despite military telling most folk that it’s not possible. Her and Ellie are then free to do what children should do; enjoy a day filled with random fun. They visit a costume store all dressed for a Halloween that never came, trying on different masks and various tactics to scare one another. At one point Ellie expresses here surprise at the idea of people actually paying money for such trivial items, something that brought a grin to my face. They throw bricks at a car’s window as sport, making a game out of the ruin around them. Taking pictures in a photo booth seems normal to use, but Ellie and Riley treasure this opportunity to capture their happiness, even expressing some confusion when the machine asks them if they’d like their photos uploaded to Facebook. A broken and busted arcade machine becomes a portal for the imagination, as Riley invents a game for Ellie to play in her head. All of these and more personal, completely innocent moments are peppered with some great little gameplay mechanics that bring them all to life. Not to mention the fantastic back and forth between Ellie and Riley, which features some brilliant voice acting.
In between the moments lie more intimate, serious issues that seem to startle Ellie and Riley now and then. It’s almost as if they forget about the world around them, only to have it come crashing down every few minutes. Riley is a Firefly, Ellie is training at a military camp. The people who house and feed Ellie would shoot Riley on sight, with the same going for the Fireflies. The world they both live in is so broken, and it’s hard to imagine two girls of their age having to go through that. It’s what makes their moments together so powerful, along with a few risks Naughty Dog takes along the way. It’s something we hardly see in AAA development, but it’s something that the audience could most certainly benefit from in the future.
Ellie in the present however is a whole different story. She’s far more focused on survival, never laughs and is determined to keep her only friend alive. These segments play out like the traditional Last of Us gameplay, with areas populated by bandits and infected. What’s is different here is that they sometimes populate the same space, something which was oddly missing from the main title. It seems odd only now because Left Behind shows us what potential this could have had when playing as Joel. Instead of just sneaking around Clickers and blowing bandit’s brains out, Ellie can toss a glass bottle into the middle of the room and attract the two to each other. Bandits who are searching for her will now be preoccupied with the dozens of infected heading straight for them, which just makes their screams somewhat sweet as you make a stealthy escape amongst the chaos. There are only a handful of these scenarios, with others feeling exactly like the action sequences of old, but nonetheless they add more to the combat in The Last of US, and show us that Ellie is a more than capable fighter.
She is, however, not Joel. Ellie will go down in a fight much faster than her companion, putting the emphasis on stealth rather than direct attack. Along with her switchblade, Ellie has access to a small pistol and eventually a bow, as well as the option to craft medkits, nail bombs and smoke bombs. Health is scarce and you’re progress is kept between the jump in times, and a few times I found myself struggling through particular areas because of this alone. There’s no problem with this because most of the time I was able to adapt to Ellie and the tactics your are required to employ when playing as her, but all of that is seemingly thrown out the window near the end. What was common fair in the main title becomes a tedious and infuriating chore at the end of Left Behind, as Ellie is forced to take on a massive force of bandits in order to progress. This task is made even more difficult when you realise that Ellie is useless in direct hand-to-hand combat, unless her opponent is stunned in someway. It’s irritating that after introducing a new dynamic to combat Naughty Dog would choose to round off this three hour tale in this way, but thankfully it’s the only time combat gets in the way of this otherwise extraordinary package.
I feel as though anyone who played the Last of Us needs to play Left Behind. Aside from giving players a more personal, alternative look at the most interesting character of the main game, Left Behind offers an exquisite tale that highlights some of the overlooked details when dealing with apocalyptic tales. Seeing Ellie and Riley acting as children and letting their minds explore facets of life that they never had a chance to experience is intriguing, and their extremely well written relationship will leave you on the border of tears at the conclusion. Left Behind rounds off Ellie beautifully, offering some insight as to how such a small, young girl manages to continue fighting, no matter what the cost. This one early morning adventure helps shape who Ellie becomes in the future. An Ellie that is strong enough to brave the world in order to save her friends. An Ellie that, despite the world falling down around her, never stops fighting to see the sun rise tomorrow. It’s captivating, engrossing and a calculated risk that ultimately pays off for Naughty Dog.
“What’s option three?”