Before the fall
I’ll make you a promise: There will be no spoilers in this review. Left Behind is an extra bit of narrative added to the story of The Last of Us, and talking about anything that happens—or how it happens—could ruin the experience.
The problem is, that also means this is a review that’ll be nearly impossible to flesh out in the comprehensive way reviews normally are.
Here are the most specific things that I’ll reveal about this piece of single-player-focused DLC, and they’re all things that were already stated long ago. (So, unless you’re on total media blackout, none of this will spoil anything.) Left Behind is the story of Ellie and Riley, the friend that Ellie mentions early in The Last of Us. What unfolds here shows us a moment in time in their lives before Joel steps into the picture, kicking off Ellie’s cross-country journey. You control Ellie. There will probably be fungus-infected enemies at some point.
And that’s it!
Left Behind is an emotional ride for a number of reasons. I mean, that’s not surprising coming from the team who made The Last of Us—they seem to be pretty good at that whole “depth in storytelling” thing. It’s a different kind of emotion than the main portion of the game, though. To be clear, Left Behind isn’t better (or worse) because it focuses on two young girls trying to figure out how to survive in the world, versus a hardened, grizzled older man and a starting-to-become-hardened teenager. It’s different—and different can sometimes be very enjoyable.
And, indeed, there’s a lot that’s enjoyable. There’s a moment in Left Behind unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a game before, something both completely simple and amazingly complex. It’s a moment that shows why the team at Naughty Dog walked away with so many accolades recently at the 2014 D.I.C.E. awards. A moment that—if I might be a bit overdramatic—shows you that games can absolutely be more than they often get credit for, and can do something, due to their interactivity, that no other form of storytelling can do.
Left Behind also does something that I require DLC to do: It justifies itself. I prefer to stay away from post-launch expansions, because I don’t want to support the idea of pulling content to later sell separately, or the tacking on of unneeded content later to make money. Left Behind expands on the story of The Last of Us in directions that I cared about, and in ways that wouldn’t have made sense had they been part of the initial release. In the grand scheme of things, you aren’t missing out on something that was needed in The Last of Us if you skip out on Left Behind. This is more like sitting down with your friends for pizza after a trip to the amusement park and talking about all of the fun that you had—it’s a nice way to put a final ending point on a great day.
However, if you’re coming at this DLC more for the gameplay than the story, you’ll be disappointed. Yes, there are enemy encounters, and they’re pretty clever in providing some new twists—but they’re few and far between in a journey that takes, at most, two to three hours to clear. Left Behind is about exploration in every sense of the word. Go in understanding what this is—and what it isn’t.
There’s one other moment in Left Behind I feel compelled to talk about, one that I have to be extremely vague about. There’s something that happens—an action that a character takes—that left me conflicted. At the same time, I both warmly welcomed its arrival and wished that it had never happened. When you get there, you’ll know what I mean, and I can’t wait to see how others react when they experience the scene in question for themselves.
At the end of it all, everything comes down to one question: Is Left Behind worth its $14.99 price tag? Taken just as gameplay, that’s tough. Taken as an overall experience, it’s an easier decision, but one that will be highly personal. The Last of Us didn’t need Left Behind, and if you never play it, that game will still be every bit as good as it was before this DLC was released.
I’m glad that I got the chance to play Left Behind, though. I’m glad it exists, and I feel that my encounter with The Last of Us is the better for it. And I’m glad that we now live in a world where a chunk of content like Left Behind can exist in the first place.
|Developer: Naughty Dog • Publisher: Sony Computer Ent. • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 02.14.2014|
The Last of Us was a powerful example of the potential in videogame storytelling. Left Behind adds to and continues that level of quality, giving us a glimpse into a moment in time for two characters that’s both engaging and gratifying.
|The Good||An expansion of The Last of Us’ mythos that feels justified in its existence. And then a lot of stuff I can’t mention!|
|The Bad||Killing off Ellie after her final battle with Riley—who turned out to be a giant steampunk alien robot—seemed, to be honest, a little out of place.|
|The Ugly||Trying to talk about Left Behind without spoiling anything.|
|The Last of Us: Left Behind is available exclusively on PlayStation 3. Review code was provided by Sony Computer Entertainment for the benefit of this review.|