GAME NAME: The Last of Us: Left Behind
DEVELOPER(S): Naughty Dog
GENRE(S): Action, Adventure
RELEASE DATE(S): February 14th, 2014
The Last of Us rightly won many awards last year and was without doubt one of the greatest games to hit any platform since the start of gaming. When it ended, one couldn’t help but feel a little bit depressed. The depression was two-fold. Firstly, it was near impossible not to feel affected by the world Naughty Dog created. The desolation, the desperation; it left me feeling disturbed for days after. The other reason was because it had ended. After spending all that time with Joel and Ellie, feeling their every pain, I would no longer be by their side. And it hurt.
Drawing out these feelings of a person playing a game is a rare thing, and it only goes to show how brilliantly Naughty Dog constructed this action-adventure masterpiece. So it was with great excitement that the news of single player, story orientated DLC was coming our way. It meant more interaction with characters I couldn’t help but love. The Last of Us: Left Behind has now been released, and the question was whether it could live up to everything that precedes it.
It’s at this point that I must warn you all that this review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS about the original game, but will definitely not spoil anything regarding the actual DLC. So if you have not played and finished The Last of Us, please do so before reading this. If you have finished it, and want to know if the DLC is worthwhile, read on.
Left Behind takes us back into the post-apocalyptic world which Naughty Dog created; it’s a world that filled with infected humans who turn monstrous, factions of humans trying to survive and, of course, contained areas are under military confinement. It’s do as you’re told or face the consequences. They’re dire consequences we might add.
The game gives you control of Ellie and the story jumps between two different time periods. It takes off from the time in The Last of Us where Ellie has just saved Joel after he fell off the building ledge (you know that part, just before you get to play as Ellie for the first time). The other period is a time before Ellie ever meets Joel. This section serves as a prequel to the main game and features Ellie’s encounters with her good friend Riley. You see Riley returns from going AWOL and informs Ellie that she is now a Firefly. The two decide to head off together and explore an old shopping mall.
The contrast between the two sections in the game couldn’t be emphasised more. The panic and desperation Ellie displays when she is trying to save Joel by looking through a broken down mall for medical supplies is balanced amazingly with the calm and sentimental approach to the scenes with Riley.
At one stage, you are battling the infected and hunters while trying to survive the cold; trying to find something that will save Joel’s life. Anything! You instantly feel the frantic rush of blood in your own head while you wonder if this girl can make it through everything that is thrown at her. Despite knowing that she will survive, you can’t help but feel the panic, and you can’t help but wallow in the isolation that surrounds you and Ellie.
But it all changes as the next moment you are back with Riley, reminiscing about that adventure in the mall. You are jumping on carousels, discussing your lives and situations, telling jokes or having a water fight. There is still lots of exploration, and you can feel the intensity still in the air, but it’s lightened somewhat by the disposition of two young friends having a good time.
It’s incredibly how Naughty Dog manage to intrigue and pull gamers into the story with such subtle messages throughout. The DLC is only 3 hours; it can be finished in one night, and yet you feel like you have spent a lifetime with the characters and you feel what they feel. It’s a true credit to the storytelling in the game; it’s special.
The gameplay is identical to that of the main game when you are in control of Ellie. She has her flick knife to take on enemies, a flashlight, a gun with very few bullets, other weapons that are found lying around and then whatever else she can make with materials she finds like the Molotovs, medic kits and smoke bombs.
The rest of the DLC’s gameplay is identical to the full game, making use of a blend of stealth and various attacks. Ellie will need to get past enemies that get in the way, whether they are the infected or the hunters searching for her. Being smart is pivotal to survival and carefully planning your attacks is what will get your through in the end.
There is not a lot more to say about The Last of Us: Left Behind that won’t spoil it. As mentioned, it is not a long story and probably not something you will play over and over. What it is though, is an opportunity to re-enter that magnificent world. It’s another chance to allow Naughty Dog to mess with your emotions and it’s another chance to spend some time with Ellie, and to meet Riley.
The story fits a hole that The Last of Us opened up. Two holes actually; one gap in the plot is how Ellie saved Joel and how she survived. The other deals with what Ellie was like before Joel and what eventually led to her meeting Joel in the first place.
You may question the value of the game; at R140 for 3 hours, it may be considered a little expensive. But if you are one of the people that really ‘got’ The Last of Us, you will not want to miss this. It’s worth every cent and possibly more. When the DLC ended, I honestly felt sad that my time with the characters and the world was over. I sincerely hope Naughty Dog have plans for more, even if it’s completely new characters. Until then though, the game will live in my fondest memories as a special experience.