Review: ‘The Last Of Us: Left Behind’ DLC Is Paltry, Yet Powerful

Movies & TV

/ February 17, 2014

Still hankering to play Naughty Dog’s The Last Of Us? Well, you’re in for a treat as 2013’s Game of the Year has created a story-based add-on DLC which fills in some of the gaps created in the main title.

Left Behind is the first time Naughty Dog has developed a piece of downloadable content that adds onto elements from the main game. The DLC was highly anticipated ever since it made itself known around the gaming community. With such lofty expectations already cultivated by Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley, the initial consensus claimed that Left Behind is too expensive (costing $15 to download) and too short to merit coughing up that type of dough-re-mi. But, we’re here to reassure you that Naughty Dog has moved the barometer forward and developed another stellar installment for the goose bump-inducing franchise that will be popular for years to come.

Warning: This review necessarily includes some spoilers about the story from The Last of Us. The developers strongly recommend that you play the original game before going through the DLC, so go play it before you dig into this review.

If you haven’t played Naughty Dog’s critically acclaimed third-person survival-horror action game, please do so before reading this review. If you have, you’ll already understand why the ending of The Last of Us was exceptionally perfect. After facing a myriad of obstacles and enemies, the game’s two protagonists, Ellie and Joel, who started out as strangers, become irreplaceable in one another’s lives. Voiced by Troy Baker (Batman: Arkham Origins, Bioshock: Infinite) and Ashley Johnson (Ben 10 Ultimate Alien: Cosmic Destruction), the duo reflect the feelings of being on the opposite ends of an emotional spectrum during an epidemic that collapses humanity.

In the DLC, gamers play Ellie (Johnson) for three to four hours, jumping between two pivotal moments in her life. The first part serves as a prequel to the game and introduces the player to the character Riley Abel (voiced by Yaani King), a close friend of Ellie’s that has connections to the rebel militants, the Fireflies. The second part takes places around the mid-part of the third act of the primary campaign when Joel, after being injured during a fierce battle with hunters at a college campus, becomes indisposed. The game jumps between these two time periods, and while they’re not connected in either story or gameplay, you get a sense of who Ellie was prior to meeting Joel. Even despite the knowledge of Riley’s fate (gamers learn of her death in the main story), Druckmann and Straley craft a compelling game that creates an earnest hope that something miraculous could avert the impending tragedy.

You never stray from Ellie’s point of view throughout as you learn about her adolescent friendship with Riley and her strength in ensuring Joel’s safety. Other than Gone Home, Left Behind wonderfully documents the ordinary, yet beautiful teenage friendship between the two girls amidst extraordinary circumstances. As you navigate between both timelines, you’re reminded what it felt like to be a teenager and how intense the larger world around you can be. Ellie was forced at a young age to leave the things (and people) she loved behind, yet she’s still a kid so you watch her struggle to keep the things she holds dear close. In a matter of moments, her and Riley go from reaffirming their BFF-status to fighting each other to sharing a moment of brevity to depending on one another to survive. It says so much in its few short hours of gameplay that the only complaint is that it ends all too soon.

The gameplay itself is impressive and responsive, as the controls handle smoothly and allows gamers to navigate around obstacles with relative ease. Left Behind doesn’t change up or add anything new to the mix, which doesn’t affect the panicky and exhilarating gameplay rhythm. Without Joel in the picture, we get to learn a bit more about Ellie — her brand of humor and her undeniable resiliency — and cheer hopelessly for her friend’s survival. If anything, knowing the outcomes of Riley, Ellie and Joel helps to imbue the game with this sense of pathos.

The Last of Us: Left Behind proves that Naughty Dog knows how to craft games for a serious and mature audience. Ellie, as the star of this thrilling adventure, is endearing, funny, strong-willed, and capable even when the odds are against her. In the game, the complaint may be that the price is a lot to play for how short the experience is, but the DLC is a gripping and compelling addition to the franchise.

Don’t believe us? Watch the trailer below:

One of the most riveting DLC’s you’ll play this year is available exclusively in the PlayStation Store for $14.99.