Review: The Last of Us: Left Behind (DLC)

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Title: The Last of Us: Left Behind
Format: PlayStation Network Download (5.2 GB)
Release Date: February 14, 2014
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Naughty Dog
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: M
The Last of Us: Left Behind is also available in The Last of Us Remastered on PlayStation 4.

Review of the Original Game:
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Editor’s Note:
While it isn’t absolutely necessary to complete the single player portion of The Last of Us before playing this DLC, it’s extremely helpful if you do, giving the story here better context and more meaning (plus, you know, the spoilers). Speaking of which, as always, there will be no story spoilers in this text or the carefully selected screenshots for this review.

Portions of this review also appear in our PS4 coverage of The Last of Us Remastered.
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Audio Review:
The audio review for this DLC is available on Episode 358 of the podcast.
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Gameplay:
The opening section of 2013’s The Last of Us gave us an important look at Joel’s past. A critical, character-defining moment that would inform all of our interactions with Ellie later in the game. By putting that information right up front, it gave important context to Joel and Ellie’s evolving relationship throughout their entire journey. While Ellie told a small part of her story during the course of the original game, The Last of Us: Left Behind finally gives players a look at the most important event in her young life through her own eyes.

This is Ellie’s story, her pivotal moment which will put her relationship with Joel into perspective. The importance of the story and the effect that these events will have on Ellie’s life are foreshadowed by the opening scene, as our view of Ellie sleeping mirrors our first look at Sarah in The Last of Us quite nicely.

American_Dreams_CoverYou’ll spend much of the game with Riley, Ellie’s best friend during her time in the Boston Quarantine Zone. At this point, I’d highly recommend reading the fantastic graphic novel set, The Last of Us: American Dreams which essentially serves as a straight-up prequel to the events depicted in this DLC. It’s available as a paperback or Kindle download and while it’s not required reading, you’ll absolutely get a lot more out of the story since a number of the characters and locations are explored in this game.

The beautiful thing about this story is that it fills in a critical point in the main campaign of The Last of Us while flashbacks provide the look into Ellie’s past. It’s an excellent narrative choice and works so well that this entire piece could be dropped seamlessly into the main story at the relevant point and it would fit perfectly. Perhaps it could be integrated in a Game of the Year edition or (if we’re lucky) a PS4 edition.

You’ll move back and forth between the flashbacks and present day, which is somewhere in the middle of the campaign. The tension and trouble of the present is offset by the relatively carefree days of the past. You’ll see a new side of Ellie and you’ll get to understand what it’s like for a young girl growing up in post-pandemic America.

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Because the flashbacks tend to be more easy going, much more exposition and character development is packed into those sequences. I’d even go so far as to say that you learn more about Ellie and who she is as a person in these two hours than you do about Joel in the entire main game. Between this and the perfect pacing while moving back and forth between the past and present, it’s quite a storytelling feat.

The tension and terror of The Last of Us is present and Naughty Dog has even upped the ante here. You’ll be facing the Infected of course but you’ll also be up against people hunting for you, trying to kill you… and you’ll be facing them at the same time. It can make for horrifying chaos but it also adds a layer of strategy. Ellie isn’t as skilled or as strong as Joel, she’s not going to be able to take the kind of damage he does. With that in mind, every encounter ups the tension. You have a number of options in dealing with these situations that I’ll let you figure out on your own.

Crafting is back and it’s even more critical this time around. Weapons are incredibly scarce so make use of everything at your disposal and avoid confrontation whenever possible. There will be times where combat is unavoidable though so make sure you’ve taken the time to craft everything you can, you’re going to need it.

It’s really remarkable that even going in knowing where this story will end it’ll still feel like a punch to the gut when you get there. It’s a testament to the level of storytelling here, some of the finest in video games.

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Visuals:
Because this is a smaller story, one with really just a handful of settings, Naughty Dog was able to overload everything with detail. It’s amazing how real and believable everything is throughout the entire world, every last little detail was taken into account. Because of that, you’ll find yourself wanting to explore more and if you do, you’ll be rewarded with some wonderful Easter Eggs so I’d highly recommend it.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t played it in a while, but to me, everything about this game looked better than The Last of Us. The character models, the fabrics, textures, lighting, everything was off the charts, easily the best looking game you’ll play on the PlayStation 3.

A few interesting things happen in the story that end up changing things in a very clever way and even that is handled beautifully. Sorry if I’m being so cryptic but I refuse to spoil anything. When you get there, you’ll know… and you’ll love it.

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Audio:
Voice acting and music were particularly strong in The Last of Us and, of course, it carries over to Left Behind. Ashley Johnson turns in another stellar performance as one of the best female characters ever written for a video game, Ellie. Joining her, and doing a brilliant job herself, is Yaani King as Riley.

The acting here is some of the best I’ve ever experienced in a game. The interplay between these two characters is so well done that it makes you feel like you’re watching two close friends hanging out. They talk about life, share jokes, have arguments, everything you’d see in a real friendship. You thought Joel and Ellie had an interesting relationship, try Ellie and her best friend.

The music is haunting and beautiful all over again, often warning you of danger before you even notice it. Sound is critical when facing the Infected and Surround Sound is used to perfection once again.

Online/Multiplayer:
The game is single player only.

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Conclusion:
Naughty Dog took a bit of a chance here, attempting to add a single-player, narrative driven campaign onto an already immensely successful game. That they did it in a way that adds greater meaning and depth of character to the original story is a testament to the storytelling abilities of Neil Druckmann and everyone involved.

Yes, you can get through this in about two hours if you rush, but why would you want to? Told in a series of flashbacks while filling in a critical junction of the original game, you’ll get a ton of story packed into a short space.

It really felt longer than it was and when it was finished, with all the emotion and heartache that I’d just gone through, I was immensely satisfied with the whole experience. Naughty Dog has raised the bar on what DLC can mean to a game.

Score:
10

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Elgato Game Capture HD Pro screen capture feature.

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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