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Review: The Last Of Us Left Behind is poignant but paltry

By Nick Cowen on Friday 14th Feb 2014 at 6:00 AM UTC

The ending of The Last Of Us was perfect. If you haven't played it, please close the browser and do so now. If you have, you'll know what I'm talking about.

After a year of living in each other's pockets, facing a myriad obstacles and enemies, and surviving numerous deathtraps, the game's two protagonists, Ellie and Joel, had become irreplaceable in one another's lives.

But because their age gap placed them at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum - Ellie carrying the torch of hope, while Joel was consumed with despair and cynicism - by the time the game's narrative wrapped up, secrets existed between them. Secrets that simultaneously threaten to destroy their relationship while cementing their status as family.

The plot of The Last Of Us doesn't need a sequel, so it's to Naughty Dog's credit that they don't attempt one with the game's first story-based DLC. (They may attempt a full-blown sequel at a later date, but even if it proves as unnecessary as it feels at this stage, you won't be able to accuse them of a rush-job).

Slideshow: The bleak world of Left Behind

In Left Behind, Ellie is the focal point of the story, which does an excellent job of demonstrating how quickly and completely her childhood was stripped away from her. The DLC looks at Ellie's life before the Firefly movement was even aware of her, and it also details how she kept Joel alive following his impalement at the University of Colorado.

The narrative is split between Ellie's past and present. In the former strand, a friend called Rilley takes her on an explorative daytrip in order to patch up a past altercation. In the latter, Ellie seeks out supplies for Joel, who is drifting in an out of consciousness.

The story set in the past offers up the meat of the DLC's narrative. In it, Ellie is less hard-bitten than she is in the game's main story. She's less cynical, more vulnerable and, because the foil in this pairing is someone she trusts, she's also more forthcoming. In short, players get to see what Ellie used to be like before life in the post-apocalyptic word of The Last Of Us ran over her with a truck.

Left Behind covers the story of Ellie before she encounters Joel, as well as how she saved him at the end of Chapter 4

The second strand of the narrative is basically an elaborate fetch quest. Joel is out for the count having landed on protruding piece of metal and Ellie is in search of a med-kit she can use to stitch him up.

This storyline here is less satisfying as it doesn't really tell the player anything about Ellie that they didn't already know. It is, however, action-packed and enjoyable simply because there's more for the player to do in it.

As Ellie picks her way across a shopping mall in search of supplies, she encounters Stalkers, Clickers, human foes and a couple of conundrums that require some lateral thinking on the part of the player. She's also able to collect items that can be used to craft weapons and med-kits, and notes that have been left by individuals who are presumably dead.

Even though Left Behind is not without its merits, fans could feel more than a little aggrieved at being fleeced for an hour's worth of content

The flashback sections of the DLC are driven by the narrative rather than the game's mechanics. Players are required to do little else besides listen to the back and forth between Rilley and Ellie; there are no crafting items to scrounge, hardly any fights and precious few puzzles to solve.

There are one or two neat sections involving childhood japes and a riff on arcade fighter stick controls, but you're mainly here for the story. A sense of foreboding pervades throughout, but this is likely due to the fact that most players remember Ellie referring to Rilley in the main campaign - and as such, they know how things end for her.

Left Behind is also incredibly short, clocking in at just over an hour on Normal difficulty. Mind you, its brevity of length is a testament to how well realised The Last Of Us is at using the gaming medium as a storytelling device. Left Behind is surplus to requirements of its parent game's narrative. It's wonderful to be allowed to revisit the game's world and its characters, certainly, but while the story here is genuinely moving, it doesn't really add anything significant.

Close Close

This is probably why the asking price seems rather steep at the time of this writing. Even though Left Behind is not without its merits, fans could feel more than a little aggrieved at being fleeced for an hour's worth of content.

Left Behind is the equivalent of DVD extras. It's a collection of scenes that landed on the cutting room floor. It has no reason to exist beyond the fact that there's an audience out there that is prepared to pay for it because they loved The Last Of Us and want an excuse to revisit its world beyond the multiplayer mode. Those who fall into this camp may feel the price of this DLC is a little dear, even though it spins a gripping yarn.

The verdict

Naughty Dog's next chapter may feel a little too basic and brief for its price tag, but its story still stirs the emotions

  • Genuinely moving
  • More from Ellie and Joel (kinda)
  • Narrative is surplus to requirements
  • Costly for something so brief
PlayStation 3