Naughty Dog's first and only story DLC, Left Behind, is a triumph as much as The Last of Us was.
Had I been working for Roobla back in May 2013 when The Last of Us was released, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would’ve gave it a ten. But it doesn’t matter because, nine months later, I’m giving Naughty Dog’s first and only story DLC, Left Behind, a ten. And that’s not to make up for the fact I didn’t get to review The Last of Us but because it’s that good.
Lasting roughly around two hours, depending on your abilities, Left Behind is a triumph as much as The Last of Us was. There’s something for everyone. For those who want to learn more about the story, you’ll learn. For those who want to kill more infected, you’ll do so. Or just for those who want to relive the magic they first experienced back in May, you’ll relive every moment and make more.
Serving as a prequel to the events of The Last of Us, Left Behind follows original co-protagonist Ellie and her best friend Riley as they attend a military boarding school in the Boston quarantine zone. You’ll follow their adventure as a chain of events changes their lives forever.
Throughout their journey you’ll learn about each of them, their history and eventually the people they become. You’ll be moved by the story, which is as gripping as Joel and Ellie’s original journey. The story wraps round well – mostly anything you didn’t learn about in The Last of Us, you’ll learn here.
Whether you’re playing in a store, dressing up with masks, or fighting each other with water guns, each part feels special. Growing up, Ellie probably didn’t have a childhood – not even probably, she didn’t. She was born into this apocalyptic world, not knowing what the past was like. During each sequence you’ll feel like you’re creating memories for Ellie. You’re giving her the childhood she never really had whilst giving her some sense of fun in her life, something she hasn’t really had before either.
The relationship between Riley and Ellie is contagious. It’s a testament to the incredibly voice work of Yanni King and Ashley Johnson that we’re hooked into their characters. The chemistry is strong and you can truly feel the deep connection they have with each other. Even though sometimes they might find themselves angry with each other, there’s always that deep rooted friendship they’ve come to grown.
A surprising turn of events halfway through the game blew me away – never for one second did I honestly think what I saw would ever happen. As with the actors, it’s also a testament to Neil Druckmann’s incredible script. With surprises, and the occasional laugh or two, Left Behind never deviates from what it’s truly about. It’s about friendship, childhood, survival and people. Each theme is always present throughout the course of the game.
Whilst combat hasn’t changed significantly from The Last of Us, it does feature a new skill which developers called “Multi-faction”. It enables human enemies and the infected to fight each other and saves you from having to battle both. Playing as Ellie obviously is more challenging than Joel, being a young girl it’s hard for her to stand toe-to-toe with an enemy. A couple of times I found myself trying to fight off my enemies with the knife or with my hands and it was completely unsuccessful, whereas with Joel I was able to do so. That’s not a bad thing though – it’s right. Why would a fourteen year old girl be able to fist-battle human enemies?
So with the new “Multi-faction” you’re able to lure the infected to the position of the human enemy by tossing a brick or bottle in their direction, leading them to each other and eventually kill each other. It’s a great technique and whilst some critics have said they would’ve liked to have seen this in the original game, I disagree. As I said, Joel is a more experienced, tougher fighter. He can go toe-to-toe with these men and, whilst it can also be challenging, it’s nothing compared to the challenge Ellie faces when fighting. It suits Ellie’s journey more.
Everything about Left Behind is as beautiful as The Last of Us. Whilst you aren’t able to explore more environments and towns as you were in the original, it doesn’t take away from your experience. Focusing mainly in an abandoned mall, it’s still beautifully detailed and immersive. There’s lots of sights to explore and, unless when it needs to, you’re never really visiting the same place twice. You’re limited, but not so much that it takes anything away from your journey.
One of the things I was impressed with in The Last of Us was its incredibly use of sound. And it’s carried over to Left Behind nicely. Whether it’s the beautifully moving score or whether it’s the terrifying sound of the infected swiftly approaching you, it all makes your playthrough that more enjoyable. No matter how many times you’ve been chased by the infected through the original story, it’s still just as intense and terrifying here. The sound of saliva-built growling builds and builds and it’s makes the action and chase scenes that much better.
Of course, with this being a DLC, there’s not much else to do – but that’s not a bad thing after all it’s technically a feature for the original game. There is, however, a few features which are nicely placed. One of them being the ability to link your playthrough to your Facebook account. You’ll have the chance to post photos taken in the game onto your Facebook. It’s a great way to connect each player’s own journey. Also there is a small side story which I found very interesting.
As you navigate through the mall and approach the crashed helicopter, if you explore the surrounding area more, you’ll find notes written by the surviving members of the helicopter crew and their journey of survival themselves. After reading the first note, I was interested. After reading the second I was engrossed – I wanted to know more. So as I progressed through my own journey I made sure to explore each area for more notes to finally know what really happened to these men. It’s a small feature but something that adds to your playthrough.
If this really is, as Naughty Dog say, the only story DLC planned then I’m sad to be leaving The Last of Us universe. I’ve been incredibly entertained, moved and taken aback by the powerful storytelling both games have had on me. Naughty Dog continue to prove why they are deserving of every single award they have won this year. If we never return then, without a shadow of a doubt, The Last of Us, and Left Behind, is one of the greatest video games ever made and it’ll be remembered for years to come.