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The Last Of Us: Left Behind Spoiler-Free Review: Ellie’s Fitting Start
This review will be written sans spoilers. Keep an eye out for upcoming Leviathyn spoilercasts and discussions if you’ve finished the game and want to discuss it!
That masterful creative duo Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann have done it again. Last year they gave us the multi-award-winning and GotY-garnering experience The Last Of Us, and now they return to fill in a blank or two in the game’s narrative with the downloadable expansion Left Behind.
In Left Behind, we assume the role of Ellie. This is Ellie before she met Joel; Ellie before she left the Boston quarantine zone for the first time and went on the near-fatal road trip across the USA. This is Ellie before she knew she was immune to the cordyceps parasite. This is Ellie reunited with her best friend Riley, who left her on bad terms almost two months before- who now convinces Ellie to go on a midnight tryst with her to an abandoned, out-of-quarantine mall. (This is world building from the game’s first ten or fifteen minutes of new plot- no spoilers present.)
Frankly, while Left Behind‘s story is fantastic, it’s not quite as sublime as The Last Of Us’. Where The Last Of Us doesn’t have a single word too few or too many, Left Behind has a little touch of repetitive filler dialogue and, what’s worse, the potentially powerful last moment of the DLC is ruined by slight overwriting. The Last Of Us left players gaping in bittersweet awe, but Left Behind is only passingly tragic. It feels like Druckmann and Straley could have extended it by a couple of minutes, or reworded parts of the last scene.
I’m fairly certain that this is my only problem with Left Behind. The DLC is, for the most part, brilliant. The rest of the story is fantastic, unexpected and exciting. Even though we’re still seeing the dilapidated remains of Boston and elsewhere, Naughty Dog have gone out of their way to imbue the world with bright colours and brilliant details which were, for the most part, sorely absent from the main game. Ellie and Riley’s banter and interaction is heart-breakingly heart-warming. The fact that we know how the DLC will end makes every joke, every argument, every tender moment between the two stand out.
In pure gameplay terms, one of the weakest aspects of The Last Of Us was that combat encounters never developed. Their design is not dynamic. The only thing that The Last Of Us ever altered in its combat was the amount of enemies. We either fight humans or those who are infected with the cordyceps. I love the game’s combat, don’t get me wrong, but I was frustrated that the only thing that ever changed in fighting was that there were more enemies.
Indeed, I always thought that the one thing The Last Of Us missed out on was combat sequences where human enemies and the infected would interact with each other. That felt like such a missed trick, to me. So, wonderfully enough, Left Behind features several encounters where humans enter an area, while some infected are already standing around in that area. And you can make stuff go down.
Left Behind’s gameplay has more economy and purity than the main game’s campaign. There is no upgrade system which tells you incidentally how long the game will go on for. There are more enemies. Probably the only problem in Left Behind is that there are several sections which are unstealthable- no matter how well you sneak up on an enemy or get the drop on them, they will always spin to meet you. That is a problem.
All in all, though, I’ve probably played Left Behind for about five hours, even though it’s a two hour DLC. This is simply because those Ellie vs. hunter vs. cordyceps conflicts are so amazing. It’s shocking that they weren’t in the main game.
Overall, if you have a Season Pass, Left Behind is essential playing. If you don’t have the season pass, the fifteen dollar price of entry is arguably too steep- but if you want a chunk of highly replayable The Last Of Us combat and a little more time spent as Ellie, it’s definitely worth it.