The Last of Us brought with it one of the most incredible stories ever told in a video game, showing the lengths people will go to to protect the ones that they love. Delving into the past, elaborating on the story of Ellie and Riley, Left Behind takes the story to a whole new place, showing the final night of two best friends surviving against all odds.
Left Behind takes place across two sections in The Last of Us timeline, one involving Ellie finding supplies for Joel who is fighting for his life during the Colorado section of the main game, and the other taking place before the events of the main game, in which players get to live the story that Ellie had recounted during the the main game’s incredible ending.
The Last of Us: Left Behind (PlayStation 3)
Developer: Naughty Dog
Released: Feb 14, 2014
The story of Left Behind is simple, but incredibly detailed. Seeing these two girls that know nothing of a pre-infected world, acting like normal teenagers, hanging out at the abandoned mall that echoes the world that fell around it, had a bittersweet feeling to it. Exploring the mall and visiting the stores, provided incredible dialogue between the girls. Ellie and Riley have a rapport that almost seems like the world hadn’t fallen apart around them. The dialogue is supported greatly by the game’s incredible mechanics. The game seamlessly changes the tone of the story as the girls go between the different stores in the mall. Simple things like moving up a functioning escalator or finding a non-functioning arcade cabinet are thrilling to Ellie and Riley. It’s these small moments that are the best part of Left Behind. Seeing the characters react so strongly to Halloween masks, and other things that are mundane to us, made me feel sad for them having never experienced the things that people took for granted before the infection, but also made me happy that they get to see these things in a completely new light.
Having experienced the base game’s devastating story, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of foreboding as the girls had the time of their life in the mall. Every time they discovered something new, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was danger lurking right around the corner. This is definitely not a bad thing, and is in fact a testament to the deep world that was created during The Last of Us. Having such an attachment to these characters and to genuinely care about their lives or what happens to them, really shows how well they were written. If you have played the main campaign, you already know how Left Behind will end. Even in knowing this, I couldn’t help but be hopeful for a happy ending. Knowing the ending didn’t take away from the story, as we only knew the beginning and end. It is the middle of the story of Ellie and Riley that is important. It shows us something completely new, and blindsides us by doing something that was never expected from the game. For some it might be a touchy subject, but covering these topics further solidifies the story being told.
On the other side of the story, Ellie is frantically looking for medical supplies for Joels life-threatening injuries. Also taking place in a mall, the player gets shown a side of the original story that was never seen before. These sections of Left Behind are a lot more tense than the scenes with Ellie and Riley. The danger is a lot more immediate with humans looking for Ellie and Joel, and infected prowling the mall aimlessly. The combat sections feel a lot more intimidating this time around when playing as Ellie. Although she has similar abilities to Joel, having spent the majority of the main game protecting her, thrusting Ellie into these high intensity combat sections feels terrifying, knowing how it turned out during the main story. An added feature that makes the combat feel new, is the ability to make the infected and the humans fight each other. Throwing a bottle or a brick in a room full of clickers, next door to a room full of humans, causes both enemies to investigate, culminating in a fight that alleviates the number of enemies greatly. These combat sections grew tiresome after a few encounters, often feeling forced.
The final fight is quite difficult, with both clickers and humans in such a wide open area that they seem to not care about each other and only target you. Although it was interesting to see this section of the main game that we had never seen before, the highlight of Left Behind was definitely the Ellie and Riley story.
At $14.99 and an average play time of 2 1/2 to 3 hours, Left Behind seems a bit expensive. However, the length of the story did not take away from the overall experience whatsoever. If it was any longer, it would have felt forced, instead of delivering the very organic feeling of the story that was being told. Unlike a lot of DLC, Left Behind is not something that feels tacked on to the final game. It tells an incredibly important story, and even sheds a new light on the already phenomenal story of The Last of Us. It’s the story that needed to be told, not only for the game, but for the gaming community as a whole. Turning a fictional post-apocalyptic world into something grounded and relatable, is an incredible feat, and definitely sets a standard that other story-heavy games will have to follow in the future.