Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
As someone who enjoyed The Last Of Us (perhaps significantly more than our on-site review) I was both excited and rather nervous about Left Behind. After all, getting your money’s worth out of DLC has always been a hot topic here on Dealspwn, and buying season passes ahead of time has added further fuel to that fire (and is something we really, really suggest you do not do – wait for the content to be revealed and reviewed first to avoid disappointment.) Thankfully, Left Behind provides a delicate and engrossing look at Ellie’s life before she met Joel in an extra chapter that fans of The Last Of Us should absolutely get hold of.
With that rather stark and quite upfront endorsement, let’s explain why I feel that is the case. It should come as no surprise that the narrative aspects of The Last Of Us are as strong as ever in Left Behind, with the optional environmental interactions once again bringing a very human touch between the traversal and action sequences. This time around, the subject of lost innocence and growing up in a world gone to hell is the main focus, as Ellie’s relationship with her best friend Riley reaches a critical turning point. It should come of no surprise that the script is of a high standard, but it is the performances by Ashley Johnson and Yanni King that make each interaction between the two a highlight of the DLC.
What is perhaps the most surprising aspect is how the game offers a limited form of replayability through dialogue choices and the outcome a few set pieces. It doesn’t affect the end game in any shape or form, but those hungry to learn more about the world of TLOU, or that wish to futher explore the relationship between Ellie and Riley, have the opportunity to do so by replaying the DLC. It’s the sort of thing that is usually reserved for adventure games like The Walking Dead or Beyond: Two Souls, but the way Naughty Dog have implemented it here is expertly done and, as I said before, is not something I expected from a third person action game. In that respect, it succeeds in being a piece of DLC that die-hard fans will appreciate, while not punishing those that have had their fill and moved on by holding back key story points. After all, we all know what ultimately happens – all Left Behind does is fill in a few of the blanks that remained and gives us one more chance to guide Ellie through the hell on Earth she finds herself in – but the ability to find tune the experience through these choices is perfect for DLC such as this, and perhaps hints at the ways Naughty Dog will enhance their storytelling through gameplay in the future.
When it comes to the combat, expect nothing to have really changed for the DLC – if you had issues with the way the controls worked in the main game, how certain sections force you to eliminate enemies before continuing, or how the game itself is a rather linear affair, expect them to continue here. If anything, I found the action sequences far more punishing this time around than I did when I originally went through TLAU. Admittedly that may be down to having not played the game in months, but I feel part of it is down to how Ellie doesn’t have the same opportunities to use brute force that Joel does, making encounters with scavengers and infected a much more unnerving affair.
Thankfully, Naughty Dog provides an interesting twist in a few of the arenas in Left Behind, allowing Ellie to turn these two groups on each other, and escape while the carnage unfolds. Watching as the scavengers panic while under attack certainly made for some satisfying, if rather gruesome, scenes, but outside of these moments it’s the same gameplay we saw from the main game on the whole. Of course, with the focus being on the narrative in Left Behind, the pacing between these moments of action is a bit slower compared to the main game, but when it does all kick off, don’t expect it to be a cakewalk on hard difficulty or above (I dare not even try it on Survivor. Jeez.)
While those who wish to discover hidden items and listen to every conversation available will get more time out of it, the main bulk of the DLC only a couple of hours long. I managed to beat it in around three hours on hard difficulty, and that included several restarts during the final encounter and a few others for plot related reasons (I’ll keep the details slim here so not to spoil anything.) In some ways, it’s similar to an OVA in what it provides in terms of content, so in terms of value it boils down to this - if you weren’t as thrilled with the story of TLOU as I was, then £11.99 is perhaps a stretch too far, but those who fell in love with the narrative Druckerman created will find Left Behind an exceptional purchase in what is a final farewell to Ellie and Joel.
- Yet more exceptional storytelling from Naughty Dog.
- Strong interactive elements that provide limited replaybility.
- Combat sections that are just as unnerving as the main game.
- Some may find the combat sections more challenging without Joel’s use of brute force.
- Outside of the story elements, it’s more of the same gameplay.
- The short run-time of the DLC makes it only for the biggest of TLOU fans.
The short version:
In a time when DLC continues to be hit or miss in terms of execution, it’s good to see that Naughty Dog have managed to find the right balance with Left Behind. Touching and heart-warming with its narrative, whilst keeping the sense of dread that exuded from The Last Of Us, die-hard fans of Joel and Ellie’s adventure should absolutely get hold of this as a standalone purchase if they have opted to not get the Season Pass.