- Level Design
If this is to be The Last of Us’ end, it is surely an end worthy of remembrance (get the reference anyone? I’ll wait…). Besides serving as a prequel to Ellie’s story in the main story, the Left Behind DLC also fills in a small gap of time previously left to the player’s imagination in which Ellie desperately searches for antibiotics to heal a certain someone who fell on a certain protruding iron rod. If you imagined a frantic Ellie combing a nearby shopping mall for anything of use while dealing with the usual suspects of clickers, runners and hunters then congratulations, you win the no-prize for obvious scenario writing.
The Left Behind DLC features six chapters, three of which take place during the main game. The DLC truly shines, however, in the three chapters dedicated to Ellie’s development pre-bite and pre-Joel. We meet Riley Able, Ellie’s bestest buddy who surprises her after weeks away with news that she’s “found the light” and joined the Fireflies. What follows is a disobeying romp through a military refugee camp mostly centered in another underground shopping mall area.
There is little combat in the prequel sections, although there is still plenty to do while fully exploring the surrounding area. As in the main game, conversation triggers enrich the character interactions and give insight into Ellie’s relationship with Riley. The origin of Ellie’s beloved pun books from the main story is revealed and there are puns aplenty in here, if you choose to sit through them all. There is also a funny bit in a Halloween costume store with “skeleseer,” a skull Magic 8-Ball. Although there are 20 conversations in total to collect for the inevitable trophy, many of them are compounded on the same object, like the aforementioned skeleseer. I only missed a couple on my first playthrough of the DLC, so if you’re meticulous you shouldn’t have much of a problem hearing all of the dialogue Left Behind has to offer. If you missed anything, chapter select functions the same as always for claiming missed collectibles.
Despite the lack of any real combat in the prequel scenario (there are some, but there be spoilers) and the usual friend-mad-at-friend-for-leaving-without-saying-bye thing we’ve all seen a hundred times over, these sections still stay lively, fast-paced, and fun with an occasional minigame thrown in for good measure. The first is a brick throwing competition, where the girls race to break every window of a respective car. The second, and most fun in my opinion, takes place in an arcade where Ellie fake-plays a fighting game. The whole sequence is a blast and is written tremendously well, and the quick-time button presses required to defeat the evil Black Fang feel authentic to fighting game arcade sticks. The last minigame is sort of story-specific so I don’t want to ruin a nice moment by revealing what it is, but it takes on stealth-combat element not otherwise seen in the three prequel chapters.
In terms of combat, the three “present day” chapters are more akin to The Last of Us proper. There aren’t many fights, and even then a few are mostly skip-able using the right mix of stealth and sprint (a tactic I recommend for survivor runs). However the fight right near the end of the DLC, while fun and mildly difficult on easier settings, is brutal on survivor mode. As in the main game, survivor mode limits resources that are just lying about. This seems to have taken it to an extreme though, as by the end of my survivor playthrough all I could craft was one measly smoke bomb. Admittedly, I did forsake some materials for the sake of hightailing it away from a conflict with three clickers armed with nothing but my knife and a few pistol shots, but I can’t imagine getting through Left Behind without taking such an approach.
There is a great new combat dynamic that I would be remiss not to mention. Where in The Last of Us enemies of certain types, such as infected and hunters, usually attacked distinctly, now they are both inhabiting the same areas. The hunters keep quiet around the infected, but a simple toss of a bottle or brick will draw the infected out to play and keep the hunters occupied. Using this trick a couple of times in Left Behind will significantly lower the raw number of enemies that must be dispatched (or slinked past). Picking off the few hunters or infected (I had different groups survive in my playthroughs) is a relative breeze.
It was difficult for me to not compare Left Behind to Burial at Sea, Bioshock Infinite’s first story DLC. While my opinion of the latter has oscillated a bit since my review, I imagine my stance on Left Behind will remain more static as time runs on. Where Burial at Sea updated Rapture with Infinite-style gameplay elements, Left Behind has the benefit of just giving gamers more of the same and a little extra on top. In a way, it seems like the narrative in Left Behind is simply on auto-pilot, but the characters are so well-developed that Ellie’s history with Riley simply seems inevitable as you watch it play out for the first time.
Great gameplay, amazing characters, more story set in the world of The Last of Us. With a cool new gameplay element and a chance to knife some more baddies, what’s not to love?
As the era of current generation of consoles wanes, Left Behind adds an exclamation mark to the greatness of The Last of Us. Any fan of the first game should pick this up, but who am I kidding? You probably already did.