The Last of Us: Left Behind DLC Review

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First, some background:

There’s very little to say about The Last of Us that hasn’t already been said by every gaming website from here to IGN. The game is good like kittens are cute, the sun is hot, are children are flammable. It was my choice for Game of the Year during a close race with some top-quality titles dropping this year.

I tell you this simply as a matter of comparison. DLC for top-notch games must be careful to bring the same quality found in the source game while talking about something that’s technically not essential to the overall story. For Left Behind, I’m forced to sit at the back of the bar and give it a cheerful thumbs-up and a smile.

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That means it’s good, and I’m proud of it.

So Naughty Dog, not content to give its players just one extra map to play, offers us two Ellie stories in Left Behind. The first takes place during part of the game that was skipped over. It’s a part near the end of the game where Joel [deleted for spoiler reasons] and Ellie must [redacted] alone.

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How am I supposed to talk about this game? Just… go beat it and come back. Do your homework.

The second story is actually an origin story for Ellie, just like we got for Joel at the beginning of the full game. It tells the story of Ellie before she got caught up in saving the world via cross-country tour with the world’s gruffest man. It’s basically just Ellie hanging out with her fiend Riley, a girl who had been Ellie’s roommate at military school (post-apocalypse military school) who left to join the Fireflies but comes back for [spoilers for days!].

This is some solid DLC we’re dealing with here. The gameplay from the original game is left intact and shines through during the segments where Ellie is alone. These segments are basic Last of Us goodness, combining stealthy fungi-zombie moments and evil human gunplay moments. The best part is, when I say combining I mean literally combining. At more than one point during the Ellie-alone gameplay, hunters and clickers are in the same room and one can be set onto the other with a little finesse, leaving Ellie to mop up the remains. Just like the original game, these strategy segments make you feel like a true survivalist.

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Bricks and empty bottles are so important they may as well be the currency of the zomb-future.

Unfortunately, none of the game’s original gameplay issues are resolved, either. Clickers can still be triggered even when the player did nothing wrong. At the very least, the DLC doesn’t include NPC characters running around in ways that ABSOLUTELY SHOULD GET THEM SHOT/EATEN, so the illusion is maintained there. Instead, the illusion is broken in other ways. Left Behind is not programmed as well as the rest of the game, and on multiple occasions I had enemies appear with no warnings, leading to some cheap deaths. The worst one was in a room with waist-high water, where the zombies appeared with no splashing, no audio queues, and no visible entryways. Now just try to picture the zomb-pocalypse with teleporting zombies and tell me if that sounds fair.

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We don’t need these guys laying waste to society and space/time.

The second story (we’ll call this the “origin story” section), focuses less on gameplay and more on talking about Ellie’s life before the main storyline. Gameplay takes a back seat here in order to focus more on the character development. It’s not that the gameplay is gone completely, but it’s replaced by a series of mini-games based on specific skills players develop during the main game, like brick throwing and holding back tears during the sad story moments.

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None of which I can show you, but I swear it’s like I play this game to earn a good cry.

Whether or not players will like these sections will depend on each player’s preference for long cut scenes. The impatient player is going to feel like they completely kill the pacing, especially since the game jumps back and forth between the two stories, usually right after the reveals of major twists. For those who were into the story of The Last of Us, these sections are going to be new canon in a heartbeat. Almost nothing was known about Ellie before, apart from a handful of expositional sentences. This origin story gives us so many details, including additional reasons Ellen Page should sue Naughty Dog over likeness issues.

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Is that a subtle-enough joke?

If a DLC’s purpose is to give the player more, then this most certainly succeeds. More story, more gameplay, more strategies, more character development, the works. Still, this DLC is going to be best appreciated by true fans of the game only, because getting your full value out of it requires a bit of patience. As someone already in love with Ellie, I had no choice but to love it, but I’m aware that there are a number of players out there who got through The Last of Us with a shrug, or they thought it was pretentious, or any complaint of choice, really. If you already love these characters then you’ll be a pig in mud, and there’s quite few “so that’s why” moments tying back into details from the main story.

So I’m saying this mini zombie-fest is fans only. Enjoy surviving, everybody!