The Last Of Us is my favourite game of 2013. It had one of the most gripping storylines I’ve ever seen in a video game, and it transcended the medium in ways that we’ve until this point, not seen very often. To say I was excited for Left Behind would be a gross understatement, as it was my most anticipated DLC last year. I am so happy to say that it is every bit as good as The Last Of Us was, and in some ways, improves upon the formula.
It is worth noting that saying anything about the story beyond the basic premise would spoil the experience of watching the tale unfold, so I will make no mention of any of the events. Left Behind has you playing the role of Ellie prior to the events of The Last Of Us as she tries to get by in a military boarding school, but this takes a back seat once Riley joins the fray, as young people feeding off of each others energy often leads to trouble. The chemistry between Riley and Ellie is so realistic you hardly feel like you are playing a video game; every single scene is acted and written with a finesse that is so often unmatched that you are taken aback by some of what you’re witnessing.
Riley is a wonderful character who stands out as one of the best characters in all of The Last Of Us. I found that I cared about her immediately, and much like Ellie who is possibly my favourite character, her personality revolves around energetic feistiness that is always endearing and never obnoxious. This personality is brought to light once again by Naughty Dog‘s almost scary ability to write characters and dialogue that stay with you forever.
Not only is the dialogue fantastic, but the actual plot itself somehow stays fresh despite anyone who played The Last Of Us knowing most of what will happen. As with the main game, a lot of the major plot points feel like they’ve been taken out of other stories, but the way they are handled makes them much more interesting and emotional than their counterparts. The story has an interesting way of telling itself, wherein it flashes between different time periods at such perfectly chosen times that you’re constantly hoping it will swap back to see what happens next. So many moments had me either agape or holding back tears that I could hardly keep up with each new scenario presented.
These scenarios were handled with such care as Left Behind has brilliant pacing. Each scene that happens feels like it ends exactly when it should, and the focus is always on the right aspect; you never question why you’re being shown something or wish that they’d hurry up and move on. What’s more, the pacing also never wavers during gameplay sections either. Exploration and combat situations seem to never outstay their welcome, and they progress in difficulty at an almost poetic degree until a final encounter that leaves you shaking from what just took place.
The gameplay stays very close to what The Last Of Us set in motion. Ellie controls exactly the same as Joel with wavering aim and recoil to boot. She also gets a Shiv that can be used repeatedly without breaking, so she can be a dangerous foe when utilized properly. The one downside to Ellie is that she cannot be levelled up in any way, as there are no collectible pill bottles that increase her efficiency with tools and the like.
Encounters have become more varied and add a level of ingenuity to them that was absent from The Last Of Us, where clickers and humans will fight battles as you look down from above, planning out your tactics. Clickers will also sometimes storm onto the battlefield as you’re fighting humans, and it drastically changes up the way you play. Using your wits and tactics while dealing with ever-changing scenarios makes for gameplay that, in some ways, also transcends the main game. The encounters start off easy, but by the end of the story you’re sweating trying to stay alive.
The one downside to The Last Of Us was that the melee combat broke the experience if you let it. Mashing square would allow Joel to punch the Infected to death, and since it was a very powerful tactic, you could take on four or more infected at once and it would turn into a comedic version of Fight Club. This is luckily absent in Left Behind, as Ellie doesn’t punch. Her shiv works wonders, but human enemies are a lot larger than her; They can simply punch her to stop her combo, effectively disallowing you access to the Fight Club ‘bonus content’.
The Last Of Us: Left Behind is an almost unbelievable expansion that manages to tell the most emotional story DLC has ever told. Ellie and Riley are beautiful characters, and the interactions between them is alone worth the asking price. If you are as much a fan of The Last Of Us as I am, you probably already have Left Behind. If you do not, get it immediately.