Developers: Naughty Dog
Publishers: Sony Computer Entertainment
Plot: While Ellie struggles to save Joel’s life, she remembers her last close friendship with newly recruited Firefly, Riley, and how those brief moments of happiness were brutally taken from her.
In many regards, this DLC is painfully predictable. The majority of the story takes place during a flashback, memories that Ellie told us about during the original game. We know how it ends and we know what happens, yet Naughty Dog still create a story and atmosphere that has us at the edge of our seats, hearts in our mouth…
This DLC is both a prequel and a sidequel. It opens with recycled scenes from the first game, the moment where Joel suffers a terrifyingly bloody wound, fighting off bandits. This time the action does not cut away three months, but holds the moment and we begin playing Ellie (Ashley Johnson, NOT ELLEN PAGE, returning to the voice cast to give us a truly outstanding performance), as she searches for medical supplies in a mall, those bandits still on their tail and Infected hiding in the darker parts of the shopping centre. However, these moments are punctuated by flashes to the past, where Ellie is still training to be a member of the military. An old friend, Riley, believed to have been killed in action a few weeks before, shows up. She has been recruited by the Fireflies and wants to show Ellie the amazing world that the military are hiding from her. Ellie and Riley go to a mall of their own and rekindle a friendship, so lost in the good, old days that they forget that danger still hides around every corner.
The two adjacent storylines help each other out really well. For example, from a gamer’s point of view, the sidequel stuff, with Ellie fighting her way to get medical supplies in uncharted territory, is the more exciting content. We get fights, stealth sequences and some brain-teasers that are quite pleasant to slow the game down and enjoy. However, it does feel very generically DLC. It is an extension of the game, and while finding the fresh storyline from within the timeline of the other game feels clever, it doesn’t feel like anything over than an excuse to play The Last of Us again. This is where the prequel story really lifts this DLC from ordinary to a must-see piece of gaming. It is not very action-packed and when you hit the climax of that storyline, it evolves into little more than cut-scene after cut-scene. But you cannot help but get swept up in that side of the game. The Last of Us’s biggest strength is still the fact that the characters feel so real. Sure, the actual characters are nothing new in the gaming industry, but the dialogue is so fresh and natural that you cannot help, but like them, and cannot help but want to see how their story develops. Yes, I am turning into a hypocrite that used to slate games like ‘Beyond: Two Souls’ which let the story overtake the gaming side of things, yet I cannot help but applaud ‘Left Behind’ for creating such a beautifully compelling story.
I love the little mini-games in the Ellie/Riley story as well. One moment sees the two of you see who can throw the most bricks at two parked cars. Another scene sees the two of you fight it out using water pistols, taking every little essence of your typical action sequences, but making it fun, rather than brutally tense (there is plenty of time for that on the other storyline!) However, one of the best moments in this game for me was where Ellie imagines herself playing an arcade fighting game. She closes her eyes and Riley narrates the action to you. You have to mash buttons, just like an arcade game, but it is all imagined. It sounds terrible and hard to picture, but when you are there in that moment, just like Ellie, it works, helped by an imaginative soundboard bringing these thoughts to life. Yes, the prequel elements might be little more than talking, but they are fresh enough to work and, at the end of the day, they expand one of the year’s most exciting gaming characters, making it difficult to truly criticise the slow pace of the DLC.
And when the action does creep up, it is never anything less than absolutely intense. When you are running from the Infected, you can feel them just behind you, screaming at the top of their lungs. You are always absolutely sure that you will get grabbed and slaughtered at any moment. The fights are also breathtakingly suspenseful. Bandits sometimes survive the first bullet and it becomes a race to put them out of their misery, before the other attackers zero in on you and start firing bullets. When you are confronted with a row of various Infected blocking your way, it becomes a very tactical game. You need to take them out in a certain order, so they do not all come at you at once. Sure, it might get frustrating at times, but because the Last of Us never compromises on difficulty, when you do come out of a fight alive, it can be one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. And the Last of Us DLC, if nothing else, is definitely satisfying.
Final Verdict: Maybe a tad routine, but for a DLC, this is a tremendous piece of gaming and anyone that loved the first game should make this the next thing on their To-Play list.
I really need to get this. My favourite parts of The Last of Us were the quiet moments when Joel and Ellie are walking through abandoned shops etc and just talking. Can’t wait to play Left Behind