written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
Arguably, The Last of Us was one of the most praised video games of 2013. Early in this new year, we finally get our hands on the first piece of story centric DLC for the game. Left Behind gives us a deeper glimpse into Ellie's character and her best friend Riley, who we know from the game, has been dead since before the start of Joel and Ellie's tale. With this being a game, I was curious how the developers would include gameplay during a part before Ellie became the badass mini Lara Croft she became when you controlled her in The Last of Us. I was very pleasantly surprised and I think you will be too.
Interestingly, the story sheds light on two untold stories from The Last of Us. The majority of the combat sequences take place in a series of events following a midpoint in the game where Joel is mortally wounded and Ellie frantically tries to save his life. She gets him to an abandoned shopping mall and locks him in one of the shops while she searches for medical supplies. This prompts a series of flashbacks to events that unfolded prior to the game. Ellie is suddenly woken up when her friend Riley has snuck back to visit her, Riley enlisted herself in the Fireflies and coerces Ellie to sneak out so the old friends can spend some time together before Riley leaves for good.
The two girls find themselves in an abandoned mall and the majority of their side story is spent exploring, playing with random toys they find, and making such a racket I was saying, "do you not realize that the world is swarming with infected people?" When this DLC pack was first announced, I was curious how they would tackle combat, I knew that Ellie didn't really come into her own as a combatant until the events of The Last of Us. The flashbacks are an interesting take on the story and one I felt was executed very well. The slow paced lull of the Riley flashbacks worked well as the antithesis to the combat heavy solo missions with Ellie searching for medical supplies. While the two sequences were inherently very different from each other, I never felt like one detracted from the other. As a total package, it just felt like both sides fit together.
It's been a while since I've played the game but when I played this DLC pack I was still amazed that this game was possible on the PS3 hardware. I've been gaming pretty heavily on the nextgen consoles so sometimes when I go back to lastgen games the difference in graphic fidelity is pretty obvious. Everything is still amazing. Refer to our previous review of The Last of Us for a more comprehensive review of the game's presentation. Long story short, still freaking amazing.
The control scheme is by large unchanged, after playing the Ellie solo missions during the main game I was left amazed and wanting more. This DLC delivers on the wish and then some. During the combat sequences, there were moments that involved taking on both infected and hunters. I never realized it during the main campaign but those encounters were kept fairly separate from each other. With the DLC, Ellie could force the infected to chase after the hunters with a simple toss of a bottle. This variety of combat made for a much more enjoyable gameplay experience.
While honestly the thought never crossed my mind playing the original game, but after the inclusion in the DLC, I will now look at the main game quite differently in regards to combat and wishing there were more moments like the ones presented in Left Behind.
One criticism I had was with the ramped up difficulty in battles, they were never too hard but certain moments had me going "c'mon!! There's more of em?" One particular moment occurred during a wave of hunters trying to break the lock protecting Joel and hunting Ellie in the process, after dispatching them one would think it was over right? NOPE. Inspecting the lock forces another wave of hunters to attack; this would have been fine if I wasn't completely out of ammo and supplies to make Molotov cocktails or bombs. I don't mind difficulty spikes and challenges, but it's far too common in games to make the final encounter one that makes the player flip tables proclaiming, "fuck this shit! I'm done."
While the experience was fairly short, the polish behind this DLC pack and the engaging way they presented the story make this a must download for anyone who has played the main campaign. While the meat and potatoes of this side story is a prequel, I urge those who haven't played the game yet to finish The Last of Us before tackling Left Behind. Much like the main game, this side story will stay with you long after the final credits roll.
+ Highly polished total package
+ Variety in combat
+ THE STORY!
- Short, over far too soon!
- frustrating combat near the end