Giant Bomb Review

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The Last of Us Review

5
  • PS3N

Naughty Dog has delivered a tasteful, heartfelt expansion for a game that didn't even need expanding.

Can you think of a game less in need of more story than The Last of Us? I can't. Joel and Ellie's journey across the ruined American landscape was so tightly paced and satisfyingly concluded, its characters so thoroughly developed, that in a perfect world the game would be allowed to stand alone, a singular testament to Naughty Dog's storytelling talents. That the game didn't need any DLC makes Left Behind's elegant addition to its narrative arc all the more impressive. This is an essential add-on for anyone who treasured the intensely character-driven style of The Last of Us, and wants to spend just a few more moments in its world.

Left Behind shows you who Riley was, and what she meant to Ellie.

Left Behind doesn't offer any profound revelations about cordyceps, the Fireflies, or other background elements of The Last of Us' grim reality. True to the spirit of the base game, it merely gives form and adds texture to characters and themes that were hinted at in the original story. As such, it's deeply intertwined with the events of The Last of Us, so if you don't know what happens in that game and want to keep it that way, stop reading now.

The DLC opens by revisiting that horrific moment when Joel is impaled on a metal rod, and then deftly shifts between the "present," in which Ellie desperately makes her way through a shopping mall in search of medical supplies to stitch him up, and flashbacks to the time before Ellie was bitten, before she realized she was immune, when she shared a teenager's tumultuous but abiding affection with her best friend Riley. The filmic sensibilities that so enhanced the original game's presentation again work to great effect here, with hard cuts from one time period to the other coming at just the right moments, when the drama is at its height, to keep you intensely engaged in moving the plot forward.

Ellie's present-day struggle through the Colorado mall is where all the fighting is. Left Behind wisely avoids laying on the combat too thick just to pad out its length; there are only a handful of enemy encounters spread evenly through the story, and what light puzzle-solving there is doesn't impede your progress for long (and you don't push any wooden pallets around in the water, thankfully). The game adds the neat twist of mixing human and infected enemies into the same scenarios, allowing you to pit them against each other with just a little creativity. This portion of the DLC is fairly straightforward, but even here Naughty Dog takes the opportunity to tell a short found story, similar to the Ish business in the original game, that resonates with Ellie and Joel's predicament.

One of the best moments in the whole DLC takes place right here.

It's the flashbacks to a relatively more innocent time that give Left Behind its spark. After disappearing without explanation weeks earlier, Riley returns to drop in on Ellie and takes her on a heartfelt day trip through another shopping mall. Cue a bounty of wonderful character-building scenes and exchanges between the two, as they briefly get the mall's power up and running and then get a wistful glimpse of what life might have been like before the world ended. Thankfuly there's no combat in the flashback portion, just a lot of great talking and exploring through a costume shop, a music store, and a merry-go-round, among others. On several occasions, Left Behind makes fantastic, offbeat use of the game's existing mechanics that put a big, goofy grin on my face (and those moments are better experienced for yourself than described in a review). The flashback scenes are mostly playful, but there's an undercurrent of sadness and finality to it all that continually reminds you where this reunion must inevitably end up.

Having finished The Last of Us, you'll be somewhat familiar with who Riley was, but Left Behind solidifies her importance to the game's greater storyline and makes it clear how much she meant to Ellie, and the effect she had on Ellie's formative years. Their relationship is developed well enough during their short jaunt through the mall that you'll dread the conclusion that you know is coming. And telling Riley's story is what allows Left Behind to justify its other half, set in the present. It's not a mystery that Ellie had to strike out on her own to fix Joel up, but seeing firsthand what she's been through and lost makes you appreciate why she fights so hard to hang on to what she has left.

Left Behind packs a lot of great moments into its short running time.

Some may knock Left Behind for its relative brevity, at two to three hours, but this is one of those clear cases of quality over quantity, and I for one appreciate an add-on that imparts a lot of narrative value to a game like this without overstaying its welcome. It's delightfully ironic that the one game which really didn't need any DLC has received one of the best pieces of DLC in recent memory. Left Behind is a fine blueprint that details the right way to thoughtfully and meaningfully expand on the arc of a story-driven game.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
86 Comments
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Edited by jiggajoe14

I always keep forgetting to get this...need to do so immediately.

Posted by e30bmw

Surprise review!

Pretty excited to try out this DLC, gonna wait until I get my new TV though.

Posted by Bobdamicus

Now I'm going to have to get my ps3 back out...

Posted by MjHealy

I found that the combat segments were a drag in this DLC. Nonetheless, the story they craft between Riley and Ellie is the kind of thing you don't see in a big retail game. Overall, a fine bit o' DLC. Good review, Brad.

Posted by ILikePopCans

First Brad review of the year. Here we go!

Posted by QuaglarTheIV

I always keep forgetting to get this...need to do so immediately.

Me too! I will read the review once I'm done. Stoked it got 5 stars!

Edited by PimblyCharles

Don't own a PS3 anymore, so went to my friend's house the other day to play this, and we both couldn't stop laughing at Ellie's banter. The arcade was great, but I found the funniest and more memorable moments in the Halloween store. The enemy encounters were quite difficult at times, which really added a lot of tension. The side story was fantastic. Sucks to think this will be the last we get from Naughty Dog until the new Uncharted. Glad Sony got them to make this DLC though.

Posted by jimmyfenix

@polako: Damn son you really went all out.

Yeah i knew this would be awesome. So much money being spent arghhh!

Edited by fargofallout

It's sort of funny - I bummed my copy of The Last of Us to a friend, but I forgot I had done so, and the day this DLC came out, I went looking for the disc, and remembered he had taken it. I dropped him a line to see if he'd mail me the game so I could play this, but not wanting to wait, I got a copy from RedBox, and finished the DLC the day I rented it.

So, yeah, it's short. But everything Brad says is spot-on. It's a great addition to a great game. I don't at all regret having spent $15 on it. If you enjoyed the base game, I don't see how you could possibly not enjoy this.

Posted by DostoyevskysShamblingCorpse

Gone Home 2

Edited by Manlyzar

The Jak arcade machine and Skull in the Halloween shop were the best parts of the game. Really fun DLC.

Posted by MormonWarrior

I played The Last of Us. I have no idea who Riley is.

Posted by Hadoken

Always a fan of Brad's writing, a good read.

Edited by CaLe

The moment with Riley towards the end felt so completely natural and unforced that for the slightest moment I forgot we even lived in a world where what Ellie did could possibly be perceived as anything other than what it was, an expression of real love.

I'm not sure if this could be considered a spoiler or not, so I'll spoiler it just to be safe.

Posted by Hassun
Posted by AuthenticM

I'm buying this game.

Edited by RonGalaxy
@hassun said:

@narujoe93

Please don't quote posts like that.

I do it instinctively, but you're right. Should have just replied. I messaged the mods, so they'll probably delete that comment, so it should be all good.

Edit: actually, I'll just delete it.

Posted by Maajin
@mjhealy said:

I found that the combat segments were a drag in this DLC. Nonetheless, the story they craft between Riley and Ellie is the kind of thing you don't see in a big retail game. Overall, a fine bit o' DLC. Good review, Brad.

I would guess you were not a fan of the combat in the main game, right? As someone who loved it, I found the combat in the DLC fantastic and the twist of having enemy humans and infected together went a long way.

Posted by ReCkLeSs_X

A beautiful expansion

Edited by Milkman

I found the combat sequences a bit of a drag (the added element of using infected as a weapon against the humans was cool though) but the writing and story was so good that by the end, I kind of didn't care. Ellie and Riley is one of the most believable character relationships I've seen in a game. They totally nailed it on the story side in every way.

Posted by Humanity

Brad mentions that having completed TLoU one would already know who Riley was. This is learned through some text collectible? Or am I just blanking on a cutscenes from the main game? I don't remember anyone like Riley being mentioned even once.

Edited by CaLe
@humanity said:

Brad mentions that having completed TLoU one would already know who Riley was. This is learned through some text collectible? Or am I just blanking on a cutscenes from the main game? I don't remember anyone like Riley being mentioned even once.

She brings her up right at the end of the game, loosely describing the events of what happens in the DLC.

Posted by Stealthmaster86

@humanity: She was mention quite a bit. Ellie even had her Firefly pendent.

Edited by Zornack

One of the best pieces of DLC I've ever played.

Edited by ll_Exile_ll

@humanity said:

Brad mentions that having completed TLoU one would already know who Riley was. This is learned through some text collectible? Or am I just blanking on a cutscenes from the main game? I don't remember anyone like Riley being mentioned even once.

It happens in the last cutscene in the game. Ellie tells Joel that her and a friend were bitten at the same time and decided to go out together, but she's still waiting for her turn. She says she was her best friend, and she was the first to die, then Tess, then Sam etc.

Online
Edited by Feller13

I loved TLOU and really didn't want it to have DLC. It doesn't need a sequel. It is amazing and should stand on its own. But with how short and good this DLC is, I'm glad I got it.

Posted by Zevvion

I'm not sure why I'm surprised with the 5 stars. I thought The Last of Us was worth 5 stars and enjoyed playing through it 2 times myself. I guess I just have a very low expectation of DLC. I should probably check this out.

I also find it interesting how this DLC basically came about due to the prequel comic series.

@hassun said:

@narujoe93

Please don't quote posts like that.

I do it instinctively, but you're right. Should have just replied. I messaged the mods, so they'll probably delete that comment, so it should be all good.

Edit: actually, I'll just delete it.

Well now... now I'm really curious what you quoted. Was it one of those making money from home spam ads?

Posted by RonGalaxy
Posted by James_Hayward

I think I'm really going to have to get this.

Posted by Sooty

I might pick this up when I get a PS3 again for Persona 5.

Posted by mintyice

@brad is the best writer at Giant Bomb and it's a shame we don't get to see more of his writing on the site. Awesome review. Keep it up!

Posted by Vrikk

You should really not read this review if you've yet to beat the original game.

Posted by Domineeto

I actually got sick of The Last of Us towards the end. Just as the characters started growing on me the gameplay got so tedious.

Left Behind is probably my favourite chunk of The Last of Us content. It has a certain quality that makes you forget you are even playing a game, something the base game lacked.

Posted by medacris

I'm not sure if I'm going to buy the Uncharted and Last of Us games. Part of me wants to, part of me is totally averse to it.

  • On one hand, I just dig cartoony graphics much more than realistic ones, I'm totally burnt out on anything zombie-related, and all I want Naughty Dog to do is make more Jak and Daxter and Crash Bandicoot games. I want a game that will make me laugh.
  • On the other hand, I really like the idea of games having more badass, ethnically diverse, gay characters. Not just gaming, but media in general needs more of this.
Posted by Video_Game_King

I kind of wish you'd given the game 1 or 2 stars just so those two characters would have to look upon their failure.

Edited by falling_fast

@medacris said:

I'm not sure if I'm going to buy the Uncharted and Last of Us games. Part of me wants to, part of me is totally averse to it.

  • On one hand, I just dig cartoony graphics much more than realistic ones, I'm totally burnt out on anything zombie-related, and all I want Naughty Dog to do is make more Jak and Daxter and Crash Bandicoot games. I want a game that will make me laugh.
  • On the other hand, I really like the idea of games having more badass, ethnically diverse, gay characters. Not just gaming, but media in general needs more of this.

I think The Last of Us is a lot better than the Uncharted games. It actually has a story (a very good one) and characters with character. Don't be fooled by people mentioning Indiana Jones and Uncharted in the same sentence. Uncharted is a perfectly good action packed third person shooter, but it's not THAT good. that said, if you want to pick one up, pick up either the second or the third one. the first one is kind of bad.

Posted by TheManWithNoPlan

Well dammit. I guess I gotta drag out my Ps3 and redownload The Last of Us to play this now.

Posted by NTM

"and you don't push any wooden pallets around in the water, thankfully"

That didn't bother me at all. Anyways, I'm actually surprised this is being reviewed here.

Posted by Hef

So we're reviewing DLC now?

Posted by Special_K

I thought Left Behind was tremendous. It felt just as worthwhile as any 2-3 hour chunk of the core game. You can tell that Naughty Dog is experimenting here. They're playing with ideas they might have been afraid to try in the main game and all of them work.

Posted by alwaysbebombing

I'm very happy this DLC exists

Posted by soimadeanaccount

Now this is weird...

People say Ellie looks like Ellen Page

Recently there was news of Ellen Page coming out as a lesbian, and now this...

Edited by Dooley

This DLC was amazing. Just plain beautiful.

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