Giant Bomb Review

72 Comments

The Last of Us: Left Behind 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 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.
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.
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 CommentsRefresh
  • 86 results
  • 1
  • 2

Avatar image for ericpipedream
Posted By ericpipedream

Aw man, this was so good. It's unreal how good Naughty Dog is at making games and telling stories. They really are in a league of their own, and I wish other developers who are attempting to make narrative and story based games would check these guys out. I also have to agree with someone who brought up the plot point where ellie and riley kiss: it was done so well, with all the appropriate emotion in place, with such HONESTY that you almost miss the gravity of what you just saw- it just seemed so natural, and on some level innocent, yet you knew ellie passionately cared for riley and she didn't have any other way to express through words how she felt. Perfect.

Avatar image for shtinky
Edited By Shtinky

This was a pretty cool movie; but a pretty dull game.

Avatar image for kollay
Posted By kollay

Just finished it and... man, hands over my head. Booted the epilogue, again, for added touch. Great DLC.

Avatar image for retrovirus
Posted By RetroVirus

Just finished it and I agree 100%. I really enjoyed the excellent pacing of story and combat, and I really like the scene in the arcade where you play the fighting game, doing all those combos was really fun and unexpected! I'm sad that this is the only piece of single player DLC they're making, but what I got was extremely well made and was a great addition to the story.

Avatar image for fobwashed
Edited By Fobwashed

Welp, this DLC was pretty amazing. Great review.

Avatar image for altairre
Posted By altairre

Absolutely deserved. It even exceeded the high expectations I had going in and to me there is no question that this piece of content is worth the 15 bucks. I liked the Uncharted games but Naughty Dog really won me over with The Last of Us. Can't wait to see what they'll do next besides Uncharted.

Avatar image for sharkethic
Posted By SharkEthic

@bbqbram said:

Five stars indeed. I was expecting a lot from this DLC and was still blown away.

@mormonwarrior said:

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

I tend to listen when the characters are talking, especially during cutscenes, especially the final cutscene.

Ummmmm...I remember exactly what happens there, but I still don't remember who Riley is. Maybe I should rewatch it on YouTube or something?

Maybe you should. It's basically Ellie explaining to Joel just how important it is to her, that he's not lying about what happened at the hospital, giving what happened to her and Riley in Left Behind as the reason. It's basically all the final cutscene is about, and it's pretty fucking powerful. How do you not remember that?:)

Avatar image for mrwoks
Edited By MrWoks

very odd. I had a contrasting experience. As much as I enjoyed the main game this DLC felt like it was taken out of the reality setup in its sequel. Most of the scenarios Riley and Ellie were involved in seemed completely out of place. Power still running to various machinery, items they find that would have been looted IMMEDIATELY by any other scavenger a long time ago. The story was interesting, character well drawn but in the end I did not enjoy this dlc.

Avatar image for mathewmcgee
Posted By MathewMcGee

@hef: Reviewing DLC? Why not? Whats wrong with helping players determine where they should spend their money? How is reviewing a piece of DLC different than reviewing a full game? Especially in this instance?

Great review Brad! Very well said and it didn't overstay its welcome. Write more reviews!

Avatar image for tesla
Posted By Tesla

I just finished it myself, fantastic DLC in every sense of the term.

Avatar image for soimadeanaccount
Posted By soimadeanaccount
Avatar image for homes
Posted By Homes

You don't even need to play this DLC to experience what it has to offer; I watched a playthrough on YouTube and was just as delighted to watch all hour and a half of its gameplay.

Avatar image for pixelatedsoul
Edited By pixelatedsoul

@soimadeanaccount:

It wasn't just recently, it was the very same day. Both these happening on the same day is a mind boggling coincidence.

Avatar image for mormonwarrior
Edited By MormonWarrior

@bbqbram said:

Five stars indeed. I was expecting a lot from this DLC and was still blown away.

@mormonwarrior said:

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

I tend to listen when the characters are talking, especially during cutscenes, especially the final cutscene.

Ummmmm...I remember exactly what happens there, but I still don't remember who Riley is. Maybe I should rewatch it on YouTube or something?

Avatar image for damajadiz
Posted By DaMaJaDiZ

I adored every minute of this dlc. The combat at the end was challenging in a way that I hadn't experienced before. Even after doing a walk through of the area before it all hit the fan, I still had no clear way to immediately use the layout to my advantage. It brought an intensity that I think some found bothersome (like when we were take out of our comfort zone in the main game as Joel was in a compromised position yet had to fight). It's too bad that there won't be anymore story based dlc. I'm jonesing for more!

Avatar image for zeox
Posted By zeox

@andheez said:

Can someone tell me if you need the original game for this? I assume you do, but I sold my system and really want to play this at a friends. Will I need to rent a copy or something to be able download it?

You need a copy of the original, so renting it should be fine

Avatar image for andheez
Edited By Andheez

Can someone tell me if you need the original game for this? I assume you do, but I sold my system and really want to play this at a friends. Will I need to rent a copy or something to be able download it?

Avatar image for zevvion
Edited By Zevvion

People who keep using spoiler tags for stuff that aren't spoilers are seriously fucking great.

Avatar image for ll_exile_ll
Edited By ll_Exile_ll

@kub said:

@ll_exile_ll: But are there other real world brand names in the game? Or is it just Facebook. Are there Coke cans or Wallmart billboards or anything like that? I can't remember any, but maybe I'm wrong. I do remember fake comics or movie posters though. And the mobile phone in intro is a no-brand fake design too. And the arcade game Ellie "plays" is fake. So suddenly seeing Facebook brand in this context brakes immersion pretty badly and feels like advertisement.

For them to be able to use Facebook name and logo there had to be some agreement so I would say it's safe to assume money changed hands, one way or another.

You have no idea what you're talking about. If you think every instance of facebook use involves money, you're delusional. You really think every blog or website that has facebook "like" functionality, every game that posts achievement updates to facebook, every piece of software that integrates your facebook friends, every single instance of some device or game having some kind of facebook integration all pay facebook for the ability to do so?

Facebook benefits from being ubiquitous, which is why it's in the company's best interest to allow external services to integrate facebook functionality into their products. If it cost money to have your game or app post things to facebook or pull in facebook data, only the biggest budget things would be able to afford it, but look around, every app in existence has facebook support.

Frankly though, this discussion is pointless. If you really thought this instance was immersion breaking, I vehemently disagree, but you're certainly entitled to your opinion. There's no way in hell it was paid advertisement, if it was it wouldn't be facebook and it wouldn't be in DLC (and it wouldn't be Naughty Dog), but I can't tell you how to feel, and if it bothered you that's too bad.

Either way, I'm going to leave it here and stop spending so much energy on such an insignificant topic.

Avatar image for tetharion
Edited By Tetharion

@kub said:

@ll_exile_ll:

For them to be able to use Facebook name and logo there had to be some agreement so I would say it's safe to assume money changed hands, one way or another.

... no... it's not

they also didn't get money from twitter, despite there being some references to that.

Avatar image for kub
Edited By Kub

@ll_exile_ll: But are there other real world brand names in the game? Or is it just Facebook. Are there Coke cans or Wallmart billboards or anything like that? I can't remember any, but maybe I'm wrong. I do remember fake comics or movie posters though. And the mobile phone in intro is a no-brand fake design too. And the arcade game Ellie "plays" is fake. So suddenly seeing Facebook brand in this context brakes immersion pretty badly and feels like advertisement.

For them to be able to use Facebook name and logo there had to be some agreement so I would say it's safe to assume money changed hands, one way or another.

Avatar image for ll_exile_ll
Edited By ll_Exile_ll

@kub said:

The one thing that broke immersion for me was Facebook integration and adding it to the actual dialog - what the hell was that?? I don't need such blatant product placement in the full priced game.

It's not product placement. Facebook isn't paying them, social media integration is something entirely different. Also, there totally exist photo booths like that with facebook integration. It enhances immersion because it's realistic, just like having billboards with real advertisements in an open world game.

The dialogue that accompanies that scene makes perfect sense for these characters and the state of the world in the game. I think examples in fiction of the writers using some fake facebook analogue (I can't count how many times I've heard 'myface' used) breaks immersion far more than using the real thing. Seeing things that actually exist incorporated into a work of fiction in a realistic way enhances the believability of the setting.

Avatar image for kub
Posted By Kub

The one thing that broke immersion for me was Facebook integration and adding it to the actual dialog - what the hell was that?? I don't need such blatant product placement in the full priced game.

Avatar image for humanity
Posted By Humanity

@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.

Ah thanks, can't believe I completely blanked on that. Now I remember. Man.. been playing too many games.

Avatar image for marokai
Edited By Marokai

@dostoyevskysshamblingcorpse said:

Gone Home 2

It's funny this has been mentioned, actually, because I kind of feel like this DLC is the perfect argument for anyone who thought Gone Home was kind of lame and wanted something more substantive out of it, trumping just about everything it had to offer.

Avatar image for jasonefmonk
Edited By jasonefmonk

Great review, thanks Brad. I just finished Left Behind and it was unbelievable. I can't quite get my head around how good it is. It is so beautifully told ... and the gameplay is fun too. Some great surprises and things they haven't done before.

It adds to the original story in powerful ways. If you wanted to play the full game in order, after The University chapter ends, play Left Behind, and pick up the main game at Lakeside Resort.

Avatar image for geirr
Posted By geirr

I can't think of a game that needs story DLC more than the Last of Us.

Me and my wife both hated the ending but loved the journey (cept the part where it was impossible to teach Ellie to swim even if they had a million chances to do so). We'd like to know more about several of the characters involved, and certainly know more about where things go to after the original game's (to us) disappointing ending.

Of course the PS3 broke right after playing through The Last of Us so we'll never play this unless they release it on the PS4 in some "game of the year"-like fashion.

Avatar image for bbqbram
Edited By BBQBram

Five stars indeed. I was expecting a lot from this DLC and was still blown away.

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

I tend to listen when the characters are talking, especially during cutscenes, especially the final cutscene.

Avatar image for kaskade
Edited By kaskade

I don't know why I haven't downloaded this yet. I guess I'll use that 10 dollar credit that came with my PS4 finally.

Avatar image for dooley
Edited By Dooley

This DLC was amazing. Just plain beautiful.

Avatar image for soimadeanaccount
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...

Avatar image for alwaysbebombing
Posted By alwaysbebombing

I'm very happy this DLC exists

Avatar image for special_k
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.

Avatar image for hef
Posted By Hef

So we're reviewing DLC now?

Avatar image for ntm
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.

Avatar image for themanwithnoplan
Posted By TheManWithNoPlan

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

Avatar image for falling_fast
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.

Avatar image for video_game_king
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.

Avatar image for medacris
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.
Avatar image for domineeto
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.

Avatar image for vrikk
Posted By Vrikk

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

Avatar image for mintyice
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!

Avatar image for sooty
Posted By Sooty

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

  • 86 results
  • 1
  • 2