Left Behind is a necessary add on for a game that didn't need any.
The journey The Last of Us provided was certainly a satisfying one but also a very complete experience. I didn’t feel like I really needed more to Joel and Ellie’s story. So it’s kind of amazing that Left Behind, the first and only story DLC for The Last of Us, manages to make itself fit perfectly into the story and provide a meaningful experience for those that enjoyed the original story.
Left Behind starts off in-between the fall and winter sections of the main story, right after the horrible scene where Joel gets impaled on the gut. You play as Ellie, wondering though a mall, desperately trying to find medical supplies. The other half of the game is a flashback, following a slightly younger Ellie as her old friend Riley returns, and the two of them explore a different abandoned mall. The story smartly cuts back and forth between the two, allowing reflection of each stories events.
The winter sections provide a more traditional Last of Us experience with crafting and traditional enemy encounters. The one new thing that’s added is the mixing of the infected types with the human hunters. You get these cool setups where I’d throw bottles and bricks in the human’s directions in order to attract the infected and get them to do the work for me. It’s a lot of fun and something I wish had been in the main game. The combat does ramps up nicely giving you a good chance to feel your way back into the controls and pacing the game rather well. It’s not a real bombastic story, but a much quieter one. That is until the end, where things kick up to 11. It came a bit out of nowhere which was probably the point, but honestly I could have done without it. I didn't feel like I needed a huge combat sequence for me to get my money’s worth.
Ellie and Riley’s story is where the heart of Left Behind is. Ellie and Riley have been best friends once but had a falling out a few years back. Riley comes back one night to take Ellie though the mall in hopes of repairing what they once had. It’s a relationship I completely buy. The way Ellie and Riley talk and joke around, they feel like true friends that really do care for each other.
You have to take your time and walk around to see every little detail and bit of dialogue that’s offered. I spent 15 minutes in a Halloween store that I could have just left in 2, because I didn't want to miss a thing. Even though the flashback lacks the combat of the winter section they more than make up for it by using the mechanics in surprisingly creative ways. Throwing bricks turns into a contest between the girls is one of many ways they take advantage of what they already have. I don’t really want to mention anymore as seeing these moments yourself is half the fun. I will say it has the best use of Facebook integration I've seen in a game.
What’s so interesting is you already know how the story is going to end, since Ellie tells Joel what happens near the end of the original game. There are no story revelations or big reveals. It’s a story that you already know the sad end of. It’s all character building for Ellie and one that feels important. I have a much greater understanding of Ellie, and when it cuts back to her trying to save Joel you get why she’s so determined to keep him alive.
Left Behind is the perfect piece of add on content for a game that didn’t need any. Left Behind brings valuable meaning to Ellie’s character but isn’t something that feels like the core game was missing. If you had a meaningful investment in Joel and Ellie’s story then Left Behind is a trip worth coming back for.