|Dev: Naughty Dog|
|Release: February 14, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language|
by Joshua Bruce
In 2013, Naughty Dog and Sony released a masterpiece of a game. Maybe you’ve heard of it--The Last of Us? Well, if you haven’t heard of it, or if you’ve heard of it and haven’t played it yet, stop what you’re doing and go buy it now. I’m not kidding. The Last of Us is one of those rare games that gets everything right. It’s an action-packed, fear-filled, emotional rollercoaster ride and is easily one of my favorite games of all time. Stop reading too, because you don’t want to hear some of the things I’m going to talk about in this review. Yes, that’s right. SPOILER ALERT!! Consider yourself warned.
In the original The Last of Us (even though you did play as Ellie in sections) the main character you control is Joel, the jaded and downtrodden hero who has a hard time adjusting to having a young girl in his life again, after losing his daughter during the outbreak many years earlier.
This time around in Left Behind, you will control Ellie exclusively through two areas of the games story that are suspiciously missing from the original game. This expansion answers two major questions--How did Ellie get bitten? And how did Ellie take care of Joel while he was on the brink of death with a horde of wasteland survivors on her tail? Left behind expertly weaves from one story to the other, using the flashbacks to before Ellie was bitten as the main story element, while the segments with her trying to get Joel to a safe place take care of most of the action.
In the flashbacks to Ellie’s past, we meet Riley, Ellie’s bestie who’s just returned after disappearing for a few weeks. Riley reveals that she left to join the Fireflies, and after some complaining and a few hurt feelings later, it’s like they were never apart. Riley wants to take Ellie out on the town to show her some of things she’s discovered while she was away, as well as to visit some old favorites of theirs from before. After some platforming and talking you arrive at the mall. I mean, where else are teenage girls going to go, even after the apocalypse? Answer: Mall. Still the mall.
This section of gameplay does it’s best to build the bond between the two characters quickly, to capture the same chemistry that was so abundantly present in the original game, and for the most part it succeeds. Especially taking into account that this DLC is only about 2-3 hours, depending on your play speed. There are parts of these sequences that contain action and effectively bottle the fear that was so expertly crafted for The Last of Us. But, for the most part they’re about delivering story and emotional experiences.
On the flipside of the coin, while Ellie is in the here-and-now, action and platforming are the bulk of the gameplay. Suspiciously, this portion of the game also takes place in a mall. (See? Teenage girls just can’t stay away.) Even before she was bitten, Ellie was a 14 year old girl I wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley, but after the time spent with Joel surviving out in the harsh and unprotected world, she’s turned into a veritable killing machine. Her abilities are well documented in the original game, but this section of gameplay is chronologically the first time she has had to survive on her own, against overwhelming odds. Joel is down-and-out, completely unconscious, and has a horse looking after him while Ellie is out in the world getting her ass shot off trying to find lifesaving medical supplies for him. You’re welcome Joel. This stark contrast in timelines and Ellie’s abilities between the two time periods show her growth as a survivor, and (depending on how you look at it) mass murderer.