The Last of Us: Left Behind Proves that Powerful Storytelling Can Conquer Fear
On paper, scenario for The Last of Us is something that most zombie themed horror films would probably have on their first draft: a story set in a world of post-apocalyptic America 20 years after the spread of a spore-based infection that turns humans into psychotic killers that also infect anything they bite or get their spores on. But game developer Naughty Dog has gone one step further by delivery a tale of human drama that flips the whole perspective around. In Left Behind –players get to explore Ellie’s story in a deeper way than what was originally presented in the original campaign. Continue Reading
Release Date: 29th July 2014
Available on: PS4, PS3
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What is Left Behind?
Left Behind is a single player DLC for the Last of Us, as the game will notify you beforehand, it is best to finish the original story mode before jumping into this game as it will reveal a few minor spoilers about what happens in the main story. The DLC story is set during the course of Ellie and Joel’s quest before the Fireflies –and ends before the last acts of the main game (so at least you are sure it will not spoil main ending). Our suggestion is to play Left Behind when you finally reach “Winter” in the main game.
The DLC is told from two different timelines, one is a series of playable flashbacks that underlines the key events before Ellie was bit by the infected (and thus leading to the events of her learning about her immunity which triggers the whole TLoU main story). The main playable content of the game however, is sent in the early Winter period, with players controlling Ellie as she embarks on a quest to keep pushing forward with Joel.
With all that said, be warned that if you have not finished the main game, reading any further into this review will spoil some parts of the story for you. At the same time, the events of the DLC do not surpass the main game in terms of importance –these are all simply events that happened ‘off-screen’ in the core storyline.
In the original game, Ellie’s solo mode displays how different the world is for her –she is much weaker than Joel in combat, and in an open confrontation against multiple hostiles, she has little to no hope of survival. Playing as Ellie in the main game for a short period makes the players appreciate her struggle more (which is easy to take for granted when as Joel has plenty of advantages over her). Despite that, she manages to survive –and playing through her whole scenario in the main game shows exactly that.
At the same time, it raises a few interesting questions as well. When we first control Ellie, she has a bow, a rifle, and plenty of gear –and it is assumed at first that she is carrying some of Joel’s weapons as he is severely injured and cannot use them. But when Joel becomes playable again and he has his stuff, the question on everyone’s minds is: where did Ellie get her new weapons? And also, why does she seem so much more capable now? Left Behind has the answers.
Setting the Stage
The DLC story starts off with the events at the University Campus that the Fireflies used as a base –with Joel falling over the railing and getting into a bad accident. This leaves his severely injured, and Ellie takes it upon herself to find a way to save him. After securing him (and their horse, Callus) inside a locked store in an abandoned mall, Ellie starts scavenging the place for medical supplies.
As Ellie goes about the mall, players encounter puzzles and enemies that they must defeat with her limited equipment –which increases in the course of the DLC. If you thought that sneaking around Clickers was already scary as Joel, doing so as Ellie is a much more frightening experience. The scares, for good or for bad, are dampened by the sense of dread and worry that the DLC instills in the player in the opening arcs.
In between key parts of her exploration sequences, Ellie also gets flashbacks to her time before she was the ‘immune girl’ that Joel had to protect. In this mode, players play through a slightly happier version of Ellie who journeys with her long lost friend, Riley. The story of two young girls learning the value of their bond paints a startling contrast to the challenges that Ellie faces alone in the current time.
Why You Worry
The moment Ellie locks the shutter to protect Joel, players learn that she only has a small amount of supplies and hardly any weapons. All she has is a trusty knife which does not have much stopping power as a melee weapon and takes too long to sneak kill targets. As expected, the mall has its’ share of infected, raiders, and assorted jump scares as well. Despite that, the urgency of Joel’s condition will push you forward –helping you relate to Ellie’s motivations and actions. In a situation where many (even adults) would have just given up in despair, she keeps moving forward –pulling the players along for the ride.
In addition to the threats in the mall, Ellie also finds recordings and logs of the former survivors who tried to make use of the mall as a base. Their stories, much like the ones you will find in the main game, gives an even stronger sense of despair.
Ellie’s Style of Combat
As expected, Ellie cannot use heavy melee weapons to fight off enemies. This means that in order to win, players must use their wits and reflexes. Surprisingly, the bottle/brick and knife combo is extremely useful in the DLC. Ellie’s knife is superior to a shiv –allowing her to stab and kill with it infinitely (whereas Joel’s crafted shivs break after a few uses). This is a great way to dispatch solitary enemies. Just remember that it makes plenty of noise so be sure that you will not be attacked while you are finishing the long stab animation sequence.
For those unfamiliar with the technique, simply select the empty bottle or brick in your equipment while approaching an enemy. Once a green reticule automatically locks on your target, press the R2 button to quickly throw the projectile. This will stun the enemy for a short amount of time, use this to quickly close in and use the Triangle button for an easy knife-kill without needing to sneak behind the target. When dealing with targets that are far from each other, do not hesitate to run towards an enemy when making the approach –you can execute both the throw and the stab while sprinting. The best part about this technique is that it works on Clickers –making them easier to defeat as Ellie than when playing as Joel.
Once again, Ellie’s bow is a powerful and silent tool for killing –the only drawback is that it does not appear until a little later in the DLC. Once it does, however, do not hesitate to use it. Not only is the bow extremely good at making kills without exposing your position, there is also plenty of ammunition for it regardless of the difficulty setting. Just be sure to adjust your aiming technique to account for movement (practicing to lead an arrow shot is worth it), and the fact that the bow has an arching trajectory (which means you can use it to pick targets from behind cover).
There are parts in the game where players will face off against the Infected and against human raiders at the same time –use this to your advantage. By sneaking, you can avoid detection from the two. This will leave you free to use bottles or other items to bring the attention of the two hostile forces against each other. Regardless of who wins between the two sides, it makes for a much easier fight for Ellie.
Lastly, even with Ellie’s limited resources, do not hesitate to use explosives to kill grouped targets. If you throw molotovs and nail bombs properly, you can avoid being detected while simultaneously messing up with the enemy formation. Use these in conjunction with empty bottles in order to control the positioning of your enemies.
Foreknowledge is Heavy
Ellie’s flashback sequences with Riley are fun and light –and they are made to be intentionally that. Even if you can sneak and move about in the same way as the main game, there is no combat when you are with Riley. And the only thing Ellie needs to be concerned about is how to have as much fun with the temporary freedom she and her friend have taken. You get to play minigames and explore more details of her character in an environment that is relatively safe (compared to the rest of the game).
Despite that, the fact that the DLC is meant to be played after the main game’s ending means that players also know what happens to the two girls at the end of the events of the DLC: both Ellie and Riley will get bit –and when they both decide to ‘turn’ together, Ellie discovers that she never will. The impact of this hangs in the air every single time that Ellie expresses or feels something hopeful, she thinks that there is a good future that she and Riley can aim for, and she believes it so sincerely that you cannot help but want to believe in it too.
As tragic as this may be, it also brings the contrasting deliveries of the two parallel stories into a full circle. The flashbacks were a series of happy moments that ended in tragedy. On the other hand, the mall events feel desperate and bleak but ends full of hope. The developers are masters at storytelling, and this is proof of that.
Beautiful from Start to Finish
Since this is DLC content, you can expect that the game’s visuals and delivery matches that of the main game. The voice acting is superb, the character animations and facial expressions are very lifelike, and there are plenty of great moments on the story that will tug at your heartstrings. For those wondering what the Facebook social network integration feature is for, there is a small part in the game where Riley and Ellie are able to take photo booth pictures –having an FB account tied to your game will allow you to save the ‘photo’.
In terms of size, the game is just a little longer than one of the original game’s seasons. Playing through the DLC can be done in one sitting, but expect to feel emotionally spent (but satisfied) afterwards .
The Verdict: Don’t Miss It
Since The Last of Us: Left Behind is practically included as part of the game in the remastered version, there is really no point in missing out on it. It delivers a key moment of the story that helps push the story further and gives players a better insight on Ellie’s character and motivations (which is a big deal for the main game’s ending). Best of all, it delivers more of that crafty puzzle-solving and combat-planning that makes the game so fun to play. This DLC is definitely something that TLoU fans should not miss out on.
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The Last of Us Left Behind Expansion is developed by Naughty Dog.