Will Rosenthal ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The Last of Us: Left Behind is a downloadable story mission, and the only one of its kind slated for the game. Naughty Dog’s survival horror action hit from last year hopes to return old players to familiar characters and an expanded world.
Left Behind takes place soon after Joel is incapacitated during the main campaign and gives the player control of Ellie. While most of the game’s actions follow her as she searches for medical supplies to save Joel, a majority of the focus is on a flashback towards the end of her time at military school in Boston. Left Behind is not only an addition to the main story. It is, more accurately, a sequel to the prequel comic by Dark Horse Comics, American Dreams. For those players who have not read the series, it’s not necessary for understanding the story or the events preceding it. Reading the series really just adds the emotional impact of the end of the downloadable content.
The downloadable content begins with the portion towards the latter half of the game where Joel and Ellie are confronted by David’s men at the University of Eastern Colorado. The encounter ends with Joel seriously wounded as Ellie takes him to safety. From here on in, Ellie is alone, put up against an assortment of Clickers and human enemies.
Upon starting up, the game prompts the player if he or she would like button displays. Even the game recognizes that it’s been several months since the Last of Us release and players have surely moved on, so it was a nice gesture. Although, the controls are still as intuitive as ever, veteran players will immediately feel at home when jumping into Left Behind.
It also should be noted that the level design is remarkably impressive. It was actually difficult to get lost with even the larger areas. Naughty Dog’s level designers’ use of light and bright colors strings the player through effortlessly. In fact, there are some moments where, while trying to go the wrong way to find collectables, players may find themselves right at the objective.
However, this is by no means is constricting, linear game. While the player is intended to head down a single path to a goal, he or she is still granted enough room to approach an encounter with flexibility. Last of Us’ cloak and dagger combat works well in the wide rooms and short cover that populate the locations. The player is given channels and ways to remain hidden in order to flank enemies and side-step clickers because direct will only lead to death. Ellie is noticeably weaker then Joel. She doesn’t have his extensive arsenal and is frequently grabbed by larger opponents. Gameplay requires almost entire stealth, even during large-scale encounters.
While Ellie is helping Joel in the present, the parallel story follows Ellie and her friend Riley back in Boston. Riley drops in on Ellie after being absent for 6 months and is now a fully-fledged member of the Fireflies. Due to the events of American Dreams, she left Ellie on bad terms and has returned to reconcile their friendship.
While devoid of real combat, all of Ellie’s flashbacks involve some variation on the existing mechanics. They’re something like minigames between Ellie and Riley. The two have competitions between each other like water gun fights and window breaking. There’s even a quick time fighting game as well. All of these fit into the story of the present, adding some refreshing moments of fun into the stressful survival gameplay.
Another thing that should be added about the expansion is the emotional weight of the story. It elaborates on Ellie’s past, which brings out a stunning performance by her actress, Ashley Johnson. The emotional trip that comes through in the 2 and a half hour story is comparable to the 15 hour main game. Although, it entirely depends on the player’s investment in Riley and Ellie’s relationship and if the player’s uninterested, then the brevity of the game might feel not worth the price.
That being said, Left Behind an excellent addition to the existing Last of Us story and enjoyable upon replays as well. Higher difficulties and collectables await returning players and those who were attached to the characters during the main game will feel fulfilled.
Overall Grade: A