Game Review: ‘The Last of Us: Left Behind’

Felipe Cabrera

Imagine if Naughty Dog never made the award winning video game that deep dived into the human condition we know as The Last of Us. Then say that Naughty Dog released a standalone digital title called Left Behind, and we only had that game to experience the post-apocalyptic novella.

Though it references the main story to spoiler levels of proportions (which means beat the game before you play the DLC), Left Behind can easily stand on its own two feet as an independent game. It carries on the hallmark of tense, visceral gameplay from the main game and once again explores the things that makes us human without repeating itself.

If you own a PS3 and have not played The Last of Us, you are heading into spoiler territory, so consider this your warning. Also, shame on you; that is unacceptable. Left Behind tells two stories that run parallel with each other and will alternate over the course of the game. You play as Ellie during the events that take place right after Joel is impaled at the end of the fall section in the main game, and more importantly, you play through flashbacks of Ellie’s last moments with her friend Reilly, as they explore an abandoned mall in the Quarantine Zone.

If you remember how Ellie found out she was immune to the infection, you will know that Reilly’s fate drew the short stick. Knowing this, however, does not cheapen the end of the DLC. If anything, it is even more heart breaking.

During the segments of the game that take place in present time, the survival gameplay feels familiar to what you mostly encounter during the main game. The gameplay is in sync with Ellie’s capabilities. Joel is in critical condition and it is up to Ellie to scavenge the mall for medical supplies. As you venture through the mall, Ellie will have to crawl through vents, walk across air ducts, and basically every nook and cranny she can squeeze through to get over obstacles.

Though, do not expect to be scratching your head for the solution. I think the most difficult thing I had to do was pull a hand truck stacked with crates under a garage door so it wouldn’t close when I walked across it.

Joel, as a grown man with experience in surviving in an unforgiving world dish out as much pain as he can take. Elle is a small 13 year old girl who will surely die in one on one encounters with infected or other humans. Trust me, I tried and died numerous times.

Flailing at enemies with a pocket knife will leave you open to be grabbed or just get straight up punched in the face. Even trying to shoot infected sprinting at you is a feat, as the game translates Ellie’s lack of skill with a handgun with a wavering reticle. That, or it is just my inept skill at shooters, but I am going with the former on this one. In Left Behind, you want to avoid being hit more than ever. You are no Master Chief; getting hit will leave you staggered and open to more blows.

Like Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, darkness is your ally. Sneaking around and picking off humans and infected one by one is the only way Ellie can survive enemy encounters. My stomach would ball up when I would slowly creep up behind Clickers, blind infected who use echolocation to track movement, knowing it could suddenly turn around and tear my throat out. You will scavenge parts to create weapons like nail bombs and Molotov’s to dispose of enemies, or health kits to patch up your wounds.

What sets Left Behind apart from the main game are scenarios which pit you against humans and infected in the same area. This is freaking awesome. When hunters are approaching your location, you can throw a brick or a bottle towards there direction which will tip off any infected the area. Find a place to hide, watch them tear each other apart, then deal with whoever is left. This can backfire in situations where you are forced to run away from hunters only for you to run into a pack of infected.

Though I am not a girl or will never wake up as one, the strong bond between Ellie and Reilly felt real and relatable. The flashback portions of the game has you exploring an abandon mall in the QZ with Ellie and Reilly. You are dropped right in the middle of a rocky point in their relationship, but  listening to the stellar performances by Ashley Johnson (Ellie) and Yaani King (Riley) as they banter back and forth allows you slip into the enduring friendship with ease.

What you do in this part of the game is special, and I would not want to ruin the moment. Expect less frantic action and more activities that you are not used in videogames that explore the relationship between the girls. Just think of things you used to do with your friends during your adolescences. It is something unique that I have never experienced in a video game before—it reached right into my heart.

Topping of an award winning videogame with a follow up DLC that further pushes beyond the original game’s narrative is no small feat, but not if the studio is Naughty Dog and the game is The Last of Us. Left Behind is not postgame content that sprinkles the topping of the cake—it is its own damn cake. If you enjoyed The Last of Us, Left Behind is an instant grab. If you have not played The Last of Us yet, what are you waiting for?