Review: The Last of Us: Left Behind (PS3)

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The Last of Us is back with a story DLC, Left Behind! It’s available to download now for $15 on the PlayStation Network. Alternatively, you can purchase the $20 season pass, which includes Left Behind, plus multiplayer DLC.

The Story

Ellie and Riley at the carousel

The Last of Us: Left Behind is many things. In some ways, it’s a sequel. It’s a sequel, in that it takes place after the American Dreams comic mini-series. It’s a prequel, in that part of the story takes place before the regular game. It’s also a midquel. Yes, there is such a thing. It’s also a midquel, in that the other part of the story takes place during the regular game. So, how is all of that possible? Left Behind flashes back and forth between a time after American Dreams and before The Last of Us, and a time during the The Last of Us. It’s not as complicated as it sounds when I say it like that. It’s actual a very fluid and effective way of telling Left Behind‘s story. Just to simplify things, I’ll call the time during the The Last of Us, present day. Present day is near the end of The Last of Us, when Ellie and Joel are in Colorado. Joel is badly injured at the University of Eastern Colorado, the bandits are after them, and so the two of them take refuge in a shopping mall. Joel is hanging on for dear life, leaving Ellie to scrounge around for medical supplies, and fight off any threats. Here’s where the time jump comes in. Being inside this mall takes Ellie back down memory lane to the last time she was in a shopping mall, with her old pal, Riley. The story jumps back in forth between the two malls from then on, telling two different, but similar stories.

I really liked the idea and the execution here. Teenage girls stereotypically live at the mall. So, of course, two teenage girls in a zombie apocalypse are going to be drawn to it, more than ever. These girls didn’t grow up with the mall. To them it’s not just a place to hang out and shop. It’s a doorway to another world. A magical world, almost. Little things that we take for granted like photographs and video games and fun stuff like that is not commonplace anymore. Indeed, fun seems to be an endangered species for the generation that has survived the cordyceps infection so far. It would be tough for adults to live without much fun, but for kids and teens? It’s a very sad prospect to think about. But, Ellie and Riley DO get to have some fun this time around and I consequently had fun, as well. It was like they found a doorway to Narnia, instead of a mall! The fun doesn’t last forever, but it is nice while it lasts.

One thing that I liked, but could be frustrating for some is that this is a sequel to the American Dreams comic mini-series. Personally, I really enjoyed getting to see more adventures with Ellie and Riley in Boston, and seeing things develop from the comics. However, I do wish they had done a better job at explaining what went on during the comics, for those that didn’t read them. The reading almost seemed necessary, otherwise things just seemed out of context. It’s hard for me to accurately say that, though, because I have read them. Maybe people who haven’t read them, won’t even notice. It’s not a big negative. I’d just suggest reading the comics before playing Left Behind. Even if it isn’t necessary for the story, I think you’ll just enjoy the story more for having read them.

The overall theme that I took away from this story DLC is friendship. Maybe others will interpret things differently than I did, but I saw this as a story of friendship. Two friends (Ellie and Joel, Ellie and Riley) in each time, who have their ups and downs, but endure. In the worst of times, they survive, and their friendships grow stronger. What else do you have, if you don’t have friends and/or family? That’s a theme that I can really get behind and enjoy in a game or any kind of story, for that matter.

Ellie and Riley at the broken highway

The Gameplay

Ellie attacks cannibal

There’s not a whole lot to say about the gameplay of Left Behind. It’s the same great setup as The Last of Us, so far as I can tell. Ellie has to gather supplies, craft items, and fight off enemies with the same weapons as the regular game. It was a good system that they made for the game, so I don’t really see that they needed to add or change anything in the DLC. I did like that the two different storylines in Left Behind, had two different directions for the gameplay, though. The flashbacks were more story-oriented gameplay, while the present day was more action-oriented. There was still action in the flashbacks, and story in the present day, but I liked that each one had it’s own focus. Other than that, I just gotta say that fighting off enemies as a 14 year old girl is pretty dang tough. It’s tough gameplay as Joel, but it’s TOUGH gameplay as Ellie. You really got bring your skills to this one. Accuracy is important!

Ellie attacks clicker

The Bottom Line

Ellie and Riley at Rajas Arcade

I really enjoyed this DLC. Two new stories, one overriding theme, and some amazing gameplay. Don’t forget the graphics, either. I’ve only played through The Last of Us once and that was last summer, and I forgot how breathtakingly photo-realistic this game is. My second playthrough is definitely starting this weekend! Anyway, the bottom line is that Left Behind is a fun jump back into the world of The Last of Us, and I highly advise all fans of The Last of Us to play it ASAP.

The Rhodes Rating: 90/100

All of my The Last of Us reviews and coverage: http://stephenwrhodes.com/tag/the-last-of-us/

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