The Last of Us: Left Behind Review
When it comes to DLC, what do you do? Play it safe by sticking to what made people like your game in the first place and risk being boring, or go completely out there and shatter peoples expectations with something they never expected?
Left Behind certainly doesn’t throw everything out the window in an attempt to do the latter, but it does at least try to tweak The Last of Us’ successful formula here and there.
Some of those tweaks are more successful than others and there are issues that emerge out of the fact that Left Behind is a two and a bit hour game with systems built for a much larger one.
Nevertheless, Left Behind’s attempts to focus on what made The Last of Us so brilliant, with a few tentative tweaks, are largely successful.
The Last of Us: Left Behind Review – The Story
Speaking of focusing on what was good about The Last of Us, Left Behind is a confident example of Naughty Dog’s ability to craft believable and intriguing characters in service of an engaging story about the clash between Ellie’s attempts to experience the life of a ‘normal’ teenage girl and the harsh realties of the post-apocalyptic conditions in which The Last of Us and Left Behind are set.
Left Behind is a slow starter – not in the sense that it takes a while to get its hooks in, as is the case with The Last of Us, but in the sense that Naughty Dog is brave enough to not feel the need to throw a load of enemies your way in the early going.
Instead, Naughty Dog shows a welcome commitment to letting players see Ellie as a ‘normal’ girl, without the responsibility that is on her shoulders in the main game, who, despite the extraordinary circumstances in which she lives, is trying her best to emulate the ‘normal’ experience of a pre-disaster teenager.
As such, you’ll spend quite a lot of Left Behind just pissing about with Ellie’s friend Riley, rather than dealing with clickers trying to bite your face off.
That might not appeal to some, but it’s a decision that works. Left Behind takes the time it needs to display a different side to Ellie’s character and, in doing so, lends emotional weight to the inevitable futility of Ellie’s attempts to be ‘normal’.
The Last of Us: Left Behind Review – How The Game Does Things Differently
In the process of doing that, Naughty Dog shows a welcome desire to try one or two new things with Left Behind.
That’s not to say that there’s anything radical about the game, just that the there are a couple of vignettes that, without giving anything away, offer a pleasant surprise while serving their purpose well.
That willingness to experiment finds its way into Last Behind’s combat, too, though not with the same degree of success.
Rather than keeping ‘the zombie bits’ and the ‘man fighting bits’ entirely separate, as with The Last of Us, Left Behind tries to add a new dimension by presenting the player with scenarios where the two come into contact.
Unfortunately, these sections fail to add any interest.
Messing with your opponents and playing them off against each other sounds like a great idea, but the reality is that all you end up doing is throwing a bottle or brick to agro the clickers so that a fight kicks off and then waiting around to mop up whoever wins the skirmish.
The Last of Us: Left Behind Review – Why The Combat Suffers
In fact, if you enjoyed The Last of Us’ stealth and combat sections, be aware that there is little of that until you edge towards the end of the game.
Left Behind being light on combat encounters isn’t necessarily a problem in and of itself but, combined with the fact that it is, by design, far shorter than the main game, the tension and variety that The Last of Us cultivated in its combat is largely absent from Left Behind.
This is partly due to the fact that there are less tools to play with, but more so a result of the fact that using resources feels inconsequential.
You know this is a piece of DLC, so you know it’s going to be short. In that case why bother fretting over whether you should save your molotovs?
That the desperate scavenging that often took place in The Last of Us, as you cursed the fact that you sent your last bullet flying wildly over the head of a clicker, is absent from Left Behind is disappointing, but perhaps inevitable, given the length of the game.
The Last of Us: Left Behind Review
Left Behind feels like a game that is self-consciously divided into two sections – the story bit and the combat bit.
When it comes to the character building narrative sections, Left Behind largely manages to hit the high standards that we expect from Naughty Dog and The Last of Us.
A welcome bit of experimentation in that department doesn’t detract from what was good about the main game in terms of storytelling and the decision to take their time in telling it pays off.
When it comes to combat, Left Behind is similar enough to the main game that those who liked The Last of Us’ combat will enjoy it, but the comparative unimportance of resources in Left Behind does take the edge off a little.
While Left Behind might feel a little thin when it comes to the combat sections that you’re familiar with from the main game, that shouldn’t detract from the fact that Left Behind displays enough of the strengths that were evident in The Last of Us proper as to please the players that it’s aimed at.
For that reason, while it’s not as essential as the main game, Left Behind is pretty much a no-brainer for anyone who liked The Last of Us.