The Last of Us, Naughty Dog’s gritty, unflinching take on a post-pandemic United States, was a great step forward for interactive storytelling when it released last summer for the PS3, featuring unparalleled character development and some truly amazing sound design. However, it was frequently padded out by the same repetitive combat we’ve seen time and time again from the developer. Nearly a year after the game’s release, Naughty Dog has finally released the game’s sole piece of single-player DLC, titled The Last of Us: Left Behind, and though it’s significantly shorter than the core game, it finally delivers on the promise the developer set out to fulfill: to tell a moving story that’s not hampered by all the video game cliches that so often thwart such efforts.
Left Behind functions primarily as a prequel for Ellie’s story, but it also attempts to explain some of the narrative gaps from The Last of Us proper. Although Ellie may be the primary focus this time around, we also get meet her best friend Riley, a silver-tongued girl with a knack for bending the rules. The two girls have a very good rapport and their bond is portrayed in a very honest and realistic light; they play jokes on each other, make up games together and curse at each other in a way that only best friends can. Hands down, the key aspect of Left Behind lies in their relationship, and Naughty Dog has found the perfect way to make it completely sweet and endearing without being overly sappy.
If you liked The Last of Us purely for its gameplay and not its story, not only are you crazy, but you might also be a bit let down by this DLC. Left Behind is primarily focused on giving us insight into Ellie and Riley’s lives above anything else. The game doesn’t have much of a difficulty curve to master, yet I never found myself thinking it was too easy. There are some challenging fights included, but the main focus here is on Ellie and Riley and showing us their “down time” together in a more laid back way. The game focuses on what any of us in Ellie and Riley’s situation would want to do: forget, even for just a couple hours, and the beauty of The Last of Us: Left Behind is its ability to make you forget about the infected, spore-filled baddies that are waiting to rip your head off and try to enjoy a leisurely carousel ride with your BFF.
There is no way to talk about this DLC in too much detail without spoiling what makes it so great. Yes it is a bit short, but once it was over I was still completely satisfied with my play-through. Left Behind is a well done continuation of The Last of Us that features the same alluring visuals, honest characters and subtle, yet superb score that drew us all in last summer.
Side Note: Last fall there was a set of four comics released called The Last of Us: American Dreams that followed Ellie and Riley’s story as well. The comics are not needed to understand Left Behind in any way, but there are definitely some references to the comics within Left Behind that I did enjoy. If you are interested to see what us here at Invisible Gamer thought you can read our review here.