The Last of Us: Left Behind (2014) PlayStation 3 | Game Review

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Avatar for patientgamer9
2 years ago

I'd have been happy if The Last Of Us Left Behind DLC gave me a few extra hours in that world. A brief chance to experience new content, to relive and remember just how good it was. In barely three hours, I wasn't expecting this to pack in just as much emotion, impact, and subtly groundbreaking moments as the entire game.

The story focuses on Ellie and her relationship with Riley - the friend she lost in an attack by the infected - and previously only seen in the accompanying comic series American Dreams. As the story expands on their relationship, it builds on the core mechanics of the original game, with that mix of stealth, crafting, and combat as satisfying as ever.

One new element is cross-faction fighting - there are points where scavengers and infected co-exist on a level, giving you the option to lead them into each other with distractions. Get lucky with a well-thrown bottle, and you can be left with a mess but no enemies left to fight. It's such a well-implemented addition that it breaks the main game a little for me. Why wasn't this an option previously?

However, it's the stuff that happens away from the action that fleshes out the characters. Riley is a no-nonsense girl, more strong-headed and sure of herself than Ellie, who looks up to her. It's possible to see echoes of Riley and her loss in Ellie's behavior in the original story. It's difficult to explain what makes the relationship so effective without spoiling anything, so I won't.

Naughty Dog has toyed around with varied mechanics to build the friendship between the two and involve you in the process as they explore an abandoned mall. The tricks it uses are a bit hit and miss but mostly work. Given that Riley's fate has been a clear and known fact since the opening hours of the original story, it speaks volumes that this can make you forget that and enjoy touching moments of intimacy between the two. The few moments that maybe don't have as much impact are weakened by the feeling that they fill time rather than use it. And that's an issue considering the length.

Mixed emotional beats and brevity aside, it's worth praising the visual hit as well. The environments are richly detailed, verging on lush even, with the crud and decay of the world's end fascinating to explore. Similarly, the fidelity and life in the facial animation are at times jaw-dropping - the subtlest nuances and movements bringing Ellie and Riley to life in an eerily organic way. The barest flicker of a look teased one central plot point - I'd have thought I'd imagined it if I wasn't proved right later.

Where both the original game and this DLC push into new territory are that those moments aren't always about the usual shooting and shouting. Sometimes they can be the little things that make a friendship. There is violence, obviously, and it's as distressingly brutal as before. Possibly even more so given the fleeting glimpses of innocence and youth stripped away as Left Behind closes.

What Naughty Dog has accomplished in certain areas here is remarkable, especially given the general view of video games. Yes, there are long portions of stabbing and petrol bombing that are 100% awesome. Still, they are countered by moments of bonding and compassion that significantly impact the setting, providing an emotional maturity few encounters can equal. I'm sure at least one moment will create misunderstanding, misinterpretation, or worse, but few studios could do this off.

$ 0.57
$ 0.57 from @TheRandomRewarder
Avatar for patientgamer9
2 years ago