(PlayStation 3)

The Last of Us: Left Behind (PlayStation 3)

Game Review

The Last of Us: Left Behind Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Sammy Barker

Girls just want to have fun

There was a lot to like about The Last of Us’ core campaign. Naughty Dog’s survival horror opus was not only successful in pushing the limits of the ageing PlayStation 3 from a pure hardware perspective, but it also exceeded expectations from a narrative stance, too. Where other developers stumble, the Californian company was able to effortlessly confront challenging subjects such as fatherly love, homosexuality, and more, all through the filter of a bleak post-pandemic world. The Last of Us: Left Behind represents the release’s first (and only) major single player expansion – but is it able to live up to the calibre of Joel and Ellie’s cross-country excursion?

Given the outrageous number of gongs under its belt, it was always going to be a tall order, but somehow the studio has managed to navigate it like a world champion wall climber equipped with a pickaxe. At just over two hours in length, the hotly anticipated add-on pack may be a condensed buffet of all of the treats that made the main game so sublime, but that merely means that you’ll want to savour every last piece. And revel in each bite you will, because this boutique piece of DLC is a miniature masterpiece.

Acting as a prologue of sorts, the plot primarily focuses on potty-mouthed protagonist Ellie’s relationship with boarding school companion Riley. However, it also fleshes out unseen parts of the primary storyline, as the youngster embarks on a suicide mission inside a dilapidated shopping centre in search of medical supplies for the injured Joel. The juxtaposition of these two opposing segments – which fade in and out over the course of the expansion’s entire running time – provide the post-release package with a great pace, and also ensure that you’re on your toes at all times. It’s the sequences with the two adolescent tearaways that will hold your attention the most, though.

These moments ditch the title’s traditional combat scenarios almost entirely, and augment you with the freedom to simply explore with your feisty friend. Playing as actress Ashley Johnson’s outspoken alter-ego, you’ll spend a large chunk of the add-on merely goofing around, as the developer funnels you through several intricately detailed sandboxes packed with mischievous treats. It would perhaps be unfair of us to spoil these encounters before you have the opportunity to experience them for yourself, but the mini-campaign does an impressive job of repurposing many of the mechanics from the core experience by presenting them in new and interesting ways.

Most importantly, though, it’s laugh-out-loud funny. The abovementioned Avengers performer and newcomer Yaani King both bring incredible warmth to the two leading ladies, which makes you believe in their friendship. It’s layered, too, with allusions to past disputes and also the suggestion that there’s something a little more bubbling beneath the surface, all of which is tackled in the almost understated style that we’ve come to associate the developer with. Alas, the heavier topics do take a bit of backseat for the majority of the jovial jaunt, with the emphasis very much on the juvenile activities that the pairing partake in. One sequence, for example, rekindles the pint-sized star’s love of puns, as the two casually evaluate the quality of a string of jokes while circling an overgrown merry-go-round.

It’s in this environment particularly that the Uncharted creator flexes its technical chops. Despite lacking the sharp resolution and silky smooth framerate of a PlayStation 4 release, the game still manages to look borderline next-gen, with the company’s industry leading motion capture and hand crafted facial animation bringing bags of personality to the cut-scenes. The real beauty of the original game was in its attention to detail, though, and many of the new areas that you’re encouraged to explore here manage to maintain that attribute, even taking the time to poke fun at some of the developer’s past endeavours. Still, it’s through the frankly frightening number of art assets that the outfit effectively conveys the idea of a lifestyle in stasis, which is perhaps the most macabre trait present throughout the whole affair.

Don’t think that you’ll be avoiding encounters with the fiction’s interpretation of the undead entirely, though, as clickers do appear in the other parts of the campaign. While the heroine is armed with a pistol – and later a bow – you’ll spend much of your time evading these enemies, until the final act where you’ll need to use bricks and bottles to play pursuing human hunters and the infected off each other. In fact, this added mechanic works so well that it’s curious that it wasn’t included in the main game, with the option to puppeteer both sides a welcome change of pace. With the length of the adventure so short, you’ll only really get to experiment with this feature a couple of times, but the option is appreciated, and is sure to be fully developed in time for the title’s inevitable sequel.

Outside of these new additions, however, the studio also finds ample opportunity for more of the same. Optional dialogue sequences make a welcome return, rewarding you for inspecting every inch of the environment with bonus conversations that flesh out the personalities of key cast members. Meanwhile, hidden collectibles – which are once again represented by intricately rendered models – tell the personal tale of various other survivors in a manner that’s reminiscent, but perhaps not quite as impactful, as the likes of Ish from the Suburbs section of the primary excursion.

Conclusion

With a standalone asking price of £11.99/$14.99, The Last of Us: Left Behind is an admittedly expensive proposition considering its slender running time. However, quality almost always trumps quantity, and Naughty Dog’s inaugural solo expansion packs plenty of the former into its two or so hour campaign. This is a touching, intelligent, and largely refreshing extension to the core escapade, and while it’s not exactly brimming with narrative revelations, it’s still a beautiful story that you shouldn’t let pass you by.

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User Comments (32)

Gamer83

#1

Gamer83 said:

Nice. Can't wait to play this but unfortunately have to wait a couple days.

DrJoeystein

#2

DrJoeystein said:

Excellent review, Sammy! I think I'll actually sit down and play through the whole thing tomorrow once I download it. Even though the asking price is a bit steep, I'm sure that it'll be more than worth it in the end.

gbanas92Staff

#3

gbanas92 said:

All the glowing reviews have me super excited! Mine's been downloading for a little while now. I can't wait!

RaymanFan2

#6

RaymanFan2 said:

"However, it also fleshes out unseen parts of the primary storyline, as the youngster embarks on a suicide mission inside a dilapidated shopping centre in search of medical supplies for the injured Joel."

I feel like this is a spoiler. I small one, yeah, but big enough to avoid mentioning it in the review. After all, we had no idea that there would be anything in this DLC other than the Riley bits.

readyletsgo

#8

readyletsgo said:

Did not read review in fear of spoilers, glad I didn't now :)

Had Preordered this, left for work and I could here the ps3 downloading it, yay. But I'll just have to wait until next week to play as have a busy weekend of drinking and dinners ahead :( it'll be worth the wait I'm sure

Gemuarto

#9

Gemuarto said:

Somehow I don't care about this.So many games to play at the moment. And I feel like I have more than enough The Last of Us in my brain.

get2sammybAdmin

#10

get2sammyb said:

@Scollurio @RaymanFan2 Apologies about that. I did try my best to be as vague as possible — there's a lot I could have talked about in here but resisted — but I felt I had to mention that because it does create a contrast between the gameplay segments. Hopefully it doesn't ruin your experience. (It won't - there are still a lot of surprises.)

eliotgballade

#11

eliotgballade said:

considered this a naughty dog cash-grab - but 9 pushStars may change my mind .
attention mr reviewer : would this have been a 10 pushStars if lower price / longer running time ?

get2sammybAdmin

#12

get2sammyb said:

@eliotgballade The running time's fine - it feels complete. It's hard to say. I think it's worth £11.99, but that may just be a touch to steep for some people considering what it is. 9/10 feels right - although we're splitting hairs at this point. :)

MadchesterManc

#13

MadchesterManc said:

@get2sammyb I'm definitely in the camp of this being overpriced. 2 hours with little replay value for £11.99? No doubt it probably deserves the 9/10 somehow but damn that price is steep. Sony picking pockets lol I've still to finish the main game anyway so it'll no doubt be cheaper by the time I get around to it :P

Splat

#15

Splat said:

Just looked at the score. I will read the review and comments after I play it. :)

Splat

#18

Splat said:

I'm sure it was challenging to write a review and not give anything away. There are some pretty great moments that you just want to talk about haha.

RaymanFan2

#20

RaymanFan2 said:

SPOILERS

"Meanwhile, hidden collectibles – which are once again represented by intricately rendered models – tell the personal tale of various other survivors in a manner that’s reminiscent, but perhaps not quite as impactful, as the likes of Ish from the Suburbs section of the primary excursion."

I have to disagree. The story of SPOILERS the crashed helicopter survivors END SPOILERS was awesome, even if it was perhaps a little too vague on who was who (bearing in mind I missed a couple of artifacts)

Either way, the artifacts in both 'parts' of the game as a whole did an awesome job of reminding you that the infected you're killing were once the people who left this stuff behind.

irken004

#21

irken004 said:

Surprisingly I got the trophy for getting all the artifacts on my first playthrough of this dlc :o

Splat

#23

Splat said:

@irken004 - I need to beat it on hard and survival but I got the rest of the DLC trophies. The "Angel Knives" one took me a couple of tries but such an awesome moment in the DLC.

Visiblemode

#24

Visiblemode said:

@MadchesterManc

So weird to me that people complain when a game is 2 hours long for $15 and yet when a game is 8 hours long for $60 people rarely blink anymore. Same price per hour.

Been said a million times, but yeah, quality>quantity.

charlesnarles

#26

charlesnarles said:

Just best it on survivor. Took me much longer than two hours!!!!! I also recommend playing Ground Zeroes on big boss hard or whatever it'll be called if you're worried about the length

Visiblemode

#27

Visiblemode said:

@charlesnarles agree, took me about 2:45, but I savoured it.

Man, it made me mentally note just how far away another Naughty Dog game is. That studio is without peers.

This DLC is must-buy imo. That said, all ND content is stellar.

MadchesterManc

#28

MadchesterManc said:

@Visiblemode so weird that people were complaining about short DLC's a year or so ago n then suddenly it's Ok because it's 'teh last ov us!' Shimmering Isles For Oblivion offered up both Quality & Quantity (over 30 hours) for the same price, so yeah I'm going to say 2 hours for £11.99 is a little on the paltry side. Although I found The Last of Us to be average at best anyway so I'm not gonna be seeing this quality that everyone keeps singing about to justify the meagre runtime

DazzaAdmin

#29

Dazza said:

I think this must be the first DLC I have ever bought honestly. As a massive fan of The Last of Us, how could I resist?

This did not disappoint. I agree with Sammy's review here, quality trumps quantity any day. Sure the experience is only a little over 2 hours long, but it had me totally engaged throughout, there was no filler here.

The balance between action and storytelling was spot-on too. I liked how the story of Ellie and Riley was broken up with Ellie's post-TLoU dilemma.

Yeah undoubtedly this DLC is a little bit on the pricey side at £11.99, but I don't regret taking the plunge. PS4 remake please Naughty Dog!

Visiblemode

#30

Visiblemode said:

@MadchesterManc
We won't see eye to eye on this subject, per se. But we don't necessarily see things entirely differently.

I think this comes down to genre preferences. TLOU was a remarkable 18h long. That is extremely long considering the genre. It's just not financially or creatively possible to make a 100h game of this type. Especially considering that at one point time itself is the ultimate deciding factor (in that a project has to have a time budget as well as a financial one.)

DLC is a really complicated thing to price. On the one hand it's inherently smaller in scope. On the otherhand it has a much smaller sales potential. (Units wise) Essentially, it's not a volume game. It's more something you create for the super-fans. To make more money and to sate their appetite for your product.

I never complain for more meat on the bone when it comes to DLC. It's genre based. Take a visual novel like Phoenix Wright. If the DLC is $10 and offers 6 hours can I say that automatically makes it better than this DLC which offers 2-3 hours for $15? No. PW games are quite long to begin with, as are most visual novels. This is because they are 95% text. They are cheap to make (relative to other genres). I adore the visual novel genre, but understand that it's $/h value is lower than a Naughty Dog game.

Some games are made by 1 or 2 people. Some games are made by literally thousands of people.

I'll wrap this up, it's really an in-person discussion by nature. So not possible to cover all points. I will say in closing that not all genres are the same. I had a blast with Fallout 3, but do I put the same $/h value on the game as tlou? No. It's far easier to create per hour, thus the ability for the devs to pack literally over 200h of side quests into the game. Neither type of game is better or worse, I basically like all genres, and accept that they have different costs/pricing structures. That said, I respect how someone might not care for all genres and/or see the value of of certain games even ones within genres they love... Even critically acclaimed games. No one can tell you what you will/should like.

Lucky_SouL

#31

Lucky_SouL said:

After playing through it twice, on hard and on survivor, this dlc has everything that made the main game amazing. What I really loved is how ND gave us vague ideas as to what happened with Ellie and Riley, and when Joel was injured so that we could imagine what happened to them. Then, they give us the dlc that explained what actually happened. It doesn't seem like it costs much if you have the season pass.

Too bad the infected + hunters formula couldn't make it into the vanilla game. Had to savor those moments in the dlc.

RaymanFan2

#32

RaymanFan2 said:

@Lucky_SouL Yeah, I agree with Sammy that the Hunter vs. Infected felt like a test for a sequel.
However, I know exactly why it wasn't in the vanilla game. Benson Russell (combat lead) gave a talk here in NZ and said that he could only have 7 active human A.I or 10 active Infected A.I before the game had to momentarily 'forget' an enemy to keep it running smoothly (until an enemy was killed and another could be 'remembered' and take his place).

Averaging it out, you could probably have 10 enemies (5 hunter, 5 infected, extremely rough estimate) in play before the game began to chug. Since that would have meant having no variety in enemy numbers in any hunter vs. infected bit, it was presumably cut from the main game, if it ever that got past the idea stage at all.
The DLC was shorter, so it felt less repetitive and more fresh than it would have felt in a 15-20 hour game.

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