Why You Might Want to Play The Last of Us’ DLC

So I just finished the single player downloadable content for PS3 exclusive The Last of Us, released a couple of days ago, and I have to say that it’s pretty damn good. Entitled Left Behind, it’s definitely short (around 2-3 hours, which is probably par for the course with this kind of DLC) and maybe you could argue it’s also a bit pricey for what it gives you. But I’m certainly glad I played it. As you might already know if you read my review last year, I adored The Last of Us and it only just missed out on my personal game of the year award for 2013. If you share my feelings on the brilliance of the original game then you owe it to yourself to consider playing Left Behind. Here are five reasons why:

1. It fleshes out both the original story and its world.

Though it sets itself up as a prequel, Left Behind is only really half so. The narrative follows two interchanging paths, one set before Ellie meets Joel and one set during the events of The Last of Us’ main storyline. As such, if you face the temptation to play Left Behind first and let it lead into the main event, resist. You will have things spoiled for you in a big way if you elect to look at things in that manner.

Having said that, the bulk of the story of Left Behind focuses on Ellie as she explores a decrepit mall with her friend Riley, who has recently joined the rebellious Fireflies organisation. The brief tale is inspired by, and indeed connected to, the four-issue Dark Horse comic book series American Dreams that was released last year. It features callbacks and references to both major and side events in The Last of Us, particularly if you are willing to poke around the environment a bit, and its revelations add an extra layer to the main game’s excellent ending. TLOU rightly stands alone as a well told, standalone story, but Left Behind certainly makes it richer.


2. It does several genuinely new things.

The single most surprising thing about Left Behind for me is the way it takes the mechanics behind The Last of Us and either uses them in unexpected ways or ignores them entirely in favour of something quite different indeed. The tone of the DLC is considerably lighter – mostly, anyway – than the main campaign and this is reflected in the kinds of activities in which you’ll find yourself participating. There’s a strangely satisfying new weapon type in there, for example, as well as a segment that demands a different level of reflex-intensive response than you might expect from a game like this.

3. It has even better combat.

If you appreciated the “Winter” section of The Last of Us as much as I did, you may share my opinion that playing as Ellie is actually more enjoyable than playing as Joel. In any case, the increased focus on stealth that she requires and the built-in shiv effects that come with her default melee attack provide a fresh angle on the smart combat that made The Last of Us such a treat. Thinking on your feet is a must.

But that isn’t the only thing that distances Left Behind from its predecessor. It also features a number of new combat set pieces in which Ellie will encounter both human survivors and the Infected, a phenomenon that is completely absent from the standard game. In these situations you are able to draw the two enemy types towards one another with strategic throws and shots, which completely distracts everyone in the room and does a lot of the work for you. When I died during one of these scuffles and then re-initiated it at my last save point, the result was completely different the second time. These moments are real highlights, make no mistake.

4. It’s incredibly well polished.

It’s no secret that The Last of Us is a very pretty game – arguably the prettiest the PS3 has ever seen and also palpably better looking than several PS4 games at the moment. If you had forgotten just how much the team at Naughty Dog were able to squeeze out of the PS3 visually, Left Behind will be sure to remind you. Ditto for the superb motion capture performance quality on show. Ashley Johnson successfully showcases a new side of protagonist Ellie and she is ably matched by Yaani King as Riley. Left Behind would largely fall flat if the performances weren’t spot-on, especially given its short length, but luckily they really hit the mark.

5. It’s, like, so meta.

As cliched as it might sound, Left Behind goes far beyond being just a videogame experience. Suffice to say that Naughty Dog’s staff have been methodical in the way they make use of the other tools available to them. There’s the connection to the Dark Horse comic book, of course, but real life social media also plays a surprising part. Without going into painstaking specifics, suffice to say you may come across some run-down advertisements for Twitter feeds in the game – these are real. Left Behind will also make a one-time Facebook post for you, if you let it of course, at a crucial point in the narrative. And finally, even the circumstances of Left Behind‘s release are significant – but that’s all I will say. Cleverness all around.

So you might want to give it a spin. I doubt you’ll regret the 20 bucks.

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