In the space of a single generation, Naughty Dog has garnered countless accolades thanks to both the Uncharted series and The Last of Us, whose fantasised PS4 port remains even more talked about than a potential Uncharted Trilogy PS4. The very fact that even Drake is not the subject of such expectation is proof that the countless awards Joel and Ellie have received these last few months are not undeserved. So when the American developer propositioned us to return to their apocalyptic universe ahead of release we couldn't refuse. As always, our review is written to avoid revealing any spoilers so read on without trepidation. We take it even further as usual so if you need to read just one review of Left Behind, make sure it's here at Gamersyde. Update: 4 videos added. We prepared these videos just like we wrote the review, trying to show as little as possible while managing to convey all the game's intensity.
One of Us
As one of two main characters in the original adventure, Ellie was so much more than a mere accompanist that the player had to escort and protect, she was the very essence of The Last of Us. A memorable passage in the original game, which we won't spoil here, saw the player controlling an incredibly determined Ellie, a sequence which only made the attachment of the player (and Joel) even more powerful. It's a moment that marks the end of her naiveté and brash overreactions as she finally comes to grips with the ruthlessness of the world around them. Left Behind offers a chance to discover these elements in young Ellie through a mix of sequences focusing on exploration, puzzle solving and action/stealth. When it comes to core mechanics you won't find any changes here, rather, this adventure builds upon what was already solid in the original game while delivering a smattering of original sequences highlighting the strong ties between Ellie and her friend Riley. It is the relationship between these two young girls and the impact it will later has on our heroin which stand at the core of this DLC and there's no doubt that Naughty Dog has once again demonstrated their mastery in the art of storytelling.
Indeed, while the outcome of Left Behind should already be clear for anyone who has finished the original game, the beautifully constructed sense of tension still manages to keep you guessing. There's always a sense of apprehension, of wanting to do everything possible to change the outcome despite knowing precisely where things are heading. It really highlights just how strong a narrative Naughty Dog is capable of weaving. That's not to say it's completely predictable, however, as there are plenty of surprises in store with one moment in particular that will probably be talked about quite a lot -- something we certainly won't spoil here. A hallmark of the original was its superb pacing and Left Behind does not disappoint on this front. The proper time is taken to build atmosphere and allow the player to soak in the environment, which has the effect of amplifying the moments of danger and violence when they inevitably arrive. Naughty Dog always enjoys taking the player by surprise when they least expect it, though they refrain from doing so cheaply. Despite relying on the same mechanics and basic game design, the overall sense of dread is actually stronger thanks to enemies, human and infected alike, which are more formidable than ever. You see, Ellie simply does not have the strength of Joel and, as such, the game encourages the player to keep an even lower profile.
Of course, pure action sequences are still a part of this experience with the challenge on hard mode requiring some particularly cold blooded maneuvers. Human opponents never hesitate to retreat, regroup, and counter-attack while the infected seem just as unpredictable as before. Left Behind also encourages the player to pit the opposing forces against one another with certain areas featuring a mixture of both enemy types. There's a moment when a group of humans enter a department store while a group of clickers and first-stage infected roam about in the adjoining room. A toss of a bottle in the right direction is all it takes to ignite this powder keg. It is this type of situation that really gives the player a shot at equalizing the odds. Yet tension remains high even when facing a single foe. As in the main story, a single mistake can often be fatal forcing one to think carefully about how to approach each situation. Listening mode, which allows you to detect nearby enemies behind walls, remains a particularly useful tool in dealing with encounters, which is why we strongly advise you not to use it.
With almost two and a half hours on the clock to finish the game on hard mode, the experience of Left Behind is memorable on a number of levels. Those visceral moments of violence and tension in the world of The Last of Us alongside moments of calm and deep simplicity blend together to create a rather potent emotional experience. Of course, by the end, we wanted nothing more than to spend more time with Ellie and Riley, but the inevitable ending was always in sight. We advise you to savor every moment as if it were the last, then, the way these two girls have, because after all, while there may still be stories to tell in the world of The Last of Us, nothing says we will be given another day to live any of them.