Left Behind offers bittersweet insight into the life of Ellie, youthful heroine of The Last of Us.While I had some issues with its gameplay, the story and characters of last year’s PlayStation 3 hit The Last of Us kept me hooked to the end. Sure, the combat overstayed its welcome and got very samey, but Joel and Ellie’s growing bond of trust as they struggled together to survive was seriously compelling stuff.
As such, the arrival of Left Behind made me very happy indeed. While The Last of Us has received a few multiplayer DLC packages, this is the first additional content that expands its story and gives greater insight into the characters.
In my opinion, there were two major unanswered questions in the original game: how did Ellie end up involved with a bunch of terrorists before the game began, and how did Ellie keep Joel alive and move him to safety after he was injured in Colorado? Left Behind doesn’t answer either question fully, but it fills in the broadest strokes.
Two stories are presented in parallel, both centred around Ellie. One is a prequel of sorts, showing one night of her life in the quarantine zone, and the other shows her in the middle of the main story, searching for supplies to keep the critically injured Joel alive.
The prequel story is sweet and simple. A friend of Ellie’s, a girl about her age named Riley, returns after a long absence, and convinces her to sneak out after curfew to explore an abandoned shopping mall. There is very little of the core gameplay here – most of it is just two friends talking about the stuff that matters to them while they explore.
The later story is more action-oriented, with Ellie desperately searching a different shopping mall for medical supplies, especially needles and sutures to sew up Joel’s wounds. During her search, both the hideous zombie-like infected and murderous human bandits cross her path, and Ellie is forced to deal with them on her own, without Joel to protect her. One interesting new development is that bandits and infected can appear in the same area, and clever players will find ways to set them on each other.
More than fighting, though, Left Behind is about Ellie. This night of lighthearted fun with Riley reveals new aspects of her character, giving new insight into where she has come from and what she wants out of life. Before inadvertently becoming the last great hope of salvation for the human race, she was just an ordinary teenage girl, with the same kinds of hopes and fears that most people her age have.
This is a short and sweet package, giving me a little under three hours of play, though some players get through it in only two. After the over-long original game, I actually welcomed a more compact story, but some may consider its brief duration too little for its asking price of $21.95.
I can’t go into any real detail about either story without giving away too much. The sweetness and tragedy of Left Behind really need to be experienced without spoilers, so I will simply say that if you are a fan of The Last of Us, this is an essential purchase. The price is admittedly steep, but fans of Ellie who want to learn more about her cannot afford to miss this.
– James “DexX” Dominguez
Screen Play is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez