- Format: PS3
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Developer: Naughty Dog
- Players: 1
- Site: http://thelastofus.eu.playstation.com/en_GB/lastofus
The Last of Us has a very carefully constructed story, often effective because of what it doesn’t explicitly say rather than what it does. It shouldn’t perhaps come as a surprise then that Left Behind is neither prologue nor epilogue but, somehow, something in between. It repeatedly jumps between a time roughly three quarters through the main story (which is why you’re advised to finish the main game first) and a period shortly before Ellie first meets Joel.
As has been widely reported, Left Behind is fairly short at about two hours (we got nearly three by playing on Hard, and exploring every corner and conversation we could find). Naughty Dog nonetheless continues TLoU’s leisurely style of storytelling – which is a relief. Nothing else would work. And despite the brevity there’s still a lot of script to discover, primarily because there’s not very much combat with just one prolonged set-piece.
Said script is concerned primarily with Ellie (playable for the whole duration) and her pre-Joel friend Riley. Reunited after a spat that’s never fully explained (but which you can fill in the dots for by the end) they sneak out from Ellie’s military camp to simply be together and have fun, two kids in a post-apocalyptic world. The relationship between these two, being of similar ages and with an established history, is of course different from that between Ellie and Joel. This is exploited wonderfully, with light banter and even superbly surprising gameplay elements sitting comfortably alongside the more familiar combat and serious plot points.
In terms of story there’s only really one surprise; a subtle yet important one that lends the main story’s ending even more power. Left Behind’s own ending isn’t so affecting, and predictable without even playing providing you’ve finished the main game. It’s still better than those of a hundred full titles though and, again, works so well because of what it leaves to the player’s imagination.
As previously mentioned gameplay switches between time periods, and it’s the later one which offers play that could’ve been lifted straight from the main game. Nothing has changed in that combat, while not terrible, is easily the weakest part of the experience. It could be argued that Left Behind would’ve been better had the whole chapter concentrated solely on the Riley period. It just about works as a whole, but only because it actually works to the story’s benefit. The contrast between the person Ellie was and the person she quickly grew up to be – not to mention the life she led and the one she would soon lead – wouldn’t be thrown into the light quite so well were the player not forced to experience both several times within just a few hours. It’s worth mentioning in fact that, if for some reason TLoU’s story didn’t grab you, you probably won’t get much out of this.
If you are in the apparent majority who loved The Last of Us, then Left Behind is nothing less than an essential purchase. It’s £12 for just 2-3 hours of content, and many people will in fact play it through once then never touch it again. ‘Quality over quantity’ is a tired cliché, but it’s also perfect to describe this extra chunk of story. Naughty Dog yet again shows the industry what a good story is and how to tell it – and, in this specific instance, shows Burial At Sea up for the laughably overpriced rip-off it is.