The Last of Us ‘Left Behind’ Review: Tugging at Our Heartstrings


The Last of Us

By: Jason Siu


4 min read

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The recipe for success in any form of entertainment is knowing what’s coming, but delivering it in a meaningful way that leaves a lasting impression. Often times, knowing the outcome of a movie, book or video game can ruin the experience entirely, which is why spoilers are often frowned upon. That reason alone is why Left Behind is such a remarkable work of entertainment; players already know how it’s going to end, but the story it weaves getting to that point is simply something you won’t forget any time soon.

There’s no secrets heading into Left Behind, the story DLC behind Naughty Dog’s hit title The Last of Us. Exactly eight months after the release of The Last of Us, Naughty Dog decided to tug at our heartstrings again with Left Behind, which was released on February 14 – Valentine’s Day. Prior to its release, the company revealed that Left Behind would tell the story of Ellie and her friend Riley. But despite knowing the tragic outcome of that story, the DLC remains immensely powerful and reminds why The Last of Us was so memorable to begin with.

In The Last of Us, players went through an adventure and experienced Ellie growing up as the game’s story played out, maturing from a naive teen to an instinctive survivor where killing almost became second nature. There was however, a gap in Ellie’s growth during the original game, one that could be easily missed if Left Behind didn’t go out of its way to fill in that gap. Left Behind opens up by telling that tale, the period of time between Joel taking that nearly fatal fall and Ellie venturing on her own to survive for the both of them. Immediately, the DLC’s opening scene draws you back in to all the emotions that you felt playing the original – and if you were like me, having not touched The Last of Us since July, it’ll bring back all those memories in a hurry.

That’s when you realize that Left Behind also tells a story that you didn’t know you wanted or missed to begin with. In the aftermath of the intense moment after Joel falls in The Last of Us, it seemed like a breath of fresh air to take control of Ellie in the following chapter, equipped with a bow and staring down a bunny rather than an infected. It was unlikely at that moment in time you questioned what happened in between, but was more curious as to what was to come. Left Behind answers the question of what played out during that time period, but does it not as filler, but in a way to contrast the story behind Ellie and Riley.

At its core, Left Behind explores the innocence of Ellie prior to the events of The Last of Us, showing us a whimsical teenager that has yet to realize just how horrible the world has become. Throughout the DLC, players experience a contrast of emotions going from the light-hearted storyline between Ellie and Riley, and reliving the intense moments of helping Ellie survive and finding Joel the aid he needs. Naughty Dog brilliantly ties gameplay elements during Ellie and Riley’s timeline that adds more substance than simply exploring and triggering events. There’s a few laughs to be had, but it’s all done in a way that makes Ellie a more meaningful character while exploring what it would be like having not experienced the simple things in life, such as playing an arcade game or shopping during Halloween.

As for the combat scenes where Ellie is finding Joel aid, Naughty Dog puts a twist to the original formula, bringing a more tactical element to the experience. While combat can’t be entirely avoided, there are scenes that pit infected against humans searching for Ellie and Joel, allowing players to find a strategic advantage given that Ellie isn’t as experienced of a killer as Joel is. There’s an intense combat scene towards the end of the DLC that even seasoned veterans of The Last of Us will find welcoming, especially on the harder difficulty levels.

Despite lasting only two to three hours, Left Behind is a must-have if you’re a fan of the original The Last of Us. It doesn’t do anything remarkable or ground breaking when it comes to gameplay, but it strengthens the already powerful story The Last of Us tells. This time around however, it’s through the eyes of Ellie rather than Joel, and it does it in a way that will tug at your emotions from all sides. Most importantly however, it deepens the sympathy we feel for both Riley and Ellie, even though their tale is such a short one.

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With over 20 years of online publishing experience, Jason Siu is currently the Content Director at VerticalScope and used to spend most of his time writing about cars. His work can be seen on websites such as AutoGuide, EV Pulse, FlatSixes, Tire Authority, and more. As the former co-founder of and West Coast Editor of Modified Magazine, he has also authored two books for CarTech Books. In his spare time, he founded FullCleared to indulge in his passion for writing about games. Although Jason is a variety gamer, he generally prefers RPGs.

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