No one left.
Naughty Dog gave us a lot to love in 2013’s best video game, so much to love that I refused to play more of the multiplayer or experience even a chapter of the story all over again. The Last of Us was fantastic in one sitting and I wanted to keep it on my shelf like a perfectly preserved snow globe, or a masterwork that tells a very specific tale any time I want, but that wasn’t enough for the suits!
As with almost every major blockbuster video game released these days, The Last of Us came with a hefty Season Pass that promised to wrap up several downloadable content packs with a multiplayer edge just for preordering. You could have walked out of GameStop on launch day assured you’d never have to put the game down if you didn’t want to. Who could blame you? The Last of Us was an excellent product and now it’s got an extension to its narrative and single-player mode in Left Behind. I just wish we could have expected more.
Left Behind gives you control of Ellie and introduces you to her friend, Riley. You’ll remember Riley from her brief mention in the main game, when Ellie tells Joel about her dormant infection and about her friend who wasn’t so lucky after a run-in with infected. That might make you think that you already know how Left Behind ends, but as we learned in The Last of Us it’s not about the destination when the journey proves so damn powerful. The same is true of this DLC. Every joke, every barb between Ellie and Riley, every wonderfully painful turn on Naughty Dog’s brutal combat mechanics left me feeling like I got the look back I wanted even if I can’t tolerate the salt poured on old wounds.
I mean, things between Joel and Ellie end about as happily as anyone could have hoped, but Left Behind reminds you of a complex relationship Ellie had with a friend, that these very believable people lived whole lives outside of our experience with them. It’s certainly a testament to how well written and endearing Naughty Dog’s characters are that I’m so distraught by the laughter and exploratory dialogue. Those little moments when Joel could walk up to something and engage in small conversations with Ellie never stop with Riley.
This banter is probably what you wanted between Joel and Ellie throughout the main game, but even more focused on Ellie given we'll never really know Riley's tale. This DLC does well when it piles world-building details on top of narrative exposition on top of even more dialogue. If you’ve ever played a game or read a book and wanted desperately for a cheesy narrative extension, just so the characters can live a little longer and wring any remaining joy out of their personalities for your entertainment, Left Behind is that extension.
It isn't corny or hopelessly sappy like the episodes of Dragon Ball Z in between eon-long brawls where Goku, Krillian, and Master Roshi stand around laughing like idiots about how they didn’t tear their own arms off. It isn’t a hokey 10-year high-school-reunion special where the gang gets back together and rags on Principal Belding for old time’s sake. Left Behind perfectly captures the mood and atmosphere of the original game while giving us a better taste of life just after the fall of society, uncompromising and darkly hopeful as ever.
The DLC combines Ellie and Riley’s gushing dialogue with a sequence just after Joel is impaled in the abandoned Colorado university, allowing players to flip back and forth between these times to obtain a better understanding of Ellie’s perspective in the post-pandemic world. While it’s one of the best pieces of downloadable content money can buy, it is also a criminal misrepresentation to tell fans who wrap themselves up in these experiences that they can pay for several DLC packs up front when you’re only really delivering one.
I know Naughty Dog never said they’d crank out seven or eight hours more single-player content, but how is this a season pass when I don’t treat The Last of Us multiplayer like a pro sport? It’s unfortunate that the rest of the “season” won’t deliver in the same way. Left Behind is a mere two-hours long and while it doesn’t needlessly retread combat scenarios well worn by the main game, it also leaves me wanting more than I can really hope for.
While I’m sure many players knew in advance that map packs would fill out the slate of The Last of Us DLC, there are probably thousands more who don't understand how f***ed up the video game business is. Leave it to the gaming industry to capitalize on a hugely successful release with what amounts to leftovers and static multiplayer maps. Nothing will lessen the disappointment you feel when Left Behind ends and you realize you might never see Ellie again (...until the sequel). Whether you consider the $15 standalone purchase or the $20 season pass, there’s no denying that Naughty Dog and Sony over-promised and under-delivered in light of the main game.
Left Behind barely scratches the itch I’ve been hoping to claw at since I put the controller down last summer. It's a bite-sized extension of the characters and lives fans connected with so deeply. For everyone else, this season pass business feels like a bum deal. I can’t turn down more of a good thing, can you?
Code provided by publisher. Exclusive to PS3. Main game required for play.