The Last of Us: Left Behind – growing up is hard

By Dave Cook
14 February 2014 06:00 GMT

The Last of Us: Left Behind tells the story of approaching adolescence and responsibility in a world gone insane. Dave Cook give his impressions on Naughty Dog’s emotional DLC.


The Last of Us: Left Behind


Available on PS3 worldwide from February 14.


– Neil Druckmann’s writing is superb
– Genuinely emotional insight into Ellie’s past
– Funny, sad, scary; Left Behind has all the feels
– That ending


– Two hours long
– Not a lot of combat or action
– It’s the last and only story DLC *sadface*

Looking for our The Last of Us: Left Behind review round-up? Hit the link.

Growing up is hard. There comes a point in our lives were we have to make tough decisions that will define the adults we become. Cast your mind back to your last school days; remember that feeling of excitement and sheer terror that comes with closing one chapter of your life and stepping into a new, uncertain future. These milestones come to us whether we want them or not, and like grown-ups we have to approach them head-on.

The Last of Us: Left Behind is a compelling, yet stunted tale of what it means to grow up in a world ruined; a place where survival takes precedent over fun or play, and where children are forced to mature ahead of their years. It’s the story of two friends clutching on to the last strands of their youth before setting out into the harsh brutality of adulthood.

Clocking in at around two hours, Left Behind fills the gap between Joel getting shot during the campaign’s university chapter, and when he wakes up in the middle of winter. It explains how Ellie managed to patch up his bullet wound and drag him to safety, but it also offers a window into her past and explains how someone so young could develop such a strong and abrasive personality.

It’s more of a story piece that distances itself from the stealth combat sections seen throughout the main story, although there is one taxing encounter that will put everything you’ve learned to the test. Ellie load-out is thin, save for a handgun and later on; a hunting rifle and the bow she uses to stalk deer in the main story. She can also craft like Joel, but a lack of resources mean you won’t be making too many items.

I have to be careful from this point as there are many plot twists and surprises in the DLC’s short running time that I’m wary about upsetting people. I’ll keep things as spoiler-free as I can, but people have different ideas as to what constitutes a spoiler. Stop here if you’d rather play it safe.

Consider this your final spoiler warning before venturing beyond the next image.


Left Behind opens with Ellie searching an abandoned shopping mall in search of medical supplies to tend to Joel’s wounds. It’s a slow, deliberately-paced build up to the first burst of action, which is followed by a cleverly-designed puzzle room involving cars and a body of electrified water. It’s not long before you’re whisked back some time to Ellie being awoken by her best friend Riley, who reveals that she has just been inducted into the Fireflies rebel group.

On the other hand; Ellie and other children are being trained by the FEDRA military group to protect Boston’s quarantine zone and hunt dissenters like the Fireflies. Riley asks Ellie to hang out with her one last time before she leaves to join the rebels for good. So begins a heart-wrenching story of friendship that sees both girls mature to young adults, but not before savouring those last, fading moments of youth.

“You’ll barely be getting warm in your seat by the time the credits roll, but for anyone who has faced a deal of upset after having adult responsibility thrust on them all too soon; Left Behind’s impact will likely resonate for some time.”

The pair head to another, separate shopping mall and run amok; trying on scary masks in a costume shop, taking photos of themselves, cracking woefully bad puns and even questioning what the internet was. Left Behind floats between these scenes of innocence and friendship with grace, thanks in part to Neil Druckmann’s script and the stark imagery of two people acting normal in a world ravaged by decay.

When you realise that the it’s almost time for Ellie and Riley to say their goodbyes, there’s a good chance your heart will have melted into creamy emotional goop. But the story doesn’t end there; and just like the core plot it ends on a subtle note that hits you around the head just as hard as the final explosion in an action movie, or the closing plot-twist in your favourite book. It’s further proof that Naughty Dog’s second team understands the art of pacing and poignancy.

It’s true that Left Behind trims back on combat in favour of story-telling, and that’s either to its merit or detriment depending on what kind of gamer you are. For this critic; it was a wise choice. Gunfire and gore are only so effective at setting tone and pace, especially when a string of superbly ordered, touching words or imagery can say so much more.

You’ll barely be getting warm in your seat by the time the credits roll, but for anyone who has faced a deal of upset after having adult responsibility thrust on them all too soon; Left Behind’s impact will likely resonate for some time.

Disclosure: to assist in writing this article, Sony sent Dave a download code for The Last of Us: Left Behind.

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