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The Last of Us: Left Behind Review

  • First Released Jun 14, 2013
  • Reviewed Feb 13, 2014
  • PS3
Jeremy Jayne on Google+

So long, childhood.

Adolescents have it particularly tough in the zombie apocalypse. Everyone around them is obsessed with survival--which is certainly understandable--but every ounce of a teenager's instincts is pushing him or her toward goofing off. The psychological toll of burying your most basic desires must be exhausting. Left Behind presents this unique point of view through Ellie, the extraordinary heroine from The Last of Us, and it's hard to resist laughing along with her when her childlike nature is on full display. Don't expect this prequel to ignore the dark cloud that hovers ominously overhead, though. By examining Ellie's plight through the lens of such a bleak existence, we grow ever closer to her, and realize how devastating one's life in such a world would be.

Riley sneaks into Ellie's room before the sun rises, pouncing upon her sleeping body while mimicking a hissing neck bite. Obviously terrified that an infected is eating her alive, Ellie tosses Riley to the ground before pulling a knife from beneath her pillow. Jokes aren't quite as funny when there are monsters lurking. We soon learn that these two best friends had a falling out a month back, and while Ellie is going through training in a military school, Riley has joined the rebel Fireflies. Grievances quickly forgotten, the two risk punishment from their superiors by sneaking into the dangerous city they call home.

There's a relaxed back-and-forth between Ellie and Riley that's a marked change from the uneasy chatter that dominated The Last of Us. Ellie is playful and open with Riley, always ready with a quip and eager to experience everything that life has to offer. A few years older than Ellie, Riley soon takes charge, though her direction is subtle. She's more of an older sister than a guardian. Their destination: an empty mall without any electricity. Or so Ellie thought. When Ellie flicks the power generator, the lights come on, and the two girls are free to explore the shattered remains of what was once a rich and wasteful society.

Watching these two characters interact is heartwarming. As they try on masks in a Halloween shop, their joy is infectious, and I was nodding along with Ellie when she remarked how much junk people used to buy. Such bric-a-brac must be difficult to understand if you live among people who cherish only the bare necessities. Still, Ellie doesn't turn her nose up at the novelties around her. As you wander through that store, there's a Magic 8 Ball that looks like a skeleton's head. Sure, you could shake it just once if you're in a hurry, or bolt right through the door to the next area, but once I realized that Ellie had a lot of questions in mind, I kept going back to it until she ran out of things to say. Such moments made me happy. To see Ellie in her own element, acting like the kid that she still is, was so real and genuine that I didn't want to see it end.

By examining Ellie's plight through the lens of such a bleak existence, we grow ever closer to her, and realize how devastating one's life in such a world would be.

Much of Left Behind is composed of these playful scenes, but there's more going on beneath the surface. As you explore the many stores of the mall, Riley and Ellie keep up a running dialogue. Having the emphasis placed on wandering around the desolate environments is a welcome change from the tense combat encounters that dominated the main game. The focus is primarily on getting to know Riley and understanding more of Ellie's motivations, so it's a relief not to have their bonding interrupted. You want to know more. You want to find out what caused them to fight, what Riley's future plans are, and how they're coping with their depressing reality.

Death is incredibly difficult to bear.
Death is incredibly difficult to bear.

Interspersed between these scenes of Riley and Ellie is a hectic situation that takes place a few years in the future. Here, Ellie has already begun her journey with Joel, although she is by herself during this time. And any thoughts of aimless discovery have been banished. Surrounded by roaming zombies and deadly mercenaries, she must use all of her survival abilities to make it through unscathed.

It's here that Left Behind more closely resembles the mood that permeated The Last of Us. Ellie lives in a terrible place where every living thing could be considered an enemy. Death is her only companion, always painfully present as she moves slowly through the tattered environments. Going between the lighthearted early days and the foreboding doom years later is so jarring that it's almost too much to bear. When she's with Riley, Ellie laughs so loudly that I would hold my breath, scared that a clicker would hear her. Even though no infected were around, I couldn't forget their terrible wrath. She's so young, so naive, that she hadn't yet learned to be cautious at all times. And when you're alone in the sections without Riley, you feel the weight of the change of the last few years. Now she realizes that death is one loud noise away. I wanted her to stay young forever, ignorant to the threats lurking, while understanding that she needed to grow up fast if she was going to survive. Of course, such different mindsets are impossible, and I was sad to see how quickly her carefree disposition was ripped away.

So I cherished those scenes with Riley and Ellie. When they happen upon a photo booth, they make faces and shriek giddily when their silly mugs are captured. But they can't print out the pictures. And that goes along with the major theme of Left Behind. We see a brief, happy snapshot from Ellie's life with Riley, but we can't take it with us. Her childhood has to come to an end at some point.

Every young girl should learn how to use a Molotov cocktail.
Every young girl should learn how to use a Molotov cocktail.

When you're playing as Ellie alone, there are threats around you. There are no jokes here, nothing to distract you from the dour proceedings. When the first fight erupted against the zombie menace, I recoiled. Extreme violence was the norm in The Last of Us, but after spending so much time in peaceful tranquility in Left Behind, I had forgotten how harsh this world was. And I hated that Ellie had become accustomed to her role so quickly. Though Ellie must kill many times during the course of this three-hour story, it's always uncomfortable. It's never accepted that this is just the way things are. It's to the game's credit that you're placed on the defensive in combat. Ellie doesn't want to fight--she has to--so you reluctantly kill your foes because that's the only option.

I was sad to see how quickly Ellie's carefree disposition was ripped away.

Still, it's disappointing that one section can be completed only when every enemy has been exterminated. As the fight was wearing down, a few zombies were quite a distance away, well out of sight, and yet I could not open the door that stood locked before me. Forcing Ellie to systematically kill everything felt dirty, as if the game were pushing Ellie down a violent path that's opposed to who she is during the somber cutscenes. Or at least who I wanted her to be.

In many ways, the fights are identical to what The Last of Us offered. The crumbling wasteland of the postapocalypse serves as your battlefield, and you must make smart use of the overturned tables and smashed windows if you're going to survive the stalking threats. Ellie is quick with a bow and pistol, and can craft smoke bombs, nail bombs, and Molotov cocktails if you need something more explosive. The most important items aren't traditional weapons at all; rather, they're bottles and bricks. Ellie has little health, and there aren't many items scattered about to craft a surplus of medical packs, so you need to stay out of sight. That's where the bottles and bricks come in. Instead of letting your position be known by firing a gun, you can stun infected and humans by tossing an object at their face and then rushing in to finish them off with a knife. Disturbing? No doubt. But very effective.

Even though there are infected about, clowns are still pretty creepy.
Even though there are infected about, clowns are still pretty creepy.

There is one addition to the combat that fundamentally changed how I approached fights. In The Last of Us, zombies and mercenaries never mingled. Here, the mercs may be in for an unpleasant surprise when they're hunting you. You see, infected don't like any humans at all, so they're just as happy to go after a gun-toting soldier as they are a teenage girl. If you toss a bottle toward the armed guards, you can draw the attention of the diseased monsters, and then watch from a safe distance as the two sides fight. I admit that I found pleasure in hearing the mercenaries cry for help when surrounded by infected. They were trying to kill Ellie, after all, so they deserved a violent end. Plus, the mercenaries would undoubtedly kill at least some of the infected, so it made my job much easier once their fight was over.

Left Behind is a hugely successful add-on to The Last of Us. When I played through the main game last year, I had trouble connecting to Joel, because his rough demeanor and questionable choices left a bitter taste in my mouth. So it was a relief that his desperation was nowhere to be found in Left Behind. Instead, the story focuses on love and hope. Seeing how Ellie acts with a peer, a friend, gave me new appreciation for her, and Riley offers another strong character to latch on to. The focus on exploration also lets the well-realized environments breathe, and gives you plenty of time to take in the current state of the world. And when a combat encounter surfaces, it's so much more impactful considering how rare fights are and the exhausting tension that accompanies each battle. Left Behind is an excellent addition that gives further insight into the chilling world of The Last of Us and its most interesting character.

Back To Top
The Good
Excellent look at the relationship between Ellie and Riley
Insightful story that rounds out Ellie's character
Great balance of lighthearted scenes with tense combat
Introducing infected and mercanaries into one fight adds dynamic options
Builds the world and characters through primarily non-violent means
The Bad
Forced combat in one area feels unnatural
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for The Last of Us

About the Author

Tom was riveted during the three hours he spent with Left Behind. He was more involved in the story of Ellie's life before she met Joel than the story of The Last of Us, and loved the changes to the combat.
510 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for pinkfloyd6789

Finally played it on my PRO and instantly felt a classic. 10/10 PS top 5

Avatar image for kryptonate

What a game! Superb!!! 10/10!

Avatar image for palumtra

Another "why the f&#k is it PS only" game..... :/ else its 10/10

Avatar image for pinkfloyd6789

@palumtra: because of SONY’s wit on games. I had a 360 when it lunched and understood the company differences. Now MS made a 4k console still no games. I prefer a vanilla PS to a souped-up X.

Avatar image for F-14-D_TOMCAT

If I had a fast internet connection @ home I would definitely get this. The portion in TLOU where you play as Ellie was awesome, imo it was very intense and definitely the best part of the game so I would definitely enjoy left behind.

Maybe naughty dog will release a GOTY version with all Dlc content on disc in which case i'd definitely buy it despite the fact I already have a copy of TLOU, kind of how I bought Borderlands and later also bought Borderlands-GOTY.

Avatar image for F-14-D_TOMCAT

It just happens that a GOTY version of TLOU is being released in Europe on Nov-11. Here's the link to that story

If Left Behind will be physically included on the disc am definitely buying it, I just hope it will not be codes to download it from psn.

Avatar image for robchiang1990

@F-14-D_TOMCAT It's download code and 5 gig was quite hard to download, I started playing the original the Last of Us story on easy non stop while downloading Left Behind, the download was completed when I got halfway through Pittsburgh about 5 hours later. Also GOTY edition does not contain all DLC, just Grounded difficulty, Left Behind(which is all I care for) and about 2 more MP map.

Avatar image for Snapdragon1

OMG GameSpot were you sleeping when you played TLOU rating it a 9 ? This game is a 11 easily ! This is the best game ever made by any game company ever thus the reason it's won over 200 GOTY awards.

Avatar image for pinkfloyd6789

@Snapdragon1: well i will give it a 10. But i think technical problems were there. story and production values were so good that one will overlook the problems.

Avatar image for KingofgamersX

@Snapdragon1 small minded

Avatar image for Snapdragon1

@KingofgamersX @Snapdragon1 Hardly I happen to have an OPINION and it is that TLOU IS the BEST Video Game EVER MADE !!!!

Avatar image for fire897

This is an opinion or at least identical to other opinions I see a lot but I simply do not understand. Everything besides it's presentation was nothing noteworthy.

Avatar image for Snapdragon1

@fire897 I can only gather that you played this game with NO sound and with your eye's Closed otherwise you would have seen the reason million upon millions of us gamers see this as the GREATEST game every made. For the first time in video gaming ALL the ingredients needed to create the PERFECT video game we're bother together. From the graphic Combat system full of excellent fighting as well as stealth abilities to the Live in game Crafting system along with a completing new and brilliant multiplayer experience, plus the perfect story, music and graphics. It's not hard to see the people at Naughty Dogs did what up until then had NEVER been done put together MASTERPIECE ! You should play it again and this time don't rush through it take your time play it differently then you normally would meaning if you're a rush in a kill everyone kinda player then try stealth killing everyone. Look around at the environment think about what it use to look like or if you ever visited any of the cities shown in the game even better. Listen to the stories the characters tell become invested in them share their joy their sorrow then you'll begin to understand why TLOU is the greatest game ever. TLOU is like a fine wine its meant to be enjoyed again and again

Avatar image for fire897

Nope, I had my eyes and ears wide open and saw very little within the game besides its presentation. What's funny is I actually prefer stealth games. Dishonored was my personal GOTY two years ago. However this game simply didn't have good stealth mechanics. It's a shame considering the mechanics actually had potential to be pretty good with the crafting; but bad enemy design, bad enemy AI, way too many scripted gameplay moments, unreliable delivery of vital information, no actual progression of challenge, and several other design flaws made the gameplay rather average to me. There just wasn't much depth to it. The only particularly good thing about the gameplay is the animations and theatrics, which I would consider part of the presentation. As for the story, I will admit it had it's moments but it simply was not very engaging and it was rather predictable. I actually said to my self "something bad will likely happen when I open this door" right before Joel's fall in the university. I'll admit the dialogue was well written but the actual story arc wasn't anything special. I never felt too invested in the game and quite honestly i felt like I just watched a summer popcorn flick by the end. And as I said earlier, the game is great presentationwise. The soundtrack, graphics, environments, and attention to detail is superb, but everything else to me is nothing worthy of any significant praise.

Avatar image for yuuchan34

Neil Druckmann shouldn't have given us the DLC. He think all of us are smarter enough and creative. In the *The Last Of Us: Grounded* The game was an open one. Any ideas from everyone, the voice actors or even the guys he talks to everyday. I think everyone here or the entire naughtydog crew are directors.

The 20 years time skip it could be another DLC but.... after repeating the game and watching others play it, I ah... puzzle it out on what happened before Joel met Ellie. I you're listening to the conversations not just the cinematics.

The protagonist is telling what the world was like after it falls to the pandemic. One of them got me. I almost quit the game. That's a reaction of a hater or some human got pissed but no. I would return it telling them how they brought what I was before.

An outstanding graphics, A effect that could bring a player ground the real world and A onion wrapped beside your eyes. It's beautiful yet, clashes with ugliness.

Avatar image for iskaroth

1. Female protagonist - check

2. Main characters are lesbians - check

3. One of them is black - check

wow such politically correct, much amaze. Im suprised it didnt get 10/10.

Avatar image for reddevilofhell

@iskaroth U my friend. Deserves a BitchSlap.

Avatar image for kickinlikesally

If it wasn't so damn short, I'd be more inclined to buy it

Avatar image for willnye88

How could Gamespot even consider giving The Last of Us only an 8?! That was probably the most thought out game I've ever played. At some points I was so emotionally involved I actually felt for Joel and Ellie. This isn't a mindless FPS (not that I don't enjoy them from time to time). This is a story and the best one I can remember in a long, LONG time. 2013 was truly a hell of a year with TLOU and Bioshock infinite. Those are the games I want to see. Beautifully crafted, emotionally intensive games with characters that seem so real you forget it's a game.

Avatar image for vampao

lol the last of us review 8/10. the last of us dlc review 9/10. nice job gamespot.

Avatar image for MattPeters

@aphexinc @Tiwill44 Haha, it's so silly but really funny.

Avatar image for richardfitzinya

i read a post stating there is only about an hour of gameplay in this dlc….that true? whats the real length if not thanks all

Avatar image for oldman54

@richardfitzinya - you should have read the review...or even watched the video, and just listened. He clearly states he played through in 3 hours.

Avatar image for swolid-snake

It is because of your TLOU reviews that my loyalty has shifted from gamespot (gayspot) to IGN. I know you've heard this all before but I don't know how you can justify giving a game such as Darksiders 2 an 8.5 and TLOU an 8 (and yes I know they were reviewed by different people and Tom, who doesn't even lift, is probably just jealous of Joel's massive and perfectly animated swole). Goddamn I used to trust gamespot reviews as if they were religious documents written by Hercules himself. However it is closed minded reviewers such as Mrs. Mc Shea (AKA small arms Tom) that have shattered my trust. For God's sake in your review - which I felt mildly homosexual just reading - you state that Ellie meets Joel 'years after' the events of Left Behind when in fact it is only a matter of 3 weeks. You do this stuff for a living yet you're too lazy to clarify a few details before posting a review and having everyone laugh at your stupidity. Get it together gamespot, you're losing respect with every review.

Avatar image for jlird808

@swolid-snake @krollvetter Oh's also repeatedly called the infected "zombies" in other interviews, even using the term "zombie apocalypse" just moments after Druckmann said it was a "post pandemic world"!

He's a total DOOOOOOSH.

Avatar image for jlird808

@swolid-snake I totally agree...he keeps saying the Riley/Ellie story takes place YEARS before Joel meets Ellie. It's 3 FCKNG WEEKS!! He even calls the hunters "mercs" at 3:12. WTF....mercenaries?? Is he even paying attention??

If u watch Mcshea in the below vid, he looks uncomfortable, he doesn't seem to be even listening to BS and ND's answers, and asks some dumb questions.

@krollvetter , I think it just shows that Mcshea is in some weird mental place, and probably shouldn't be reviewing games professionally. I'm losing respect for Gamespot day by day. I vaguely remember when they first was the sh*t!!!!!

Avatar image for krollvetter

@swolid-snake Your maturity and insight into things (mildly homosexual????) is underwhelming!

And any person who uses one game site to base their entire gaming on has a real problem! How about NOT expecting someone else to determine what you like or want to play! Do a little research and live with your decision. This whining about "scores" is getting very, very old! And people are supremely tired of it. It's done - live with it!

Avatar image for Shadowdanc3r

So underage lesbians are riveting and involving? How very European, Tom. :p

Avatar image for mokalid

you know the DLC always get a low score review. but this one is diffrent, how many hours gameplay is it ?

Avatar image for Shadowdanc3r

@mokalid Under "About the Author," it says three hours.

Avatar image for Tiwill44

The review of a DLC is longer than the review of a full Donkey Kong Country game.

Where did we go so wrong?

Avatar image for aphexinc

@Tiwill44 when Donkey Kong comes out the closet itll be front page news with a 10/10

Avatar image for stylechyld

this dlc makes no sense..if you ever played the full story of the last of us when joel gives the gun to ellie, she was clueless and frightened to use she seems used to if this story takes place before the main story so is that make sense.

Avatar image for Blashbuck

@stylechyld watch the dlc on youtube.

it'll make sense

Avatar image for sherman-tank1

@stylechyld Only the time with Riley is before the main game. The other part is after Joel gets hurt.

Avatar image for evilpat

Tom, I read you're article's and their defenatly good.

Avatar image for Superzone

Uh, okay..... so Gamespot recommends The Last of Us DLC more than The Last of Us? Right...

Avatar image for Pawfalcon

Loved this DLC, fitting score. Feel bad for those that won't get a chance to give it a go.

Avatar image for Skrilla_XS

So the DLC is better than the actual game....hmm, okay, whatever you say McShea.

Avatar image for Evil_Saluki

It's annoying that I don't have my Last of Us anymore. I want to play this but it's not worth buying the game again and this DLC if it's only 2-3 hours.

If I still owned Last of Us, I would of got it.

Avatar image for rubenadioboy


Avatar image for mhj0808

Oh, so the game itself was an 8... but the DLC is a 9, Tommy boy?

Ok then.

Avatar image for kingtemplar

So the DLC is rated 9 and the Game gets PS3 GAME OF THE YEAR. But still they won't change the worst review I have read for a great game. The review was nothing about the game but about the reviewers Father problem.

Avatar image for Caduceus89

Why is the download so big if its only an hour or two long?!

Avatar image for 01brs

Lovey to see TLOU again. It has been greatly missed. However, I feel a bit ripped off to be honest. Left Behind is way too short, even though the actual gameplay is pretty solid and unique. I'm quite disappointed to tell the truth overall...

Avatar image for WllDan7

Weird the dlc gets a higher score than the full game. I suppose the part that makes this game make since coming out out on v day is what got it that bump.

Avatar image for 001011000101101

Well I honestly think this game is pretty silly looking, but I still welcome more games like this in the future. Less shooting, more character development. Other developers, like Bioware, could learn a lot from something like this since they always seem to stress how character and story focused their games are, despite the player spending most of the time shooting faceless soldiers.

Avatar image for therock343

I'm convinced that Tom McShae just likes to play lead female roles....

The Last of Us More Info

  • First Released Jun 14, 2013
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation 4
    The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic action shooter game developed by Naughty Dog. Joel, a brutal survivor, and Ellie, a brave teenaged girl who is wise beyond her years, must work together if they hope to survive their journey across the US.
    Average Rating4970 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate The Last of Us
    Developed by:
    Naughty Dog
    Published by:
    SCE Australia, SCEI, SCEA, SCEE, Sony Interactive Entertainment
    Adventure, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language