Monday, 17 February 2014

The Last of Us: Left Behind | PS3 DLC Review

The Last of Us: Left Behind, dir. Bruce Straley, Neil Druckmann, wr. Neil Druckmann, st. Ashley Johnson, Yaani King

It seems only right that as I chose to feature Naughty Dog's The Last of Us here, on what is ostensibly a film review site, I should also feature the studio's first and only downloadable content for the game. But this is no precedent-setting obligation, as this much, much shorter game possesses the same incisive attention to detail, penetratingly poignant storytelling and persuasive voice and mo-cap work of the original. The very last scene of The Last of Us had Ellie refer to a friend of hers from the past - Riley - and Left Behind allows us to see an expanded version of that relationship, and consequently, why its mention in the closing moments of the main game is so important. Like with The Last of Us, Left Behind primarily focusses on the relationship between its leads rather than formless shivving and hiding (although there is that too) from nasties, and again, this is the strength of the piece. Regardless of whether a true sequel for The Last of Us ever materialises (and I do hope it doesn't - I've already written of how a movie version would be a bad idea here), Left Behind reveals the judiciousness of a parentheses-filling two-hour footnote over another full twenty-hour installment, that develops what has gone before instead of retreading it. Even the familiar gameplay is recontextualised for an earlier, pre-hardened Ellie that ominously foreshadows her future ordeals. One may wonder at the need for any such DLC on top of what was already a cracking piece of artistry, but Left Behind graciously allows us what we wanted most - a further, small peek into the past of one of the most compelling characters of last year - and, to be fair, Joel is gifted with a backstory in The Last of Us, Ellie is not. Left Behind does not redefine its older brother, nor does it come across as a kind of deleted scene that was excised for running time. Rather it's a clever way of inserting a flashback into the closing moments of The Last of Us without ruining that achingly bittersweet last cutscene - it's a glorious win-win: the integrity of the original game is preserved, and, for those of us who might be keen to investigate a little further, Left Behind elaborates and enhances, revealing depth and clarity where it would be hard to imagine more existing. Be prepared for The Last of Us to beautifully, profoundly infect you all over again.