Looking Back – The Last of Us: Left Behind

Left Behind Title Card

It’s been about seven years since I played The Last of Us. With Part 2 only days away, I am not riding its hype train, regardless of the early review buzz it’s getting. However, I still wanted to go back and experience the first game in some fashion because of the long time apart. I never played the expansion, Left Behind, so I decided to give it a run so I could see what I missed. While the story-telling is memorable and some of the sections are interesting, the combat reminded me why I felt so ‘meh’ about the first game and why I am not so sure that I’ll be playing the follow-up anytime soon.

Ellie killing an infected

Jumping into Left Behind, even if you finished the main game’s storyline, can be a bit confusing. My initial thought was that this was a prequel that focused on a particular period of Ellie’s young life. While the game does do that, it also explains a section of the first game that we didn’t get to experience. 

The flashback centres around Ellie and her estranged friend Riley. Riley left a few weeks prior to join the Fireflies militia group, leaving Ellie behind at the boarding school they both attended. The majority of their time together is spent wandering around an abandoned shopping mall where you’ll do activities like browsing a Halloween store, playing video games, and ‘hunting’ each other with water guns. 

Considering the harsh violence of the main storyline, these moments are quite refreshing and really add the struggles of these kids who simply want to have fun but can’t because of the circumstances. You see their innocence all while the world around them is crumbling apart.

Ellie and Riley admiring an amusement section of an abandoned shopping mall

Meanwhile, in the present, Ellie is once again wandering around a shopping mall, this time looking for any sort of first aid provisions for Joel who was critically injured in the main game. You don’t have time to play around. She must figure out a way to gain access to a crashed medical helicopter in the hopes that it contains anything to help with his injury. At the same time, she must deal with the infected that live in the mall and the humans who were chasing the pair earlier on.

Most of the action in Left Behind takes place in the present. I never thought TLOU had great combat. From what I remember, there were far too many areas where it wanted to be a stealth game but the stealth mechanics didn’t work correctly. This same problem exists in Left Behind. There were points where enemy AI made stupid decisions (like throwing a Molotov Cocktail at a wall and burning itself to death) or the collision detection would result in a point-blank shot from my gun doing zero damage.

Ellie crouching as she approaches a closed storefront

However, a cool aspect to the combat happens because there are both infected and human enemies in the mall. This allows you to play the two against each other. There are multiple times where a well thrown rock or bottle can alert the infected and they will attack the humans. This can change the shape of the area and make it much easier for Ellie to advance without having to deal with every enemy on her own.

On the flip side of that though, the last combat section is pretty annoying. Just when you think you’ve cleared the area of all the foes, they throw in more humans and the infected. This felt like a poor attempt to pad the game for a few more minutes and doesn’t really add anything of value.

The story is the real saving grace of Left Behind and outside of my combat frustrations, I am really glad that I finally played it. Anyone who has played The Last of Us and not experienced Left Behind, they should seriously figure a way to do so.

Ellie and Riley watching military trucks drive by them as they hide.
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Again, this may not have done enough to change my thoughts on the series and I will definitely wait a bit before I attempt to play Part 2. While I am certain I will enjoy the story,  I know I will get angry at the combat. Hopefully, I can avoid as many spoilers as possible, which is really hard considering how much of Part 2 has already been leaked in the lead-up to the game’s release