Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Last of Us - Left Behind DLC

What is the measure of good DLC? As an extra chapter to my favourite game of last year, it's an incredible addition that fleshes out Ellie's past and her character. But as an individual purchase, it is incredibly short and expensively priced with little new to offer in terms of the game's mechanics.

That there is the bad half of it. Stopping to smell the roses and enjoy the scenery, this DLC takes little over two hours to finish. Note that the scenery itself is wonderful to look at, gorgeously rendered and artfully created, but it doesn't offer all that much which is new to the post-apocalyptic world. It's another ruined building which our heroes progress through, the likes of which was seen all through TLOU. The combat works in much the same way as it did before, with Infected and Hunters searching for Ellie and needing to be avoided and distracted with thrown bricks.

That would be damning if this were as sequel, but for DLC I have no complaints. I was given another excuse to explore a post-apocalyptic environment and maneuver the dangers therein, so I quickly fell back into familiar old habits and was thrilled to do so. It was a reminder of how much I loved using the bow, getting the run around on my foes, and setting traps. The muscle memory flowed back, and the old tricks still worked. It's the perfect excuse to dive back in the world of TLOU.

The real draw here, in more ways than one, is the narrative. The game cuts between two days in Ellie's life. The last day of her childhood, when she and her best friend Riley were bitten, and the first day she had to survive without Joel, immediately after his injury in TLOU. Young Ellie is unprepared for combat, so the sections of the game which take place in winter (while Ellie looks for a first aid kit to fix up Joel) feature most of the peril and danger. This winter-half is great, and serves as a top quality addition to a missing chapter from the original game. It features the combat I was just talking about.

The majority of the game features Riley (Ellie's best friend, who we know died before TLOU started) and Ellie having one last day together in a ruined shopping mall. This is really what Left Behind is all about - the friendship of the pair and what Ellie lost when she was bitten. It is great to behold, and you can really get drawn in to the emotion of it all. They truly feel like the best of friends, and knowing how doomed they are makes it all so bittersweet. The narrative here is wonderful, and is masterfully crafted in terms of tone and acting, in a manner I would have thought beyond the reach of mere video-games.

It really is the relationship between the two which drives the game. Knowing what Ellie lost when Riley died, and how that later makes her react to Joel in TLOU, expands on her character in a meaningful way and is an emotional to experience. The way the two friends treat each other and experience the world together is astoundingly well acted and feels deserved, like honest emotions tied with heartfelt actions. Even more, since the game ends with the bite, and we never get to see the last hours on earth the two spend together, it still feels like unfinished business. The game ends before giving these two close friends the time to react. Maybe that was deliberate. Maybe that is why it is... Left Behind.

Still, when all is said and done, it is inescapable that £12 for two hours is too high a price. Except I was quick to pay it, and would do so again in a heartbeat. I love TLOU. I adore it's setting and story and combat and all. Make of that what you will.

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