Solid sales and critical acclaim rocketed The Last of Us to the top of many Game of the Year lists in 2013. While some gamers were not as taken with the combat as they were the post-apocalyptic narrative, there’s no doubt that Naughty Dog had (once again) pushed the boundaries of cinematic storytelling in the video game medium. Some of the best moments in The Last of Us were also the most subtle, as protagonist pair Ellie and Joel rifled through LP’s in an old record store or enjoyed a quiet respite from fungi-infected Runners, Stalkers, Clickers, and Bloaters – as well as the game’s malevolent enemy survivors.

The inclusion of multiplayer has kept especially dedicated players returning to game but, in spite of the solid online component, many gamers have been anxiously waiting for Naughty Dog’s promised DLC add-on “Left Behind” before planning a return to the world of The Last of Us. The studio has yet to unveil a release date for “Left Behind,” though one could be announced later this week, with a target window of “early 2014.” Yet, in the meantime, actress Ashley Johnson, who plays Ellie, is opening up about her contributions to the add-on prequel story.

Speaking to the PlayStation Blog, Johnson touched on a number of behind-the-scenes details; however, for gamers who couldn’t get enough of The Last of Us story and characters, the actress promised that the version of Ellie that appears in “Left Behind” will include a few subtle differences – most notably that she’s “more playful“:

You kind of get to meet the real her. She’s in the quarantine zone prior to the events of The Last of Us – it’s her and her best friend Riley – what they do and how they live their lives in this world. You’ll definitely see a more playful side to Ellie and get to know her a bit better. You’re going to see a lot of different sides to the character that you definitely didn’t see in The Last of Us. I’m excited for people to experience it!

Even though Johnson holds-back on specifics, it’s encouraging to hear that, in addition to more story material, gamers will also get further insight into who Ellie was before she was handed-over to Joel in The Last of Us. Obviously, fans actually played through the tragic events that led to Joel’s guarded emotional state in the main game – which helped inform the difficult (and often controversial) choices he made throughout the later storyline. Yet, for all we know about Ellie, we didn’t experience the formative events that shaped her into a hardened young woman – a young woman who is willing to risk her own life for the sake of others. It’s easy to imagine that losing her closest friend will help flesh-out aspects of the character that gamers had previously only been able to imagine.

The Last of Us Left Behind Trailer

As for what to expect from Ellie’s tragic companion, Riley, Johnson asserts that the friendship is very different from the father-daughter dynamic she shared with Joel – allowing for more “playful” relationship:

It was interesting after working with Troy [Baker] and the Joel character for over two years, and then getting back on set and working with someone totally new. The relationship with Riley is vastly different to the one with Joel – firstly, they’re best friends and secondly, they’re both teenage girls. There’s a playfulness and silliness that wasn’t necessarily there with Joel! It’s a different kind of relationship – I love it. Some of the stuff that we captured for Left Behind is my favourite stuff that we’ve done on the whole project.

That said, Johnson makes it clear that this isn’t simply a missing chapter in The Last of Us – asserting that, despite the horrors of the world around them, “Left Behind” will also be slightly lighter in tone:

It’s definitely different. It’s a little bit more “fun,” because you have two teenage girls going through a mall. It’s kind of like a post-pandemic version of two teenage girls hanging out. Definitely not a normal hangout! It’s very different – a little more playful. There’s a bit of everything in there. You’re really getting a new sense of the environment. You’ll engage in combat that seems familiar from the original campaign, but there are some new touches and nuances, too.

The mention of “new touches and nuances” to combat is especially intriguing – since, in the main campaign, it was mainly Joel throwing punches and firing guns. Third-person shooting mechanics will likely play a role but don’t expect a detail-oriented developer like Naughty Dog to simply make Ellie and Riley a pair of gun-toting teenage badasses – it’s much more likely that the studio has significantly altered the core combat mechanics to make sense for this new protagonist pairing or, at the very least, double-down on stealth-based encounters and trap-style weaponry.

The Last of Us Screenshot Ellie rifle

Of course, that’s just speculation this point, since the “Left Behind” trailer and other official details on the project have been pretty vague in addressing the approach to gameplay in the DLC add-on. As a result, we’ll have to wait for further information from Naughty Dog, which (as mentioned earlier) should be arriving very soon, before we’ll have a clearer idea of what to expect from the “Left Behind” experience.


The Last of Us is available now and “Left Behind” is expected early in 2014.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick.

Source: PlayStation Blog