A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know The Last of Us: Left Behind is a third-person action game with bloody and sensational violence. Combat involves humans driven mad by fungal spores attacking and biting the main character. It also includes a good deal of strong language, as well as a brief scene in which a couple of teen girls taste a bit of whisky. It's definitely not meant for younger players. That said, more mature teens and adults likely will appreciate and be moved by the authentic and emotional friendship between the game's two young heroines, who are desperately searching for some sense of youthful normalcy as the world collapses around them.
What's it about?
Ellie, the teen girl who traveled across a plague-ravaged United States with her companion Joel in 2013's outstanding The Last of Us, returns as the sole playable character in THE LAST OF US: LEFT BEHIND, a three-hour expansion available only via download. The story explores a skipped sequence from the original game in which Ellie gathers medical supplies and uses them to save Joel after he falls and gravely injures himself. Its real aim, however, is to use a series of extensive, playable flashbacks that revolve around Ellie's friendship with another girl to provide specifics concerning the events that led to Ellie joining up with Joel. The challenging combat returns, with several nail-biting sequences that see Ellie alternately hiding from and hunting both infected and uninfected humans. However, much of the game is free of fighting, focused instead on getting to the heart of the complex relationship between the two girls.
Is it any good?
Much like the game upon which it expands, The Last of Us: Left Behind doesn't content itself with simply delivering nerve-racking life-and-death scenarios that will leave players forever wary of clicking sounds in the dark. It also challenges players with a moving narrative that will make players care about its characters on a very human level. As Ellie and her friend explore a long-abandoned mall, doing the sorts of things kids their age not living through a nightmarish apocalypse normally would -- ducking into a photo booth, heading into an arcade -- the tragedy of their situation becomes woefully clear and is all the more so once the depth of their relationship is revealed and put to the ultimate test. Few game characters, male or female, young or old, have ever been so beautifully or sadly realized.
At only three hours, Left Behind is preciously brief. Most players will be left wishing for another three hours, especially given the stirring conclusion. Take it as proof of developer Naughty Dog's understanding of and commitment to the old adage: Always leave the audience wanting more.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about female characters in games. What about Ellie keeps her from becoming a stereotype? How does her appearance and personality differ from those of most game heroines?
Families also can discuss the impact of violence in media. How do you feel after playing a game with a lot of violence versus, say, a puzzle game? What purpose does violence serve in interactive entertainment?
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