725 Comments

Game of the Month - February 2014 - The Last of Us: Left Behind

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See our Game of the Month winner for February 2014
What you lose, and what you keep.

February gave us a number of good and great games, offering something for just about everyone. Shooter fans can enjoy the wonderfully refreshing Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. Classic arcade aficionados might gravitate toward Strider, an excellent update of a classic Capcom franchise. And those with a taste for challenging city builders can find a grim, unforgiving new take on the genre in Banished. But in the end, our deliberations boiled down to a debate over the merits of two outstanding games: the captivating Japanese role-playing game Bravely Default, and the story-focused downloadable add-on for The Last of Us, Left Behind.

Left Behind ultimately triumphed because the humanity of its characters and of its story isn't just uncommon in games; it's practically unheard of. It's no wonder that, in her great Wired piece called "The Videogame That Finally Made Me Feel Like a Human Being," Laura Hudson called Left Behind "the most emotionally powerful experience I've ever had in the medium." Left Behind is set during the events of The Last of Us, but while you, as Ellie, forage around a Colorado mall hoping to find the supplies you need to tend to a wounded Joel, Ellie recalls another experience she once had in a mall, an experience that may have been only a few months prior but is so far removed from her life now that it might as well have been in another lifetime.

Ellie and Riley go through an awful lot together in a very short time.
Ellie and Riley go through an awful lot together in a very short time.

During the flashback sequences, we relive a time that Ellie and her friend Riley ventured into a dilapidated Boston mall, and although our time with the two of them is relatively brief, it gives us a picture of a complex, fully realized relationship. They share sad moments and funny moments and sweet moments; they laugh together and they play together and they argue with each other, and we understand them and believe in them and empathize with them every step of the way. The writing is so good, it puts the dialogue in most games to shame.

Left Behind is also brilliant in the way that it takes the gameplay mechanics of The Last of Us--things like throwing bricks, sneaking, and shooting--and uses them as a way for us to participate in Ellie and Riley's relationship. If you've played The Last of Us, you'll have come to associate these mechanics with fear and danger, but in Left Behind, they're often recontextualized in moments of joy and friendly competition. Ellie and Riley live in a devastated world, and they've learned how to cope with things nobody their age should have to, but they're also just teenagers, who want to laugh and have fun and fall in love. It's a poignant reminder of just how much Ellie has lost, how different her life should have been.

Ultimately, Left Behind is about how things are fleeting and how people are haunted by loss, but we're left with our memories, and these become a part of who we are. It's appropriate, then, that the act of playing Left Behind leaves you with so many memories of the time that Ellie and Riley spent together.

Related links:

The Last of Us: Left Behind Review

January Game of the Month

725 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for ffritzy
ffritzy

Why is there no mention of Jess or Carolyn in the video. Who's ideas are these? Is this GS as a whole or Jess' and Carolyn's opinions. Why didn't Carolyn read it, does she have a cold? I'd just like to know these things. Not really if she had a cold though, that doesn't really pertain to what game was good or not.

Avatar image for carolynmichelle
carolynmichelle

<< LINK REMOVED >> The editorial team as a whole, through discussions and deliberations, settled on Left Behind as the winner. I wrote the piece. Jess narrates all the Game of the Month videos.

Avatar image for RicanV
RicanV

Hey Caro, are there any spoilers in this piece? I was hesitant to read through.

Moderator
Avatar image for krystyla
krystyla

<< LINK REMOVED >> they make out

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freedom01

<< LINK REMOVED >> heres a spoiler....Joel's daughter dies :P

Moderator
Avatar image for RicanV
RicanV

Im cautious of reading something that is a spoiler and having to look away quickly and pretend I didn't read it.

Moderator
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joke_man

<< LINK REMOVED >>


It sure is...

Avatar image for carolynmichelle
carolynmichelle

<< LINK REMOVED >> I don't know. I mean, I don't think so, but I guess it all depends what you consider a spoiler.

Avatar image for RicanV
RicanV

Nice joke, joke man.

Moderator
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joke_man

<< LINK REMOVED >>


Yes!


Spoiler Alter! TLoU DLC is actually a game.


/spoiler

Avatar image for guardianofhonor
GuardianofHonor

That is not a game its a 2 hour DLC. This GOTM thing just became even more of a joke.

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Observer98

They gave a dlc GAME of the month? Wow Gamespot. Just Wow.

Avatar image for chiporeo
ChipOreo

The month was a bit dry for me but man if I had to choose, it would be Bravely Default hands down, a DLC add-on shouldn't be counted as a full game. . .I mean, wtf? but whatever. . .

Avatar image for Xirtahm
Xirtahm

<< LINK REMOVED >> Seriously. Bravely Default is an actual game that people are going nuts over... and for good reason. I have nothing against The Last of Us itself, for I loved it. But putting DLC up there as "game of the month" material?


No.

Avatar image for carolynmichelle
carolynmichelle

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> DLC or not, Left Behind is one of the most extraordinary examples of storytelling in video game history. It would be a shame to disqualify it from being appropriately recognized for this remarkable achievement simply because it's DLC.

Avatar image for Ultramarinus
Ultramarinus

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >>Short movies get their own Oscar category, they don't compete for the Best Movie category no matter how good they are. If you really want to award a DLC, create a new category for it. As it is, all you did was draw ire from everyone because what you did is practically favoritism, not giving credit where it's due. If anything, you made people who didn't play Left Behind view it with scorn, not curiosity. It should have been an honorable mention if you wanted to draw attention to it in a positive light.

It's a mistake that you should admit to and undo, else hardly anybody will be taking this GotM series seriously anymore. I for one, won't.

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krystyla

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> and Banished is a better SimCity made by one sole guy

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joke_man

@carolynmichelle @Xirtahm @chiporeo

Then maybe separate categories for DLC and games, and not a lead-in/title that says: "Game of the Month."

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dta7x

Has the gaming industry really run that dry that now dlc in being considered for awards such as this?

Avatar image for carolynmichelle
carolynmichelle

<< LINK REMOVED >> It has absolutely nothing to do with the industry running dry. If you read the writeup, you see that Left Behind was considered along with all the other releases of the month, and in the end, Left Behind was found to be the most deserving.

Avatar image for lizardlava
lizardlava

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> ^ Slayin' . . why hasn't Carolyn been fired for her review of GTA 5 yet...

Avatar image for krystyla
krystyla

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Banished and Bravely Default both are amazing Left Behind is a frickin DLC, w/o really adding anything new to the game

Avatar image for Riddick123
Riddick123

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> So, dlc is now considered a game?

Avatar image for Riddick123
Riddick123

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Should be considered DLC of the month

Avatar image for Arkhalipso
Arkhalipso

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> What is it then?

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Feeder16

Ironic the game itself only got an 8 on this site yet they think some dlc is game of the month.

Avatar image for Xirtahm
Xirtahm

... The Last of Us was game of the year in 2013. How is DLC considered a game in itself?


Hell, if I were just to go by all of February's news articles, I would have assumed Flappy Bird and Titanfall would be "game of the month" for you guys, since no one would shut the **** up about them.

Yes, I know Titanfall is a March release, but your fap-happy hype coverage was exponentially higher than any other game that actually came out in February.

Avatar image for Arkhalipso
Arkhalipso

<< LINK REMOVED >> It's not a popularity constest, you know.

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Gamerno66666

But but DLC.