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

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

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DariusMKN

The DLC received a score of 9 because it was reported as an extension of the original game, so the three hours long not pulled the score down. Now, if the DLC can be considered a complete game to be chosen as Game of the Month, why the three-hour (that characterize a short game) are not criticized in the review?

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carolynmichelle

<< LINK REMOVED >> If you read Tom's review of Left Behind, you see that it received a score of 9 for its outstanding writing, its beautiful and moving portrayal of the relationship between Ellie and Riley, and the ways in which the gameplay enhances the storytelling, not for the reasons you mention.

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Shadowdanc3r

<< LINK REMOVED >> Sorry to stalk you with this, I already posted on your wall, but in case you didn't read my rhetorical question in your EDF 2025 review:

"The all-female wing diver unit has to wear skimpy, revealing armor; that's the only way to make it light enough for them to fly in! It makes perfect sense!"

You expect logic in a video game about alien invasions and giant insects?

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slainta

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> There is nothing wrong with the portrait of beautiful women with a generous shape in videogames. Or movies. I think Sophia Loren in her best years had a breast larger than the original Lara Croft's. And that was natural. There is more objectification of women in breast surgeries than in few pixels added on the screen.

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Shadowdanc3r

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Then let us also say good riddance to the beef cakes in games as some women find them sexy.

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carolynmichelle

<< LINK REMOVED >> No. But the objectification of women in games is a tired tradition that doesn't need to be perpetuated, even in games about alien invasions and giant insects.

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wm3sv

A DLC became of the month then a Demo will be Game of the month.

I don't mind it's a bad DLC because two girls playing is not a bad idea but doesn't work for me

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Rennik_Repotsir

...and here I was hooping for the Tropical Sexy Costumes Pack to win...

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dadouneto

DLC means downloadable content

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jemoedr

DLC isn't a game...

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l0ne_wanderer

@jemoedr Technically it is a game. It is a game within a game u pay for and play. They could make a DLC of the month article but there are not many contenders for DLCs are there? So y not give the game what it deserves - a game of the month.

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At3fD

<< LINK REMOVED >> GameSpot can't tell the difference.

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jemoedr

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> certainly looks like it...

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EPaul

Hmm didnt see that one coming

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Grenadehh

So a DLC is game of the month, when actual games, which were better than the DLC, came out last month? Oh, the author, I see.

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At3fD

<< LINK REMOVED >> The DLC was great and all, but C'mon a freaking DLC really ?! they should call it DLC of the month that would be better !

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At3fD

It's a ****!ng DLC ! what the hell is wrong with you people ?!

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DariusMKN

What are you guys arguing about? This is Gamespot, the site that is always aligned with the community opinion.

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dantesergei

<< LINK REMOVED >>

Yeah right, thats why Zelda won game of the year.

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DariusMKN

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> At least Zelda was a game, not a DLC.

Avatar image for DariusMKN
DariusMKN

<< LINK REMOVED >> I mean, if this were an Expansion Pack like DAO: Awakening, Red Dead Undead or Far Cry Blood Dragon, I would have nothing against. But its a 3 (at best) hours long DLC...

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ranzikiel

I really love playing this dlc but the title for this topic is "GAME of the month". It should be a NEW game that's released this month. Sure this dlc is still a game but should be considered as a part of TLOU which was released last year not this month. Was hoping to play something new.

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ExtremePhobia

<< LINK REMOVED >> I think the reasoning is because Left Behind could easily have been released as a stand alone title. It was the price of most small games anyway and people seemed to think it was worth that price. Ironically, the folks at IGN felt that it was worthy of a nomination as well. We just don't know if it has won yet.

Avatar image for Optimist_Pryme
Optimist_Pryme

@ranzikiel I know right? Since it's okay to award DLC, I suppose... I think I'd like to retroactively nominate the ("Extended Cut") DLC that fixed the horrible Mass Effect 3 ending for an award. Think it's safe to say most could at least agree on it being better than what was originally offered. T_T

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10knuckles01

the trailer for Dark Souls 2 should of won ''Game of The Month'' imo

Avatar image for Optimist_Pryme
Optimist_Pryme

Hrm, considering the Last of Us, although a decent game, was quite linear, simplistic somewhat in mechanics, with tremendously cheesy AI in several instances... kind of on the fence for this DLC, and not all too certain I'm wanting to dive into it.


Seems mind-blowing that every system out there has an awesome open-world/sandbox zombie survival simulation game of sorts, or several, yet the PS3/PS4 is still lacking in that department... (not ragging on the system either, Sony is my console of choice)... I mean seriously, PC has Day Z, War Z, and State of Decay (when it's finally ported), Wii U has ZombiU, Xbox One has Dead Rising 3, and 360 has State of Decay... granted PS3 has Dead Rising 2 and what not... but already been there, done that, had the t-shirt, and burned it! Last real epic "zombie" game play I recall having on the PS3 was Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare.


Not to mention, there's still debate as to whether or not the creatures in Last of Us are even technically "zombies"... since it's more like a plague from 28 Days Later, causing them to rage... rather than them actually dying and reanimating as a zombie technically does.


Come on Dying Light... just wish it had a toggle between 1st and 3rd person. :/

Avatar image for ExtremePhobia
ExtremePhobia

<< LINK REMOVED >> I know this is sort of a strange statement but... I think they are certainly a SORT of zombie if nothing else. I mean, if you can consider any of the Special Zombies from L4D to be Zombies, then Clickers would definitely fit in with them in intelligence and power.

Most zombies (at least in cases where it is explained) are the result of some kind of virus, parasite or curse. The curse angle is rather rare and I don't know that it's actually appeared in a game since Resident Evil. Resident Evil has been the best known running Virus method but even then, as early as 4, they've been trying to pair the virus with a parasite so that the zombies could be controlled (and arguably, that had been the intention for quite some time before, possibly as early as Wesker's involvement). Most don't actually get into the details though.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that parasites controlling zombies in video games are not uncommon and while a Zombie is generally the dead being reanimated, I'm fairly certain that it's actually any Human body no longer under the control of the host that is largely unintelligent, frequently dormant, and cannibalistic. That would certainly include the zombies in TLOU in every meaningful way.

Though as to your point on the game play, I can understand what you're going for. I'd certainly say these are Zombies and it's a post apocalypse but the Sand Box does change the game. You're specifically looking for a State of Decay/DayZ instead of even a Resident Evil style game (which is still rather open). I doesn't make the descriptors for this game inaccurate, just not necessarily what you'd want them to be. And you may not see an exclusive Zombie game on the PS3/4 in the near future (though I'm sure 3rd party games will likely make way onto it). I think it's a topic that's just too tired for Sony to do without very good reason.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

<< LINK REMOVED >>

Good grief, it's a surprise to me that there are still die-hard zombie buffs that argue over what "technically" makes for a "zombie".

I suppose that George A. Romero is one of your idols, isn't he?

Avatar image for Optimist_Pryme
Optimist_Pryme

@Gelugon_baat

Nope, not at all... more into zombie novels than movies... however, it's hard to really get a feel/experience of an "apocalypse" in a linear sequence... it'd be like saying Fallout games should progress from point A to point B and nothing but. #justsaying o_O


PS - I'd honestly just like to be able to actually openly explore the apocalypse... rather than have the entire experience scripted out for me is all I'm saying.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

<< LINK REMOVED >>

Yes, your post-script is right onto my intention for that remark. :P

Avatar image for Optimist_Pryme
Optimist_Pryme

Btw, not trying to take anything away from The Last of Us... for the linear epic story experience it was going for, it was pretty good (again, not withstanding the lame AI in the game most times)... original point was that I wish there was more newer zombie, plague, apocalypse selections available... seems most of the "top-tier epic PS3 Exclusive games" lately have been linear scripted stories that progress point A to point B -- which includes Beyond 2 Souls... great game, but again, linear and for the most part scripted. >_<


PS - And yeah, assuming when you said "scripted" you were (hopefully) making a geek joke about program coding, rather than what I was going for in movie-terms using the word "scripted". :P

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Optimist_Pryme

@Gelugon_baat @Optimist_Pryme Nope, not if it's open-world sandbox... hence my Fallout reference... or any other open-world/sandbox game... you can pick and choose where you want to go next, how you want to progress, whether or not you want to scavenge, or go back to a place you were already at, whether or not you want to travel around and explore the sites and side-quests or tackle the main storyline... when a game is linear progression, you miss all of that... making the entire apocalypse experience kind of "sheltered" at best.

Or to put it even more plainly... imagine Skyrim, without all the things that made it Skyrim -- tada.

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Gelugon_baat

@Optimist_Pryme

Isn't the entire experience already technically scripted out for you, even for open-world games...? XD

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

<< LINK REMOVED >>

I suppose this is way off-topic, but I don't really want to go to the GameSpot forums and it seems like you would react to this.

So... just out of curiosity, I am reading some stuff on the incarnations of the Gundam series, and to my surprise, the latest rehash simply dropped the space sci-fi opera bullsh*t and went Yu-Gi-Oh instead.

Did you know anything about this?

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Gamerno66666

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Sorry, I didn't watch any gundam series or Yu-Gi-Oh. Actually stopped watching animes after attack on titan.

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10knuckles01

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> i suppose this is even way more off topic,, but do you think Spike Spiegel is dead??

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

<< LINK REMOVED >>

Yes, because Cowboy Bebop isn't getting a sequel.

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Chr0noid

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> You barely remember the music? Goddamn you have bad taste. Wait, it's Gelugon baat. Why am I not surprised?

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Gelugon_baat

<< LINK REMOVED >>

Well, sorry to tell you, I barely remember the music - I just remember silhouettes and sh*t (maybe in the episode openings).

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10knuckles01

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> indeed,, probably my fav series of all time!! the soundtrack is unreal

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

<< LINK REMOVED >>

You really liked Cowboy Bebop, didn't you? :/

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10knuckles01

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> see you later space cowboy


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Halloll

so is this a standalone game or did GS just give their game of the month award to a DLC?

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Albelnox0

Ahahahaha omg gamespot you guys are so "professional" omg ROFL

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ramoswt

Godddammyouuu gamespot!! Y no cod pvz?? It number 2 game eva, nb 1 is ghostz

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Gelugon_baat

I like to think that Justin Haywald and Peter Brown did not argue loudly enough for Bravely Default. :P

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Shadowdanc3r

Since February isn't a full month they didn't pick a full game. :p

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pelvist

Obviously CP would choose this for GOTM...

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redder1111

I thought it's a DLC

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IT IZ