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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Avatar image for YoshiYogurt
YoshiYogurt

a DLC is not a game....



Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

I don't know why some of you continue staying at GameSpot and bashing its editorial staff.

If you haven't noticed already, some of you had been doing so for years. Has there been any change? If there is any, it's their collective skins getting thicker - especially with Gerstmann and company sharing the same office with them now.

Maybe some of you should consider leaving GameSpot and never coming back.

Avatar image for impeach_ricanv
Impeach_RicanV

<< LINK REMOVED >> I don't stop going to Hooters because I don't like a particular waitress.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

<< LINK REMOVED >>

Well, sooner or later, there are going to plenty of waitresses that you don't like. ;)

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

<< LINK REMOVED >>

You are assuming that GameSpot's editorial staff take turns picking their games. That's a very shaky assumption there, when << LINK REMOVED >>saying that they have a meeting.

Avatar image for impeach_ricanv
Impeach_RicanV

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> I've got nothing against Carolyn either. You eventually come to expect certain things from her, so nothing is really shocking anymore. I'd be disappointed if she didn't think this was the best "game" of the month...it was made for her.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

<< LINK REMOVED >>

Ah, but you can't seem to give the same benefit of the doubt to some other GameSpot staffer. Play favorites much?

Avatar image for impeach_ricanv
Impeach_RicanV

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> It's all good. I've forgiven Tom for accidentally giving Bioshock Infinite a 4/10. We all make mistakes. It's just proof that he really is human.

Avatar image for bluefox755
bluefox755

<< LINK REMOVED >> What fun would that be? Who wants to go to a site where they agree with all the staff?

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

<< LINK REMOVED >>

Ask that at GiantBomb's users. The bulk of them idolize Gerstmann and company and either agree with the latter's opinions or give them so much benefit of the doubt that other sites' editors would be green with envy.

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bluefox755

If there's one thing I've learned from Gamespot, lesbian teenage girls = great game.

Avatar image for VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Luckily they aren't real, so no one can really tell you no. *HAHA*

Avatar image for hadlee73
hadlee73

Feedback to Gamespot:

Its just my own personal opinion, but to me a DLC is just a downloadable expansion to an existing game. Unless it is able to run independently of an existing game, I don't consider it a game itself, but part of one that was released earlier (and therefore isn't really eligible for Game of the Month for this particular month unless the original game also came out in the same month).

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

<< LINK REMOVED >>

Well, if you are going to argue that, don't ever be caught putting any expansions or DLCs into your list of favorite games. ;)

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DIGN

<< LINK REMOVED >>Uh oh. You're going to get banned for using reasonable logic, telling the truth, and undermining an GS Journalist. That's like what, a 12-month suspension?

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

<< LINK REMOVED >>

That's an exaggeration. :P

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

<< LINK REMOVED >>

Yet you can know that I have a list of allegiances if you cannot even read my handwriting. How would you differentiate a list of such things from my list of groceries?

Avatar image for impeach_ricanv
Impeach_RicanV

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> I can't read your handwriting, so it does me no good.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

<< LINK REMOVED >>

Well, do list them down then. ;)

Avatar image for impeach_ricanv
Impeach_RicanV

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Gelugon's list of allegiances has always been written in pencil.

Avatar image for DIGN
DIGN

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >>You've sided with RicanV. I'm not even sure who you are anymore.

Avatar image for koelkastmagneet
koelkastmagneet

A month gets a dlc of the game award, madness!

Avatar image for impeach_ricanv
Impeach_RicanV

<< LINK REMOVED >> It's not even like this was a particularly weak month either. Any opportunity for Carolyn to push her agenda, I guess.

Avatar image for RicanV
RicanV

@impeach_ricanv @koelkastmagneet I guess someone had lots of free time on their hands.

Moderator
Avatar image for DIGN
DIGN

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >>Yes, how do you think you became a mod?

Avatar image for impeach_ricanv
Impeach_RicanV

Movie of the month, I guess.

Avatar image for DIGN
DIGN

<< LINK REMOVED >> I like you, you remind me of somebody that I used to know.

Avatar image for impeach_ricanv
Impeach_RicanV

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Gotye sucks.

Avatar image for DIGN
DIGN

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >>That was an accidental coincidence.

Avatar image for CloudStrife213
CloudStrife213

No offense. But could there be another agenda at hand here? Especially considering that the story of Left Behind involves homosexuality? TLOU only got an 8 here, but this DLC gets a 9 here.

It's Carolyn, remember Gone Home anybody?

Avatar image for bunchanumbers
bunchanumbers

<< LINK REMOVED >> So you're telling me that DKCTF would have gotten GOTM if it featured homosexuality? Well actually I wouldn't be all that surprised if that happened.

Avatar image for CloudStrife213
CloudStrife213

@bunchanumbers @CloudStrife213

Gone Home, a 1 and a half hour game(maybe even less) got a 9.5 here on Gamespot.

A higher score than games that have longer and better content, like BioShock Infinite and GTA V.

I suppose if TLOU had homosexual content it would have garnered a 9+ score, as evidenced by this DLC.

Avatar image for CloudStrife213
CloudStrife213

@darkninja956 @CloudStrife213

South Park parodies and makes fun of homosexuals, South Park doesn't romanticize homosexuality.

Avatar image for darkninja956
Darkninja956

<< LINK REMOVED >> South Park had Mr. Slave and it got a 7

Avatar image for Rotondi
Rotondi

No mention of Donkey Kong. I guess GS had to take that review in the mouth by not even mentioning this obvious nominee for game of the month. Oops. Spaget!

Avatar image for Sevenizz
Sevenizz

It brings nothing new to the genre, and is a very formulaic platformer not straying far from it's roots. Just because it came out, doesn't mean it should be in a GotM catagory.

Avatar image for Rotondi
Rotondi

<< LINK REMOVED >> I'm not sure where some gamers get this idea that games which bring something "new" to a genre should somehow be revered over those that took the genre they were in and nailed every aspect it. I mean, isn't that what people loved about TLOU? This was a game that brought nothing new to its genre but absolutley nailed the gameplay. Sevenizzy, this is exactly what Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, like Rayman Legends, does for the platformer genre. (Not to mention this is the best soundtrack we've heard in a long time).

Avatar image for Sevenizz
Sevenizz

PvZ: GW should have won. It was my favorite game over the last few months after DR3.

Avatar image for DIGN
DIGN

Leave it to GS to troll the simplist things. Game of the Month is a DLC? lmao, both Strider and Castlevania were better than this.

Avatar image for jameston80
jameston80

I agree, what the hell Gamespot!!!!! An add-on for a game should not count as a game of the month!!! This is totall BS !!!

Avatar image for lazarius12
lazarius12

I've heard good things, but DLC shouldn't count. I hate to be another one of 'those guys', but that's my view.