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 LegatoSkyheart

This is the only Game of the Month article that isn't actually a game, but DLC.

I think Bravely Default should have gotten mentioned here.

Avatar image for ooccmm

Not a fan of DLC being considered as a full game, but exceptions should be made when said DLC is not just an extra level, but a new narrative such as Burial at Sea or Left Behind.

Avatar image for tightwad34

DLC FTW, I guess.

Avatar image for Samslayer

Ultimately this 'game' of the month sums up the shitbox known more broadly as February.

Avatar image for youre_a_sheep

DLC is not a game any more than a tire is a car.

Avatar image for Elann2008


Agreed. It won't be long until we have DLC of the month articles.

To give way to the other side of the argument, wouldn't it be unfair if say, a 4-hour full game won the game of the month? Some DLCs are long as some unwarranted short full-games.

I think the game industry needs to clearly define what is a full-game, DLC, and which award category each belongs to. Is Game of the Month even an award? Does it need to be taken that much to heart?

Like an NBA player of the week or the month. People will soon forget it happened. The only thing that really matters is MVP, like Game of the Year.

Just a thought. =)

Avatar image for aegis_kleais

@youre_a_sheep Problem is, DLC is like buying 4 tires and being given a single spare. You're paying some beau coup dollars for it, and getting 1-2 hours of play time. It's amazing how much of a rip-off DLC is. Segregated content for the sake of making additional money on top of the base sale. Ugh.

Avatar image for DoctorWeeTodd

@aegis_kleais I agree that DLC usually fits your analogy. They're usually just some skins, an optional playable character, or a bland level that should have been cut from the game. I actually think that since a lot of DLC today are on-disk, or finished content meant to be included but cut, that a better analogy would be buying a new car at full price that's missing windows and a fourth tire and having to pay extra for them.

But here the analogy should be buying a large dependable SUV, and having a low cost and extremely fuel efficient microcar that's only available to owners of that SUV.

Left Behind is a full in it's own right. It has an all new setting, narrative, gameplay mechanics, characters and a reasonable game length. Since I was so taken in by the rich characters and detail, it took me all night to complete the first time. I imagine others (and judging by YT Let's Play videos) would do it faster in about a little more than three hours. That's not bad for $14.99 (Or nothing if you bought the game at release or the Season Pass) is not a bad price. For comparison Portal which came out in 2007, has the current full price of $9.99 on Steam and has a similar gameplay time.

Avatar image for themanitou23

When I complain about a game of the month being a downloadable add-on or a portable game, it is because I am saddened by the fact that my new shinny next gen console which SHOULD have the perfect set up to give me the best gaming experience of the month has somehow failed. Here is to hoping that a full game for the newest consoles wins in March. Titanfall and Infamous: Second Son are looking like good candidates so far...

Avatar image for kelandris

@themanitou23 I honestly don't think a DLC should count as "game of the month", hopefully next month is actually a full game. I'm personally rooting for Dark Souls 2, although I would say Titanfall and Infamous are strong contenders as well.

Avatar image for manutdarsenal

Lesbihonest, this game was pretty good but it I think the award should go to a full game not its DLC's

Avatar image for Goobshoeriot

sooo lame.. DLC is not a "GAME" so it cant be game of the month. I get it wer're still riding TLoU wave here but come on.. it says "game" of the month. This was probably picked cause there really wasn't much competition but I think this might be overhyping it a bit. A dlc about 2 girls playing and having fun that it warms your heart.. blah blah blah. If I only get an hour out of it and half of it is having water balloon fights thats not something to rave about. BUT if you were to say this is a Great addition to TLoU cause it gives us more insight and time w/ the chars then ok yea I'll give you.. just call it wat it is

Avatar image for DoctorWeeTodd

<< LINK REMOVED >>If I only get an hour out of it and half of it is having water balloon fights thats not something to rave about.

You obviously haven't played half of it.

Avatar image for eternal_napalm

If this was TitanBot dlc then the select few who own a Xbone would be doing the fanboy swim.

Avatar image for antiheroeco

It is funny how a dlc can be considered a game, in fact a better "game" than the original just for the fact that represents the values of the reviewer in it, like in this guy with the guy who wrote this article. Gamespot or anyone else can argue the opposite but when in the video the gameplay, the main part of every video game, only is talked for about 5 seconds in the entire video, and things like the lesbianism propaganda and a cinematic "experience" are the strongest arguments to defend this distinction for this DLC is bs.

Avatar image for ffritzy

<< LINK REMOVED >> I asked Carolyn who exactly chose the GotM, because it doesn't explicitly say on the page. It turns out that a team at GS, through discussions and deliberation, decided on Left Behind as the GotM. This wasn't just Carolyn, but the decision of GS as a whole. We can only assume that Carolyn voted for Left Behind, but she wasn't the only one that thought it was great. Her response is several pages down if you want to find it.

Avatar image for chrisrig1989

<< LINK REMOVED >> Well it was like the GTA V review. In that game you can go on murdering sprees, kill prostitutes, and steal airplanes. But GS chose to speak about the subjection of women in the game haha. They cant do a review without throwing in their political agenda.

Avatar image for Lhomity

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Reviews are based on opinion. The writers can express whatever they want about the game. That's the whole point of reviewing.

Avatar image for slainta

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Sure. They can also talk about how they like their coffee, but that would have nothing to do with how well a game looks and plays.

Avatar image for nl_skipper

I'm enjoying this expansion so far, only played for a little under and hour or so, haven't had any action yet, but the story and exploration aspects are great so far.

My biggest issue (or only issue so far) with trying to complete this is the fact every time I boot up TLoU, I'm drawn to the mutiplayer here I spend hours until I'm sleepy and then I pass on the DLC... heh, I really like the MP component of TLoU!

Avatar image for ffritzy

For me I come to GS to find great gaming experiences. If the best experience isn't a stand alone game that shouldn't matter. I don't give a shit if it's DLC or a free online game, if it's the best experience it should be awarded as such and should be very eligible for GotM. The fact that we would limit our pool of games based on what form a company markets them is extremely stupid.

Avatar image for Printul_Noptii

Why does GS hates Thief ? :(

Avatar image for milanfla

Wait...Why isn't GTA V business uptade competing in this DLC of the Month award?

Avatar image for SNESNOSTALGIA2

What a shocker..

Avatar image for kozzy1234

Banished for me, do love The Last of Us though

Avatar image for kingtrax

Game of the Month is not a game? Next month Gamespot is liable to vote for Windows 8.

Avatar image for Darkefka

annnnnd that's the proof that Tom Mcshea is stupid, the DLC for a game is not only rated better then the game itself but is also proclaimed ''game of the month'' when the game itself wasn,t

Avatar image for lizardlava

This is a downloadable content, not standalone game yet wins game of month ??? (universe implodes)

Avatar image for fibaglassmonkey

Might as well put up a honourable mention for TwitchPlaysPokemon, it's seems the term 'game' is being used quite loosely anyway

Avatar image for fibaglassmonkey

I don't doubt that Left Behind is great but it's not a game, it's DLC. Were this a standalone title then this wouldn't be an issue. When you start a feature called 'Game of the Month' I think it defeats the purpose to not actually award a game.

Avatar image for NbAlIvEr10000

Amazing game; considering its price point, I can clearly understand as to why a piece of DLC was voted game of the month. The Last of Us is and probably will be for a while, my favorite game. Never has a game put me in the mind set of the world created exclusively for it and emotionally cared about every character involved.....especially Ellie. Ellie is by far the most inspiring character ever created in a video game.

Avatar image for marcuzgungeze10

I share the same concern as most gamers. Why is this DLC game of the month? The actual game was already game of the year for most, why emphasize the point by giving it's DLC game of the month? It's not even a stand alone purchase.

Ok fine you dropped the ball with the game of the month winner, but how is Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze not even mentioned? I am going ape-s***t crazy!

Avatar image for Mayleene

DLC's should not qualify for Game of the Month or Game of the Year when they are nothing but a purchase option to the original game that came out either months or years ago. DLC's are NOT a complete game.

There should be a DLC of the month or week since they come out more frequently than rabbit turds.

Avatar image for Lhomity

<< LINK REMOVED >> Game software is game software. Needing a base game to play this particular piece of content isn't much different to needing a specific system or peripheral to play a game.

Avatar image for DariusMKN

If Goat Simulator launch a DLC it will be a strong competitor to GOTY 2014.

Avatar image for DoomSky

I loved bravely default up until... chapter 5 or 6 was it? When they make you fight the same bosses over and over again for no real reason beyond padding the game out. I feel I should of stuck it out for the true ending but I don't see why I should bother with a game that can only be bothered to throw the same bosses at me with a few extra digits on the HP. Fighting tougher versions of earlier bosses is a classic rpg trope but doing it multiple times as part of the plot one after the other with nothing else to do? Forget it.

I'll pass bravely second thanks, especially considering the producers desire to turn BD into an annual series and that it "has no need for improvements" << LINK REMOVED >>

Avatar image for bakasora

Feedbackula sign is really strong in this one.

Avatar image for joedin2056

LOL a lot of people here saying this should not be GOTM because its a DLC and not a game. But the DLC is a game as you have to play, it there for it is game. Simples! And to address those people saying its too short, you cant be serious? i mean really when did the length of a game matter? As long as it has a great story and great gameplay who cares how long it is. The GAME is great the STORY is great and the GAMEPLAY you guessed it! great, there for its a worthy winner. End of.

Avatar image for sinclairhxc

<< LINK REMOVED >> ^someone who probably bitched about the length and price of MGSV:GZ now says this about a DLC

Avatar image for jcknapier711

Disgusting. I think I'll pass.

Avatar image for shipster30

They should pick an actual game. I'm sure this is a fine extension to an already great game but we should focus our attention on original games that are new and deserve the attention of being game of the month. We already knew this would be a fine addition to an already great game. Let's focus on some new properties for this category.

Avatar image for Ultramarinus

Just wow, they give GotY to 3DS Zelda but they don't even give an awesome 3DS Final Fantasy GotM, in favor of a DLC? Gamespot is coming off as trying to capture attention and create audience through controversy by now. I'm by the true meaning of the word, appalled to see a DLC as an entry even.

Jeez, I just noticed that the writer is Carolyn Petit, why am I not surprised? I didn't want to seek an ulterior motive but it's there even when I try to view it in good faith.

Avatar image for DariusMKN

How to enjoy the ultimate gaming experience of the month:

1 - You play the best game of the month chosen by Gamespot.

2 - You spend the other 717 hours of the month playing Flappy Bird.

Avatar image for Tigerbite2

Hellllllllllllloooooooooooo Feedbackula.