Monthly Archives: February 2014

Left Behind: a story of two girls

Left Behind: We find out what happened to Ellie and Riley before the events of The Last of Us.

Left Behind: We find out what happened to Ellie and Riley before the events of The Last of Us.

The Last of Us was one of last year’s best games on the PlayStation 3.

Heck, it was one of the best games of the year on all formats.

Left Behind is the first – and 0nly – story-based DLC for Naughty Dog’s survival/horror (can it be classed as a horror?)  game and while it’s not long – I think it took me about two to two and a half hours to complete – it’s probably one of the most emotive pieces of DLC that I’ve played in a long, long time. If you like strong narrative and some tying up of loose ends from the main game, then Left Behind fits the bill <There could be some slight story line spoilers here so tread carefully like your wandering through an abandoned house full of clickers>.

First things first, though: If you own a PlayStation 3 and haven’t played The Last of Us I really recommend you do. It’s well, well worth it.

Left Behind is split into two tales, each intermingled. It starts with The Last of Us’ Ellie and Joel in an abandoned shopping mall. Joel is severely injured, caused by an earlier incident in the game’s Winter section. It’s alluded to in flashback form at the start of the DLC.  Ellie has to search the mall for medical supplies to stop Joel from bleeding to death.

The other story is that of Ellie and her friend Riley, her best friend from a Boston military school, and the months before Ellie met Joel. Riley is mentioned in the main story of The Last of Us but we never knew what happened to her (well, we know she died but we aren’t told how). Left Behind fills in the blanks.

Combat is less than in The Last of Us: This is DLC that is more about an emotive story than body counts but when there is combat it has a nice twist in that both human scavengers and infected  can be “urged”to fight each other, making it easier for Ellie.

In situations where you find both, if you  attract the attention of a group of clickers to where a group of scavengers are – say tossing a brick where two humans are. sending the clickers to the source of the noise – then  you can sit back and watch the two factions kill each other, often only leaving one or two of each faction to take care of.

Time to be young: Some of the most touching moments in The Last of Us take place in an abandoned shopping mall, where Ellie and Riley get to be teenagers.

Time to be young: Some of the most touching moments in The Last of Us take place in an abandoned shopping mall, where Ellie and Riley get to be teenagers.

Some of the most emotional moments of Left Behind are with Ellie and Riley in an abandoned shopping centre. They explore, they laugh, they take snapshots in a photo booth, they joke around in a Halloween-themed shop.  It’s a far cry from their reality since the infection, and while, things turn to custard  by the end,   Left Behind shows what masters Naughty Dog and its creative director Neil  Druckmann are (incidentally, I found an old newspaper clipping of an interview I did with Druckmann about the Uncharted series. This serves no purpose other than to tell you that I’ve spoken to him).

Left Behind is a nice addition to the foundations that The Last of Us built and shows that done right, video games can be the ideal medium for delivering compelling, emotive narrative.

You play your Titanfall, Twitter people, I’m playing The Last of Us DLC

Deserted playground: Left Behind deals with the relationship between Ellie and friend Riley.

Deserted playground: Left Behind deals with the relationship between Ellie and friend Riley.

Update: I’ve played the Titanfall beta – and I love it, even though I got my arse kicked the first couple of rounds and had my Titan destroyed, too. And it’s all thanks to  a good chap who I follow on Twitter called Sidawg2 (Simon Bishop to his friends and family).

He had a friend in Australia, no less, who received a PC beta code but didn’t need it – so he thought of me. I appreciate it, Simon.

I’ve played a few rounds but want to try and tackle some more today, if I can (I’m supposed to be starting to pack for a move to a rental property next week while our house gets repaired) so I’ll post my impressions in the next few days. Short version: I like it a lot so far (I mean, c’mon, it’s giant robots: What’s not to love?)

Original story: While it seems like most of my Twitter feed is playing the Titanfall beta on Xbox One or PC (and bragging about it), I’m not (although if I’m lucky enough to get a beta key I’ll be playing the shit out of it) but until that happens, I’m dusting off  my PlayStation 3 and playing Left Behind, The Last of Us’ first (and only) story-driven DLC went live tonight.

In fact, it’s at 79% complete as we speak. Come on PSN download service, you can do it.

I’m looking forward to playing it tonight, actually: It’s been a while since I’ve had any quality time with Ellie, the young girl from Naughty Dog’s great PS3 game.

Ellie and Riley at the broken highway_1392204777I know very little about it except that it stars Ellie and her friend and mentor, Riley. There’s no  Joel in this DLC. I think it takes place in some military boarding school and apparently has both infected (Oh, god how I hated those clickers) and human foes. It’s hefty, too, weighing in at a shade over 5GB in size.

Take that, Titanfall beta. I’ve found something to take my mind off all the chatter on Twitter (at least until I get a beta key myself).

Fable Anniversary review: Return of the chicken chaser

2004. It was the year something called Facebook launched,  the year the New Zealand government banned smoking in public places and the year that Lionhead Studio’s released Fable on the original Xbox console.  It was the year I turned 35, too, if you’re interested.

Fable Anniversary: the new look hero from the remake of the 2004 original.

Fable Anniversary: the new look hero from the remake of the 2004 original.

Casting my hazy memory back to the days of the original Xbox is hard but I remember playing Fable on Microsoft’s first console. I liked it, I think,  but it was a game that it’s creator Peter Moyneux talked up big. In fact, the things he said about it caused a bit of a stir, if I remember rightly. I think at one point Molyneux claimed that if you planted an acorn in the ground in the game eventually you’d see it sprout into a towering oak tree. It proved to be complete rubbish, which we all found out,  but it indicated the ambitious things that Fable wanted to achieve.

I trawled through some old newspaper clippings to see if I could find my review of Fable, but I couldn’t (the review came out before the newspaper I worked for archived anything like video game reviews online so I only have a hard copy – and only God know where that is), but one of the things I remember most about Fable was the wicked British sense of humour that oozed from just about every pixel.

The townsfolk were voiced by real Britons (not Americans trying to sound like Britons) and our hero could fart at the press of the D-pad. He could fart! I think that was pretty much unheard of in video games at the time. He could also chat up women, steal stuff, smash down doors, get back tattoos, get huge sideburns and sleep in beds that he wasn’t supposed to. It was a sort of action adventure game with role-playing elements where you could be a goodie two-shoes or a complete shit. It was up to you. According to Wikipedia, it was the biggest selling game of 2004.

Anyway, with 2014 being 10 years since Fable came out, Microsoft have done what it did with Halo and had the game re-made by Lionhead and called it Fable Anniversary. It’s for the Xbox 360 (and not the Xbox One) and it’s the exact same game that came out in 2004 but it looks much, much better thanks to its HD lick of paint.

The environments look much cleaner, the textures are a lot crisper (watch the comparison video at the end of this post and you’ll see what I mean) and the people generally look a lot better. It’s the same game as the 2004 original though, apart from the updated graphics and audio: the same main character – the Hero of Oakvale – the same enemies, the same quests and the same quirks as the 2004 game, but thanks to the powers of modern graphics tech, it looks great. But the question is: Should you buy Fable Anniversary if you’ve played it?

It depends on how much of a Fable fan you are, I guess. If you haven’t played it before, and own a 360 and want to check the series out, it would be a good starting point but if you’ve played the original to death then it’s not going to be that worth it to you.

The game still had a few quirks, too, that bugged the hell out of me. While the game’s menu has been overhauled – and it’s all the better for it – the lock-on system plays silly buggers from time to time. Pulling the left trigger locks our hero’s weapon (be it a bow or an edged one) onto the closest target but sometimes in the heat of battle it would lock on to a trader in the distance rather than the bandit (or the balverine) advancing on me. The speech also loops quite a bit, which is annoying. During one mission where I had to meet the hero’s mentor, he (the mentor) would stand there yelling “Over here” over and over again, until I went over to him. I also inadvertently hit the right analogue stick while in the midst of battle with a group of hobbes (small goblin-like creatures), popping the mini-map to the middle the game screen, blocking my view. That one, though, is purely on me.

In the years since Fable was released, games have evolved and the things that Peter Molyneux touted as revolutionary are now commonplace (and some of Fable’s quirks were sorted out in Fables 2 and 3).  The question is: Should you play Fable Anniversary? If you haven’t played the original and want to have a look, then, yeah, it’s probably worth a look but to be honest, while Fable Anniversary looks great, has retained the wicked sense of humour and is fun, part of me wonders whether a remake was really necessary and was it done for nostalgia’s sake or as a way to milk an old franchise for a little bit longer?