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).

My take on Sony’s pre-E3 press event

“Where was the love for the PS Vita,” was my first reaction after watching most of Sony’s pre-E3 press event this afternoon (NZ time).

Actually, no it wasn’t: my first reaction was “When can I play The Last of Us? That looks so freaken amazing,” after Sony closed out its presser with a demo of Naughty Dog’s next adventuring game.

For Sony it was all about the games and the PlayStation 3 – and there were a lot to take in – but very little love for the Vita, a console that isn’t a year old yet and is struggling to gain traction with gamers. Apart from an Assassin’s Creed game for the Vita (Assassin’s Creed 3:  Liberation)  and cross platform connectivity with All Stars Battle Royale, Sony had nothing for the Vita. That’s a worrying proposition, especially for early adopters of the handheld. Does the lack of first-party support mean that Sony is worried as well?

 Sony’s CEO Jack Tretton opened the event by thanking gamers for giving the company the inspiration to do what it does then welcomed on to the stage French game maker David Cage, the man behind the innovative but ultimately tedious Heavy Rain, who revealed his new game, Beyond: Two Souls, a game that spans 15 years and lets players “live the life of a video game character”, namely Jodie (voiced by Juno actor Ellen Page).

After Beyond Two Souls came PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale, which I flicked between while I was doing some work, then AC3: Liberation,which brings a female assassin this time around, then Assassin’s Creed 3, which showed a sea battle aboard naval ships and involved sailors, rigging, cannons, explosions and lots of shouting. Some Far Cry 3 co-op multiplayer was shown as was a rather tedious reveal of Wonderbook, an inventive partnership between PlayStation and British author J.K. Rowling where you use the PS Move as a wand to cast spells while reading a magical book. It was fun at first but the on-stage demo just went on for far too long. I got bored with it.

Tretton introduced God of War: Ascension as “one of the biggest and most epic releases on PlayStation 3” and we’ve seen the multiplayer component before but this showcased the single player, which saw the forever angry Kratos take on goat like creatures, a large Kraken and an elephant warrior that met the wrong end of Kratos’ anger. It’s due out early next year.

 The biggest cheers, though, were saved for Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, which cements for me the developers pedigree as a AAA game maker that knows how to do narrative – and has the visual grunt behind it. Make no mistake it was a brutal trailer with Joel and Ellie, the two main characters in the game’s post-apocalyptic world, having to fend against rather aggressive foes. The combat is visceral and forceful, with Joel slamming a foe’s head against a desk at one stage and shooting another at point blank range with a shotgun, while Ellie throws a brick at another’s head to distract him – before he’s pummeled by Joel. It’s a stark display of a struggling world after a disaster. “Good job with all the killing, and stuff,” Ellie says after they’ve survived the encounter.

The Last of Us is unmistakably Naughty Dog: it reminded me a lot of the Uncharted series with similar visuals and a main character that even moves slightly like him. I guess what I’m saying is that it feels like a Naughty Dog game – and that pleases me a lot.

If I was a betting man, I’d say Sony won the round today, offering more games than Xbox was able to but the game of the day for me, easily Ubisoft’s surprise announcement of  Watch_Dogs, a game set in a society where computers can see everything and nothing is a secret. It actually reminded me a lot of the TV show Person of Interest, which I have enjoyed.

Nintendo is up tomorrow, revealing what it has planned for the 3DS and other things Nintendo. If I can get up in time, I’ll watch it (it’s at 4.30am NZ time). I need my beauty sleep, you know.