The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
I consider The
Last of Us to be one of the greatest achievements of the last generation of
gaming, so I came to Left Behind wary of the prospect of Naughty Dog tinkering
with the fiction. Great stories are often defined by what's left to the
imagination as much as the events portrayed onscreen. Early on, Naughty Dog
confirmed that Left Behind is a prequel, assuaging my fears that the studio was
going to tinker with the perfect, enigmatic ending of the original game.
This claim was
mostly true - a large part of the game does take place prior to the events of
The Last of Us. However, there's also another plotline that hasn't been
revealed - one that depicts some events that take place during one of the
season changes in the original.
The core of
Left Behind is the fraught relationship between Ellie and Riley, which was
alluded to in the final scene of The Last of Us. Riley, excellently voiced by
Yaani King, is a great addition to the game's universe, another
tough-but-vulnerable kid like Ellie. As before, some of the best moments are
the quietest; whether taking pictures in a photo booth, dancing in an abandoned
big-box electronics store, or playing an imaginary fighting game at the arcade,
Left Behind shows us how life manages to go on even in the worst circumstances.
Ellie and Riley are growing up without a net, trying to survive in a hostile
world while dealing with their complex feelings for each other. Once again,
Naughty Dog's writing shines, letting our attachment to Riley slowly build
until the bittersweet conclusion.
The other side
of the story is more focused on The Last of Us' frantic combat. Once again,
you're pitted against hordes of grotesque "clickers" and vicious human cannibals, armed
with a limited arsenal and your wits. For fans of the original, you'll feel
right at home - hoarding ammo, sneaking behind cover to strike at your
foes. The action-oriented parts of Left Behind are engaging, especially the new
sequences where you have to battle clickers and humans at the same time. Here,
you can use bottles or other distractions to play them against each other; I
frequently used the enraged clickers to clear the room of the people hunting me
before using stealth to sneak past.
At around two
and a half hours long, it's not an epic experience, but another window into
Ellie's life. Instead of blunting the impact as I feared, Riley and Ellie's
story adds resonance to the original game's ending. For The Last of Us fans,
this is a ride well worth taking.
Email the author Matt Helgeson, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.