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Left Behind: Ellie And Riley


... You have been warned:

It took me about 3 1/2 hours to complete on hard and I enjoyed 99.9% of it with major reservations for that .1%. I'll get to that but first 'the beginning'. It was fitting that they started with a montage of scenes from the full game, it immediately reminded us of who Ellie had become. When the Ellie and Joel cut-scene finished and you realise you're about to play as Ellie prior to the winter level, I couldn't help but smile. It was quite the surprise, but it felt natural and necessary because many people, including myself, had asked the question: how did Ellie manage to keep Joel alive?

After a brief cut-scene introducing Riley we were immediately thrown into the future. In this section we were introduced to a slightly different approach, more akin to Resident Evil. Simple but effective (and natural) puzzles that kept you focused on the matter at hand, while slowly building the tension as the inevitable first encounter neared. Slow paced and brilliantly atmospheric, we investigate an empty building, always weary of what may be lurking there, and to Naughty Dog's credit, they thought the tension was enough, which of course it was. I loved the process of slowly sinking deeper into a world I'd spent countless hours investigating in the main game.

The Riley and Ellie section that followed played out differently, with the emphasis on establishing just who Riley was and the nature of their relationship, something that was masterfully done and although understated, showed a love that went beyond the love of two friends. This was a love born out of loneliness and a need for affection that had blossomed into something Ellie could not fully understand, but it was clear that Riley did. It was a wonderful way of demonstrating one of Riley's strongest traits: integrity.

The conversation was much denser than the main game as they threaded their way through the derelict buildings with light and shade in the dialogue to compensate for missing narrative and taking us deeper beneath the skin of Riley. About mid way through this scene we get our first real indication that Riley fully understands what is growing between the two young women. "Remember the first time I brought you here?" She says. Ordinarily you would expect the line "Remember when we first came here?" This showed it was as close to a date as Riley ever managed with Ellie and also showed how she wanted to please Ellie then, and please Ellie now, for her last goodbye. We also see yet another side of Riley; that of the heroine as she sets Ellie up for the penultimate surprise after Ellie had just looked at a picture of two water-pistols: "Oh Ellie, I don't know why you don't give them up ... they're never coming back."

Then we find ourselves in the Halloween store. I found this section playful and endearing, clearly designed to remind us that these were just kids. This was down time but fun time and following Riley around the store lead to an endless supply of off the cuff remarks as she inspected every nook and cranny. There were plenty of other distractions at the players disposal too, like the fortune telling skull or the masks, which I found out by complete accident, lead to different animations when Ellie wore them. I must have spent a good half an hour in this store, testing the developers to see just how much content they'd put here, and I was simply amazed. It was here that I choked up for the first time after laughing at the playfulness and silliness because it was a startling contrast to an ugly world they'd been born into. This may have been an extreme mechanic but all of us at some time or other grieve for our innocence, and it rang true because of that.

But I'm not going to give a blow by blow account of every scene in this game. I just wanted to highlight what I consider the important scenes for bringing us closer to Riley. The 'breaking the car's windows' was a lovely mini-game that once again emphasised how young these two girls really were, and if you won (I lost) you were rewarded with a selection of four questions, one of which was "Why did you leave?" Once again, the tone in Riley's voice demonstrated a sense of integrity. She'd clearly left because she felt falling in love would not be fair to Ellie, which of course is why she said nasty things before she'd left. It was to enable Ellie to deal with it easier, or at least, that was her intention. Riley longed for Ellie to reciprocate love in the way she felt it but wasn't going to manipulate or press Ellie in any way.

The photo booth was a wonderful scene too, giving us our first glimpse of an awakening Ellie, as the close proximity created slight discomfort between the two of them. The embarrassment lingered for a while afterwards as both girls tried to distance themselves from that moment of forced intimacy by mimicking the announcer from the intercom, but it was still there and as a player you could feel it. There are many such vignettes throughout our journey with Ellie and Riley, such as the roundabout, punching the marionette, the water-pistol fight or the make believe video game. It was all leading to one scene though, and that scene was the most beautiful scene in the entire 3 1/2 hours I'd spent with this game: the kiss.

Ellie said she had to leave and Riley knew this was her last opportunity to find out whether Ellie felt the same way. She desperately wanted Ellie to ask her to stay ... needed her to ask. This was an incredibly clever scene for many reasons, but first, how they handled the scene: In the tradition of Valentines day, the kiss was kept hidden but intimate. We saw it from just behind Riley and it lingered just a heartbeat longer than a farewell peck between friends. There was no lust or sexuality, just love and tenderness and I never once felt embarrassed that this was the Ellie I'd watched grow beside Joel. But the kiss went beyond the framing. It reminded us of something Joel had said to Ellie out of anger: "You have no idea what loss is." And we finally understood that when Ellie comforts Joel and tells him, "it must be terrible to lose someone you love", we know without question that Ellie knew it was Joel who needed support, NOT her. Perhaps the most startling thing about the scene though was the bitter sweet nature of it. The music had brought Ellie and Riley together at last but it also brought about their end. Brilliant.

What about the gameplay? Just like in the main game, I found the gameplay to be engaging and fun. There was actually more content in terms of gameplay than I thought would be there and opting to flip between the future and the past was a master-stroke, enabling Ellie to continue fighting with weapons without compromising the structural narrative of the past. In essence, we played two different characters, the innocence and the educated. I loved the puzzle elements throughout which obviously allowed Naughty Dog to keep the action within the boundaries of smaller environments. It could be argued that the new mechanic of distracting the infected and leading them to the bandits could have been used more often but I fully appreciate the limited time Naughty Dog would have had when you consider all of the content in this game. I thoroughly enjoyed stealthily taking out a clicker, stalker or runner, creeping around or finding that one perfect spot where nothing can see me so that I can take them out silently with my bow.

And that .1% of reservation? The very last scene. Naughty Dog made a very good case for 'less is more' in the original story, leaving the player reeling at the very end by leaving blank pages for the player to write their own ending and draw their own conclusions. There IS a definitive ending but it's ambiguous enough to warrant endless speculation. We are invited to consider humanity, the fruitless nature of survival, the irony of nature taking from mankind while giving to Ellie, the imperfections and motives of each and every person who has ever considered themselves immune to selfishness. However, I felt 'less is more' undersold the ending of Left Behind because there was no greater picture just an inevitable death. For me, I wanted something unexpected. Not in the same sense as The Last Of Us but something we wouldn't necessarily have seen coming. I wanted to see the scene where they are sat together, waiting it out. I wanted to see Riley begin to change and Ellie shell shocked as it dawns on her that she isn't going to change. I wanted to see Ellie kill Riley.

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FogLight2684d ago

The most powerful scene in my personal opinion was that kiss Ellie gave to Riley. At first glance I admit that there was something in terms of sexuality but after some thinking, it showed how Ellie really cared about Riley, and how she wanted her to stay with her (Which failed hence both of them got bitten in the end)

And I agree about your criticism about the last scene. I wanted to see her killing Riley too. It could have been more powerful scene than the kiss in my opinion. I shook my head when I discovered that was the ending and sighed. Naughty Dog could have outdone the prologue if they just made that.

Anyway, it was worth the money and I felt that tears wanted to come out of my eyes. Sooner or later I will make a review for the DLC :3

Thanks for the blog!

FogLight2684d ago

Damn it no Edit? I meant "I admit at first glance that I thought there was something in terms of sexuality"

I didn't say there was, I just said that I THOUGHT that there was. Excuse my mistake :3

minimur122684d ago

I was a bit annoyed at the ending, I loved it but i would've liked to see riley turn, i know that sounds harsh but I think that would've made the game better in a way.

I really liked how gameplay was mixed with cutscenes, when they were dancing and it skipped from cutscene to gameplay, and then back to cutscene without any loading times, pretty good and i was like 'oh wow, we're in a cutscene now'

GribbleGrunger2684d ago (Edited 2684d ago )

The thing I found fascinating about the kiss was the complete lack of sexuality. We are left with no doubt that the love between the two girls goes beyond just friendship but given the context, I didn't really see the two girls as homosexual. Naughty Dog cleverly sidestepped that definition by keeping any other 'normal' social life behind the scenes. These were just two kids who had found love and needed to express it. A scene that would ordinary have been seen as controversial suddenly became beautiful.

I'm not suggesting some overt scene of Riley's demise but rather the suggestion of what I considered a natural outcome. I think perhaps Naughty Dog backed away from that scene for some reason and I'd love to ask them why:

In the opening sequence with the girls we see Ellie laid asleep on her bed. Riley enters the room and approaches Ellie, faking infection, and bites her neck. Ellie quickly reaches beneath the pillow for her knife to protect herself. This was without doubt a foreshadowing of a possible final and hidden scene. Was that enough though? If the final scene was of the two girls sat together, waiting to turn, we could have seen Ellie reaching for he knife as she suddenly realised Riley was turning. A fade to black at that point would have been just enough to connect the two scenes and allow us to join the dots.

N82684d ago

I knew that whole possible lesbian thing was coming and thats the thing I liked the least in the whole series now. Why? Why couldn't they just be good friends. Why the forced let's do this for controversy spin on it. Didn't that game Going Home already do that? Its just so unnecessary.

SeraphimBlade2684d ago (Edited 2684d ago )

Ohhhh-ho-ho-hooo wow.

Rather than argue with you on that point, I'm just going to recommend you brace yourself for everybody else arguing with you on that point.

EDIT: No, you know what, screw it, I am arguing. If you think homosexuality is in stories just for shock factor, your viewpoint is messed up. You have a right to think that stuff is "wrong" somehow, but it's a massive insult to some brilliant writers think they just throw things like that in there to freak people like you out. In fact, if they do incorporate homosexuality, it's probably because they DON'T give a damn about what you think. My advice: catch up with society or be...

... left behind.

PoSTedUP2683d ago

you couldnt be more right.

RE_L_MAYER2684d ago

that scene just turned me away from game completely.....kiss on a cheek would have been perfect but NOOO

marion19842683d ago

Ellie lost a lover, not a friend. She had strong feelings for Riley, and it is hinted that they have been on dates before. If it was the same but with a boy, you would not have been offended. Ask yourself what you find so offensive.

RE_L_MAYER2684d ago

damn why they have to ruin the entire game like this.....a hug should have been enough........god damn first its mass effect and now this

Anthotis2684d ago

It wasn't the only time they shoe horned same-sex relations into the game.

As the white liberals have been saying though, they did it "tastefully", but then you could have graphic, stomach churning, man-on-man action and the "enlightened" would still clap and call it "tasteful".

GribbleGrunger2683d ago (Edited 2683d ago )

Oh dear lord, what have we here? Do you two chew tobacco and play the banjo by any chance?

agonism2683d ago (Edited 2683d ago )

Hmm... Have you ever given thought to that it's highly probable that your aversion to homosexuality is just the result of a socially constructed identity developed within and conditioned by a nexus of at least partially socially conservative (i.e. reactionary, in this instance often derived from both the traditions of patriarchy and Abrahamic moralism) power relations at both the micro and macro scales?

Believe it or not, I'd stake my life on there being a significant portion of gamers who have actually ventured beyond their insular little form-of-life and amicably associated with various people of differing sexual orientations, ethnicities, etc and find there to be nothing particularly odd or unappealing about the inclusion of protagonists who may or may not also happen to be queer within popular media, however much the media often appropriates and mitigates any radical implications that it could possibily have.

Also, if 'white liberal' is just a euphemism for 'cultural Marxist,' it should immediately signal warning flags to anyone with half a brain that your opinion is essentially worthless, and that indeed society has become unbearably civil when the 'enlightened' and actually impacted have to tolerate a demographic that supports unapologetically bourgeois politicians who strive to legislate and enforce their anachronistic and imaginary morality upon them, among other things.

*Not white or a liberal.*

Anyway, cheers to a well written and in-depth review. I haven't played the DLC and only just recently played the main game, but having begun the it with certain expectations I can't say that I was even slightly dissapointed and even more than a few times pleasantly surprised in terms of both gameplay and narrative.

marion19842683d ago

In what way is the game ruined?

N82684d ago

I just felt it wasnt needed. It did nothing for the story. She dies anyway there was no other reason to add it other than shock value. I'm not freaked out by it I'm annoyed because I feel like they did it just so people would talk about it . The franchise is good enough without the added possible lesbian thing just for controversy or whatever. Whos next Lara croft? She's a strong woman she has to be a lesbian now to right?

GribbleGrunger2683d ago

Of course, everyone knows that lesbians are butch and have stubble ... Hell they could even pass as men sometimes. Put a pair of trousers on them and there you have the perfect female protagonist.

SeraphimBlade2683d ago

All the characters in The Last of Us are going to "die anyway." Every fictional character is going to "die anyway." Every REAL PERSON is going to "die anyway." I don't understand how you play The Last of Us and don't walk away with the lesson that life and relationships have meaning even when you could die any second.

N82683d ago

I get what your saying. But I stand by what I said. I just dont feel it was needed. You feel like its ok that's fine. It wasn't a shock to me I just felt like oh god they are gonna do this again. I just mean that in every form of media. People being gay is a part of life. I have lesbian friends. I just didn't feel like it needed to be even hinted at because it serves no purpose to me in the story

Pozzle2682d ago

It's hardly a controversial scene though. Same-sex kisses are becoming fairly common in mainstream media, to the point where it isn't really unusual to even see one (or more) gay character on tv anymore. And anyway Naughty Dog don't NEED to stir controversy in order to get attention (The Last of Us won how many GOTY awards??)
The kiss was just a small scene between two young teens who have (as far as we know) never been in a relationship before and are starting to feel things that they've probably never felt before. Whether Riley was a boy or girl wouldn't have made a difference to the scene, because the scene isn't there to shock the player. It exists not only to give us a brief glimpse of the sort of innocent and easy-going relationship that teenagers aren't able to have in this world, but it also emphasizes just how young the girls really are. They aren't just two human beings fighting for their life. They are also two young teens who have never been able to do normal teenage things before. They will never play games, go to school, go on dates, throw parties, or make silly teenage mistakes. The kiss was a small show of the humanity that still exists inside them, even though the world around them is falling to pieces. And it's made even more tragic knowing that Riley isn't going to make it.

N82683d ago

Ellen Page is gay. The last of us gave her the courage to come out. She's still cute though.

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