The Last Hope – Dead Zone Survival is torture. I don’t just mean that this The Last of Us knock-off is terrible, even though it is. After spending time with this “game,” I genuinely believe it’s been crafted carefully and deliberately to inflict the maximum amount of misery on its players.
I’ve been binge-watching The Good Place, which might, admittedly, have influenced my way of thinking. But only a truly twisted, otherworldly mind could have devised The Last Hope’s stamina system. Oh, it sounds mundane enough, but this is a mechanic that had me going through three joypads, trying to figure out what was wrong.
When I woke up in the future, having possessed the body of a coma patient (don’t ask), my weapon of choice was a baseball bat. So as the wonkily animated Unity-asset zombies lunged at my nipples, I swung wildly at them. In The Last Hope there’s no dignity in undeath, though I’m not sure whether they were trying to chew on my man-teats or give me a titty twister.
But then my bat stopped working, just as I was roaming the Supermarket of Stupidity. Dead Rising’s Frank West would have filled his pockets in five seconds flat, but The Last Hope insists you ignore the heavily stocked shelves and, instead, comb the store for military MREs.
So there I was, zombies closing in, blocked by a waist-high chest freezer, (The Last Hope has no jump button.) when I lost my primary method of defense. Could I have tried a different game to test if the pads were working? Absolutely, but at that point The Last Hope had already started to rob me of the capacity for rational thought.
I eventually figured out, because the game absolutely does not tell you, that running or attacking saps your stamina, and it only refills when you collect certain, scarce items. I’d puzzled over the stamina bar in question, but I’d foolishly assumed no one would be that evil. I was so very, very wrong.
What I didn’t know was that things were going to get worse. Shortly after that, I met Eve, or maybe Eva. I’m not entirely sure since the game uses both names. She may look like Ellie so much so that Naughty Dog could probably sue, but she’s got all the personality of a rotting yak carcass.
“Oh, just like my yet to come daughter,” protagonist Brian remarks on meeting her. Was the game ham-handedly telegraphing a plot twist? I wouldn’t guarantee it. I didn’t see the game through, (I value my sanity.) so there’s a 50-50 shot it just forgets about it later on.
I’ve been known to grumble that The Last of Us’s Ellie was, with the exception of a couple of scenes, totally invisible to the infected. Why should I be the only one getting my larynx chewed out by a Clicker?
But the moment The Last Hope handed me not-Ellie, I was wishing she shared the original’s superpowers. If a zombie so much as glances in her direction, she drops to her knees and covers herself, refusing to move until you’ve murdered the three nearest shamblers, at least one of which will try to eat her face. Then she spots some more and goes into duck-and-cover mode once more.
I ended up running out of bullets, which because of the god-awful stamina system meant I had no method of defending her or me. So my game boiled down to leaving her behind, hoping I could reach the next objective / door before she got eaten. This teleported her to my location, and I began the whole excruciating endeavor again.
What ultimately broke me was dealing with the lockpicking system in The Last of Hope. It’s a QTE-based tumbler system, whereby you stop the circle in the right place. Should you miss one, you’re greeted with an offensively noisy clang, like a Cylon headbutting a lamppost, and you start all over again.
But while you’re picking away, the zombies are still shambling towards you, and you can’t exit the lockpicking screen. You’ll be murdered mid-lockpick, but you won’t know about it till that final tumbler clicks and you’re greeted with “YOU DEAD” (not my typo).
Before I played The Last Hope, my theory was developer VG Games bundled not-Ellie in there not to fool people into thinking it was The Last of Us, but so they’d pay 99p just to gawk.
Now? I’m afraid there’s a purpose behind its awfulness, something so sinister that the only way to halt their machinations is for Naughty Dog to sue. And when it’s down to lawyers to save the world, you know something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.