Developed by:Elastic Games Genre(s):
  • Asymmetrical Horror
  • Platform:
  • PC
  • Cost:$29.99 ESRB Rating:MATURE Players:1-6 Online Release date:December 18, 2018 Reviewed on:PC

    Last Year: The Nightmare

    During an interview with Elastic Games’ Kevin Scharf (back when he was their Marketing Director) about Last Year: The Nightmare, I mentioned that the development of asymmetrical horror games was cause for celebration. Not because they’d offer unique experiences within the survival horror genre, a good thing in and of itself. But because these games try to emulate what inspired the genre in the first place. Horror films.

    Last Year: The Nightmare is both a cooperative and competitive experience; it puts a team of five against one in a bid for survival. The five, playing a group of teenagers, must complete different objectives – namely, collecting key items needed to access certain portions of a map – as they make their way to an exit. The solo player, acting as a serial killer, has to hunt the teens down before they can escape. They’ll set traps, plan ambushes, and basically be an ever-present threat to the other players.

    The premise sounds simple. And for the most part it is; it shouldn’t take players long at all to understand what it is they need to do and how to do it (in any given role). That said, there are a few design choices that help to spice things up. The solo player, for example, can choose from three different killers: The Slasher, the Strangler, and the Giant. Each differs in stats and abilities. The Strangler is the weakest of the bunch. He makes up for his low health by lassoing unsuspecting teens with his chain, pulling them towards him to be strangled. The Giant is on the other end of the spectrum. A slow-moving behemoth with a ton of health, he specializes in bashing people to death. The Slasher stands in the middle. He’s not as fast as the Strangler or as strong as the Giant, but he’s deadly when within melee range; it only takes a few swipes with his axe to down someone.

    All of the killers have the ability to go into Predator Mode. In it, they turn invisible and rapidly “ghost” about a level in hopes of catching the teens off-guard. This is done by planting traps – which range from bear traps that immobilizes a victim to rigged flooring that separates whoever falls through them from the rest of the group – and planning surprise attacks. There are also special ambush spots that when triggered, instantly kills a teen. The Giant can burst through certain walls while the Strangler can pull someone through a floor vent like Pennywise does in Stephen King’s IT.

    The idea is to mimic how the bad guys always seem to be one step ahead of their prey in the movies. It certainly feels that way when playing; the Predator Mode works well in making the killer feel powerful during a given match. It isn’t without its limitations of course. The killer can’t spawn too close to the teens or within their line of sight. The killer also can’t hurt them outside of using a trap or waiting for them to walk into an ambush zone (standing too close to certain vents or walls, etc.). Even better, the killer can’t go into the mode while within a teen’s line of sight. Meaning, they can’t easily escape when their life is low. This is good news for the teens as it allows them to turn the tables on the killer. It’ll also give them some breathing room to explore their surroundings while the solo player waits to respawn.

    That’s not to say that taking down a killer is exactly easy. It is possible to group up to take them down (especially the Strangler). But they typically aren’t to be trifled with; going toe to toe with one solo will result in a quick death. This is because they are supposed to be the big bads that survivors flee from in the movies. If they were pushovers, they wouldn’t pose as much of a threat. No, the killers are Last Year’s bosses. It’ll take some doing to keep them at bay. Luckily, the teens have abilities that bolster their chances of survival.

    The teens resemble the characters one would expect to see in an 80s/90s horror film. The nerd, the jock, the virgin and her seemingly promiscuous counterpart…they’re all here. Their individual skill sets aren’t tied to their personas though. At the start of each match, players will select a character class before heading out into the fray. They all have their uses. The Medic will try to keep everyone healthy while the Scout seeks out and warns the group of traps. They also have different crafting trees. Once a crafting kit and the needed scrapes are found within a map, a player will be able to make weapons, defensive gear, and items that can improve abilities depending on their class; an Assault player will be able to make a helmet to stave off attacks for instance.

    Last Year follows titles like Friday the 13th: The Game and Dead by Daylight. Probably to its benefit; though the game features a familiar setup, Last Year is more accessible thanks to its streamlined mechanics and balanced gameplay. The maps are well designed clearly marked objectives. Players might not know the best route to a given item, but they will at least understand what to do once they’ve grabbed it. Death doesn’t mean match over. Instead of forcing teen players to spectate the rest of the game, they’ll be given a chance to be rescued. Like Left 4 Dead, they’ll respawn behind a locked door somewhere in the map. If they are rescued before everyone else dies, they’ll be allowed to continue. The same thing goes for the killer. If they die, they’ll have to wait to respawn. They’ll also be forced to change characters as the previous killer will need to recover from their injuries. This keeps things fair; it would be tough to deal with another Giant after losing multiple teammates taking the first one down.

    All of these things combine to create a thrilling experience. Trying to unlock a door or grab a needed item while the killer lurks about is nerve-wracking. Splitting up into groups might be a viable solution. Then again, getting caught with half your team could lead to disaster. The tension is elevated as the match gets closer to finishing. Just activating the Escape Gate (exit) alone is intense considering the event is timed; once the gate is open, players only have forty-five seconds to leave before it closes for good. On the flipside, playing as the killer can be exhilarating. Doing all you can to outwit a group as they struggle to make it through the Escape Gate is an intense affair. While you won’t be afraid of death per se, those last few seconds will determine if your efforts were in vain or not. Good times all around.

    Last Year is entertaining for sure. It isn’t perfect though. There are issues surrounding collision, matchmaking and content. Killers can block a newly rescued teen from leaving a room by standing in the doorway, even after being stunned or seemingly subdued. Worse still, they can cause the game to glitch; larger killers will not only block a person’s movement but in rare cases, also push them partly into a wall. They’ll be able to leave but won’t take any damage, forcing a weird stalemate as the killer’s fruitless attacks pass right through the glitched victim. Then there’s the matchmaking, which could use a little tweaking. There isn’t a real progression system that unlocks new abilities. This means that things will stay “balanced” regardless of how long you play. It also means that a difference in skill comes down to knowing the maps and understanding the finer mechanics of play. The game doesn’t track these things as of yet, leading to matches where one side easily dominates the other.

    There’s also a lack of content. I’m nit-picking here; the game has enough to warrant an extended stay on my PC. The different Killer and Teen abilities help in keeping things fresh. Still, it would’ve been nice to play on more than three maps and with varying objectives. A lot of them equal picking up an item to unlock or move something before the process is repeated somewhere else. Some of them are rather nonsensical to boot. Unlocking a door to access a larger portion of the map feels pointless when other avenues (leading back towards the beginning) will open up at the same time. Couldn’t we just use one of those other “doors” on our way to the exit?

    All and all, I’m pleased with Last Year: The Nightmare. It does have some room to grow/some kinks to work out. That shouldn’t stop anyone from giving it a chance though. As it stands, it’s easily one of the best asymmetrical survival horror games around!



    Last Year does a great job of streamlining its familiar mechanics. Because of this, the basic gameplay is entertaining as it is accessible.



    The game looks great.



    Everything from the teens’ dialogue to Strangler’s eerie laugh are reminiscent of classic slasher movies.

    Replay Value:


    The game is fun to play, especially when playing with an equally skilled group of players. The lack of content (compared to other titles of this ilk) and matchmaking issues could lead to fatigue though.

    Final Score:


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