by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
BACK TO SCHOOL
I try not to live in the past, but I've got to admit, high school was an awesome time for me. I became comfortable with myself, stopped being so shy and became an outgoing 'funny guy'. I built bridges with as many internal cliques and communities as I could — a jack of all trades, a master of none, in the student social-sphere. One highlight of my time in high school though, was a small film project I took part in my senior year. Filmed after hours, on the premises, we made a small horror film about a group of students picked off one by one by the most generic slasher ever (it was literally just me in a skull mask). We all had fun, it was an easy A, and I remember my friend David saying that it would make a great game. Being a fellow nerd of course, I agreed, it was an awesome premise.
Fast forward to the closing month of 2018, and that idea gets put to the test. Developer Elastic Games brought to the gaming community an asymmetrical horror game entitled Last Year: The Nightmare where 5 players take on the role of students trying to escape an otherworldly variant of their small town high school, all the while being pursued by one of three homicidal maniacs. So is this a class worth going to? Or should you skip out?
At the time of release, the game is split up among three maps. You have a large echoing Gymnasium, a condemned Clock Tower that looks somewhere between being renovated and being prepped for implosion, and my personal favorite a Library, which is a horror-wet-dream in books, games, or movies. If you want a guaranteed scare, you put in a library with rows upon rows of bookshelves and a lingering sense of doom lurking.
The levels are named more after the focal points of the areas, but they expand into various basements, maintenance halls, quad areas, classrooms, and of course, hall after hall of lockers with that eerily familiar style of tile flooring all schools seem to have here in the U.S. from my experience.
The levels are as much a character as they are a setting — each a theme encompassing the feeling of an older style high school building perfectly. They overlay the fear and dread of being trapped in a dark building at night, with the constant worry of whether or not something is going to hop out of a locker, out of a bathroom stall, through a wall, or even from the vents, pulling your feet right out from under you.
The tension that comes before the scare keeps you on edge the entire time, and while your group desperately tries to stay together, all it takes is one moment gone wrong to send everyone scattering if you're not careful. The levels are fairly large, which makes their replayability high, but three maps at launch is still a bit on the light side, so while the maps are amazing I do wish there was a bit more to offer up.
VOTED MOST LIKELY TO SURVIVE
If you're playing as the students, you start a match picking your character and your class. Chad the Jock, Nick the Nerd, Amber the Prom Queen, Troy the Cool Kid, and Sam the Geek. They are as stereotypical a cast as they come for a high school slasher, and that's just fine! Each player will take on the role of one of them, and then from there pick a class. Assault gears up in an effort to defend the group with an assortment of melee weapons, the Medic, who heals up students badly wounded by the crazed psychopaths, the Scout, who has a tracking device that has the ability to blind the enemy, and a Technician, who can build a turret out of nothing but a toolbox and a nailgun.
The classes are pretty straightforward and compliment each other well, and it encourages a group to stick together. It really is a scenario of united we stand, divided we fall, and that's a lesson players will learn really quick if they stray too far from each other for too long. A solid group that communicates well, only the best killer players will be able to take down and prevent escape. But as it's the world of online gaming, that kind of cohesion is rare so it's usually fun and terrifying for everyone involved and not just a cakewalk.
For the killers, you have the Stranger who is a homeless guy wielding a long chain and scissors, the Giant who is massive wall-shattering freak-show of an escaped convict, and my personal favorite the Slasher himself. A scar-faced janitor wielding a fireaxe who's presence I find the most intimidating as he sticks closest to the slasher film tropes. While each killer has their own unique approach to the kills themselves, one thing that stays consistent no matter which one you're playing, is the Predator mode, which phases out the player and lets you move around the map quickly and lay down traps. Everything from floor traps like snares and trap doors, to hiding behind objects ready to burst out when some gas you've set makes a diversion. That right there is exactly why it's so important for the survivors to stick together.
STAY AFTER CLASS
Last Year: The Nightmare is off to a great start. It's a fun team-based horror title that is addictive to play and you can get lost in for hours, whether as the killer or the potential victims. My only real complaint with the game is that three levels is a bit on the slim side, but to their credit the maps are fantastic and exciting to play across the board.
Game mechanics are well balanced so that nothing feels overpowered or underpowered, the three maps available offer a thrilling experience, jump scares galore thanks to the Predator system
Three maps is on the slim side.