The Last Hope: Dead Zone Survival
Released: June 30, 2023
Developer: A Fraudulent Hack
Publisher: VG Games
Systems: Nintendo Switch
The Last Hope: Dead Zone Survival made headlines shortly after it was dribbled onto the Nintendo Switch’s eShop for allegedly being a blatant ripoff of The Last of Us. Its artwork is a deliberate nod to the Naughty Dog classic, while the girl sidekick featured in this game’s miserable campaign is practically a plagiarism of Ellie.
This is, however, where comparisons to The Last of Us end. The game itself is a particularly incompetent zombie shooter asset flip that has swindled attention for itself by pretending to be a clone of a better game. Yes, this vile product is such a lazy hack job it couldn’t be bothered to actually rip The Last of Us off. With one piece of art and a single character model, it got a bunch of news coverage in a manner that could only be described as fraudulent.
I can’t deny it worked. I’m reviewing it, after all.
“Journey to the library to safe (sic) an innocent girl from reckless zombies,” reads The Last Hope’s eShop description. “Head on to the pharmacy to secure vital medical supplies, explore the police station to arm yourself with powerful weaponry, and venture into the dark depths of the metro tunnels, where unexpected horrors await.”
This supposed summary of the premise is, in fact, a description of the entire game from start to finish. That’s it. That’s the whole game, except for the part about “unexpected horrors” which is an outright fucking lie. No unexpected horrors await. There are maybe four zombie character models recycled over and over again, for the entire duration of this game. They are all that await anybody foolish enough to embark on The Last Hope's pathetic adventure.
Aesthetically and mechanically identical to one of dozens of basement grade zombie games you can find on Steam, this brief and barely functional monument to spurious jank isn’t even entertainingly bad. It’s brief, boring, and broken, a minimum viable product, the skeletal nature of which makes its presentation as a Last of Us forgery all the more duplicitous and insulting.
The “story” is ridiculous, but like everything else it’s too vapidly delivered to be funny in its absurdity. You play as Brian, a man sent into the future because the government predicts a zombie outbreak will happen and they just want to see what it’s like. Throughout the campaign, Brian will do nothing to advance any sort of overarching plot to the point that time travel seems tacked onto things for the sheer fuck of it.
“Government discloses shocking revelations about future crisis and launches investigation intervention of time machine raises concerns over impending zombie outbreak and human survival,” explains the game’s opening text with an almost incomprehensible amount of word salad. “Their unprecedented journey unveiled a world plagued by an unprecedented crisis - a devastating zombie outbreak.”
Anyway, the character who looks like Ellie but is totally not Ellie turns out to be Brian’s daughter in the future. It’s a plot point that has no implications as it never comes up after Brian figures out this “revelation” two minutes after meeting her. Then again, given how short this game is, two minutes constitutes a huge chunk of progression.
You can finish this thing in maybe thirty minutes if you don’t account for the times you’ll have to start over from the beginning thanks to a softlock. It’s very easy to make the game unwinnable due to the fact resources are intensely limited and if you fight too much, fail to anticipate the correct way to move through the zombies, or use the sprint command at all, you’re pretty much fucked.
I could almost believe the stamina meter was a vicious parody of the mechanic if The Last Hope wasn’t so pitifully incompetent. Stamina does not regenerate. Ever. You need it for all melee attacks as well as sprinting, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. There's a grand total of three consumable items that return a piddling amount of stamina, without which you cannot swing your baseball bat. Similarly, ammunition for the handgun (and later assault rifle) is limited to such a degree that, if you kill more zombies than you explicitly have to, you’re completely unable to defend yourself and may well have to start from the very beginning - naturally there is only one save file, which autosaves regardless of how unwinnable things become.
Which zombies you should kill is something you’ll just need to guess, and you’ll only start guessing that if you realize most of them shouldn’t be approached or fought in the first place. Without an upfront warning like the one I've just given, you’ll almost certainly maneuver yourself into that aforementioned unwinnable position, robbed of your ability to shoot or smack a single thing.
Once you meet Not-Ellie, the rest of the game becomes one terrible escort mission with a little millstone that, if I suspected any thought went into it at all, I’d say seems actively designed to torture the player. She follows Brian at a pace best described as suicidal, and will let him get a good few yards ahead of her before she even bothers to start moving. If a zombie comes within a generous few feet of her, she’ll instantly stop and cower, inviting enemies to murder her in seconds, and she won’t consider moving again until everything in the vicinity is dealt with. The only time she breaks this behavior is in one corridor near the end of the game filled with a large group of zombies, where she is apparently programmed to suddenly run ahead and cower in front of them. It’s incredible.
One saving grace is that if you can make it to the next area before she gets merked, she’ll be with you when it loads no matter how far you run ahead. Sometimes getting anywhere is impossible though, because Not-Ellie is more than happy to stand in your way and trap you in a corner somewhere, unable to move out of your way because she's "programmed" only to follow Brian and his gormless face.
Gameplay basically consists of fighting as little as possible and hugging walls when you can to stay out of the aggro range of any zombies on the way. It’s not exactly enthralling, but considering how most of your resources have to last the entire game, it’s the best way to guarantee you’ll see the thrilling conclusion in which you walk a short distance past an entire horde of zombies you don’t need to engage and stand near a boat to see the static piece of artwork that constitutes an “ending.” You don’t even get any credits, the game instead dumping you unceremoniously back to its main menu. At least the con merchant who made this thing had the common sense to remain anonymous.
The Last Hope attempts a handful of additional mechanics, the lofty audacity of which serves as its only amusing element. There’s a lockpicking minigame that occurs twice and is just an insipid series of timed button presses. It’s important to note that zombies continue to move around while you’re on the lockpicking screen though they seemingly won’t attack until you’re finished, at which point you may return to find yourself surrounded and killed in seconds. A crafting system - perhaps the only other nod to The Last of Us - exists, but it’s only used to craft two Molotov cocktails after acquiring the components for them towards the end, and the only time I ever used one was on the final section, just for the sake of it.
There really isn’t much more to mention, except for the one door that can’t be opened because you have to press the “E” key to do so and this game’s on the fucking Switch.
It’s one thing to rip another game off, but to only pretend to rip one off for attention while doing something so threadbare it doesn’t even clear the low bar of plagiarism truly is deceptive on a whole other level. The Last Hope: Dead Zone Survival is not a forgery of The Last of Us - it’s a forgery of a forgery, it’s something so completely fucking fraudulent that it sells the idea of a counterfeit and delivers instead a handful of minimally functional assets structured just barely enough to resemble half an hour of navigable gameplay.
Fuck off, The Last Hope, you underhanded, slipshod piece of shit, and fuck me for wasting everybody’s time by reviewing you.