Final Exam review for PS3, Xbox 360

Platform: PS3
Also On: Xbox 360
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Mighty Rocket Studio
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

Did you ever wonder what would happen if the characters from a bad monster movie stopped tripping over themselves and fought back with guns and spiked bats? Well, Final Exam is here to answer that query, sort of. The games plot is that of a bad SyFy survival movie, if he main characters stopped being victims and were trained by Bruce Campbell! It’s a fun mindless action game that some will have a blast with, while others may get tired of quickly.

The story begins with 4 longtime friends about to attend their class reunion, when they are attacked by strange monsters. Why they were going to a high school reunion packed with so many weapons is never explained. Once the thin backstory is over, you enter a tutorial mode where you learn all of the controls. Some are a tad tricky to master, but since the tutorial will not end until you repeat controls several times over, you should get the hang of it. Once that is complete you select your character and your off on the monster hunt. The play area is a zoomed out single plane much like the Xbox Live title Shadow Complex, only zooming in slightly when there is a slight need for it. You follow on screen markers to your next task that has to be completed, but be prepared to some light backtracking as some tasks may have you running from one end of the level to the other several times.

final exam 1

Along the way you will of course fight ugly monsters, pick up health and weapons and hunt for secret rooms and items. You can rack up a good arsenal of weapons ranging from melee weapons to machine guns, even grenades to blast your way through all the monsters (and sometimes exploding barrels) that block your path to a goal. You can increase your characters stats by collecting CP points which are earned by finding weapons and other scattered treasures around each zone. You can also increase your skills with SP points, and those are obtained by pulling off large combos, completing a level, finishing tasks in a level quickly, and other various ways listed in the goals list. Once you complete a level, you can play it again in Time Attack mode to get a higher score if you choose. You don’t have to go at this alone either, as there is an online mode but it is meant to be more of a competition than a co-op game. I could never see if my “partner” needed health or a weapon so I was grabbing them all until I got an angry message saying he was dying and needed the health. The online game does not show you the other player’s vitals and there is no in game communication, so you may have to work out some tells with the other player so you are not hogging all of the power ups.

Control is a little twitchy. It can take quite a few tries to master fluid movements, especially ascending and descending a set of stairs. It took me a few tries to get to a higher level because the control simply would not function like described. Other times the control is a fluid as water, and you have no issues, so it’s a complete mystery to me. Once particular issue I had was a fight with a boss, where you have to catch boxes and throw them back. I had a 1 in 25 success rate of actually catching the boxes, until the bosses energy was below half… then it seemed my character was catching everything on his own, with little effort from me. I was pressing the right button to catch since the beginning of the battle, so this might be an isolated incident on my end. Still, I did find much of the control frustrating at times.

final exam 2

Graphics look somewhat dark but have some nice detail in some spots while other areas seem to lack detail and polish. It won’t matter much since you will be busy killing the hordes of monsters that are constantly surrounding you. Since everything stays at a zoomed out ratio, you can lose track of your character and be swinging at nothing but air, especially in a two player game since the number of monsters increase with more players. All of the characters on screen are nicely animated, and the action doesn’t seem to slow up even when it’s cluttered with movement. There is very little music to be heard except for some of the cut scenes, and the occasional metal track when you are surrounded by a horde. In most areas all you hear are footsteps and the ambient noise of abandoned warehouses.

Final Exam is good arcade action title, but it won’t be setting the world on fire with its gameplay. It basically boils down to “go here, kill this, now go here and do this” and you move on to the next level. Some boss battles break this up occasionally, but the gameplay seldom changes at all throughout. If you enjoy games like Shadow Complex, or even Contra and Metroid, then you may have some fun here. Players used to flashy visuals and super challenging puzzles will grow tired of this quickly, as you will mostly be running and killing things with little pay off. Small control issues aside, this is an average action title that many players can have a good time with.

Grade: C+