By Steve Baltimore / December 4th, 2013
|Title: Final Exam
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Mighty Rocket Studio
Release Date: November 12, 2013
Genre: Arcade, Beat’em Up
Platforms: PC, XBox 360, PS3
Age Rating: T
Final Exam is a side-scrolling beat-’em-up following four adults that are heading back to their old high school for one of the greatest parties ever. When they arrive, they find that the town has been taken over by terrible creatures, and they must do whatever they can to survive. This game will make you feel like you’re watching every cheesy horror movie you have ever seen, all at the same time. As far as the story goes, well, I just summed it up in the introduction. Though this is not the deepest story ever found in a video game, it does a good job of setting the mood in this brawl fest.
Graphically, everything looks really good; all of the character and monster models are nicely done. Each is pretty detailed, and fits nicely into the mood and tone that the story sets. The characters themselves are very troped – you have the jock, the brainy nerd, and so forth. The monsters have that look of every ooze-ridden mutant creature you have ever seen. The 2.5D gameplay flows well as you move from the foreground to the background. I really loved some of the effects they did with the lighting in several areas. There are no frame rate issues that I encountered, even when the screen was filled with monsters, and I was playing with two other players online. Sound-wise, everything holds up pretty well. The music is very repetitive, but it is fitting in that campy horror movie way. The comic book-style cutscenes are narrated, and the voice acting is pretty well done. The sound effects are pretty plain; you hear gun sounds, monster sounds, the sounds of blood spattering and other such noises. Nothing offensive here, but like I said, they are very plain.
As with many brawlers, a lot of what makes it good or bad is found in the gameplay, and Final Exam is no exception to this. There are four different characters from which to choose. They all play basically the same, but each has different stats and special moves to spice things up a bit. As you progress through the story, you earn SP and CP points. SP points will allow you to use the various skills and abilities found on each character’s skills tree. While some of these skills are passive, some will be new combat moves for your characters. CP points will upgrade basic stats such as health, strength and so on. For the controls, you will be using pretty much every button on the controller. There is nothing overly complex here, but you do use each button. For instance, you can have one firearm and one melee weapon equipped at a time. You can fire your firearm by pressing R1, and you can aim this weapon up and down with the right analog stick. If you wish to reload, you will need to press down the right analog stick or R3. Square makes your character attack with their melee weapon; pressing this three times in a row will do a combo. If you hold down the Left analog stick while pressing this, a smash attack will be performed. These will sometimes knock your enemies down, while holding up will pop the monsters into the air for aerial combos. Having all these controls gives you a ton of variety, but it is a lot to remember. Though, unless you are playing on the harder difficulty levels, you can basically get by with just spamming you combo attack over and over.
The game is divided into eight missions. Each mission will span multiple objectives that will have to be met to move on to the next one. These are mostly just “Go here and get this,” “Go hit the switch,” or “Go kill these monsters.” The one thing in these objectives I found the most irritating is they would have you move exploding objects from one area to another. If you get hit one time, they explode, and you have to go get another one and try again. The stages all basically play the same way. I can get over this to an extent, but, when you take into account the fact that they reused areas from previous missions in the next mission, sometimes it’s like running the same stage again with different monsters and items. They didn’t do this a whole lot, but, when you take into account there are only eight missions to begin with, I feel they should have made each one unique in some way. The one bright spot to all of this is the epic boss battles. These battles provide a variety of different challenges from throwing exploding barrels back at them or the more typical you can only hurt them at a certain time.
The multiplayer aspect gives this some replay value. Playing local or online with up to four players makes this game much more enjoyable. Things will get crazy and hectic, and you can add to combos with your friends. There are even sections designed for four players to enjoy at once. The downside to this is that it means playing the game on your own is difficult, even on the easy difficulty setting, especially during the machine section where there are four stations to man. You can switch between them easily enough with face buttons, but the game never takes into account that there is just one player, and sends a crazy amount of monsters, forcing you to take unavoidable hits. This is not unmanageable in single player, but you shouldn’t have to take that many unavoidable hits either. The bottom line on this is that you really need friends if you want to fully enjoy this game.
Overall, this is a mixed bag. It is very fun to dispatch the monsters in all of the gruesome ways the game provides you. The multiplayer is wonderful, and runs very well on or offline, and, as I’ve said, this is truly the best way to play this game. On the downside, there are lots of repetitive things in this one, from recycled stages to the music. Single player suffers a few issues, but is still playable. You can complete all of the story missions in about six hours playing single player on the normal difficulty setting. For its $9.99 price tag, fans of this genre will find a lot to love here, but for the rest of us, the overall package is lacking.
Game reviewed on PS3 with a code provided by the publisher for review purposes.
Final ExamFocus Home InteractiveMighty Rocket Studiio