XBLA/PSN Review: Final Exam

We’re going to need some bigger guns

We’re going to need some bigger guns.

By: Justin Redmon

Final exams have a funny way of making people completely freak out and lose all rational thought. Long periods of no sleep and binging on energy drinks have a tendency to turn even the most sane person into a slobbering lunatic, albeit with an encyclopedic knowledge of one subject due to an intense cramming session. Final Exam by Mighty Rocket Studios looks to take the stress of test day away and replace it with monster-killing madness for you and three of your closest friends. With baseball bats, chainsaws and plenty of automatic weaponry, there’s plenty of ways to beat back the horror of the night.

CONTROLS (4.5/5)

With melee, ranged and all manner of dodges and jumps supported, Final Exam gives you a lot of options to choose from on how you want to handle a monster horde. Melee brawling will be your main method of dispatching foes, with ground and air combos rounding out your monster-mashing repertoire. Guns and throwables give ranged some meat as well, letting you rack up combos from a distance as well as keep some space between you and more dangerous enemies.

It’s worth noting that at first you might find movement a bit cumbersome and stiff, but after a few battles you’ll come to grips with the controls.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4.5/5)

When it comes to looks, Final Exam makes the grade with room to spare. The 2.5D presentation is used to great effect, with enemies jumping in from the background and certain level sections having objects come into play in the background – for example, in the first level you run across the roof of a subway train dodging lights hanging from the ceiling while fighting off baddies. An almost comic-like presentation accents nearly every action, making things like attacks and explosions pop on screen.

The music accents the dark and rundown environments, letting the horror movie themes shine a little brighter. It does seem that animations can sometimes appear a little jittery, though, as transitions between movements and dodges can be a bit jarring.

GAMEPLAY (3.75/5)

So, you’re heading to possibly the biggest party of your life. You and three of your closest buds are finally back together just like the good ol’ days. Of course, life wouldn’t have it this way, as a sudden outbreak of nightmarish monsters puts an end to any party going. From there out, you choose one of four characters, each with different skill specializations, and go to battle with the monsters of the night.

Combat is fast and hectic, giving players plenty of ways to put the hurt on enemies; my favorite being an air juggle slam combo to a hail of bullets from the sky not unlike that of Dante of Devil May Cry fame. Each character also comes with unique special moves, ranging from breakdance-like beat downs or infinite ammo for your weapons. Combos feed a perpetually rising meter, and with the press of a button you can cash in your combos early to secure your points on high score runs, else you play a dangerous game where a single hit loses it all.

Weapons are found in level, letting you smash heads with a variety of pain-bringing instruments — my advice is to hold onto the sledge hammer, whose charge attack makes quick work of almost any enemy. After each level, you can upgrade base stats on your character, and also fit special skills and buffs to make taking down baddies even easier.

Although a fun game, Final Exam has some serious problems with repetition. I get that a brawler doesn’t exactly have to offer much, but it seems like the only things Final Exam really presents by way of gameplay is either extremely tedious fetch quests or a constant fighting of enemy hordes. Although late-game battles definitely carry enough weight to be interesting, early on your move set just isn’t diverse enough to stop it from becoming tedious. Final Exam also constantly seems to think fun comes from moving explosive objects from point A to point B while enemies constantly harass you, which results in you blowing up a hell of a lot and generally getting frustrated with the entire process.

Playing with friends is the easiest cure for many of Final Exam’s small problems, and though variety may be lacking throughout your time with Final Exam, overall it’s a fun beat ‘em up.

OVERALL (4/5)

While it may trip over itself deciding just how to keep the brawling fresh, Final Exam eventually finds its niche as a satisfying co-op brawler that’s sure to keep you occupied.

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About Herija Green

Avid gamer, adventurous lover and all-around damned handsome man...
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