by Jonathan Fortin, reviewed on
Make Mine Multiplayer
Let's get this out of the way: don't play Final Exam on your own. Not because you'll get scared; you won't. This game is designed to be played with friends, ideally funny friends that are there in the room with you. If you have that, Final Exam is a load of fun. But playing this game single-player makes its flaws more visible than a beached whale.
Final Exam is an old school beat-'em-up with 3D graphics and 2D gameplay. There's an emphasis on competitive co-op, with the players helping each other out but also striving to score the most points for themselves.
The game's combat feels swift and slick: melee, firearms, and grenades are all assigned to different buttons, meaning you can attack with each weapon type on the fly, a la Devil May Cry. Utilizing both your melee and ranged weapons ends up proving critical to winning some of the tougher battles. This dynamic gives the combat a fluid, and often frenetic, feel.
This is good, because combat in this game is constant—even after you've defeated all the enemies nearby, more will spawn within thirty seconds. There are no puzzles, and no “safe zones”; enemies will spawn regardless of where you're located, even areas you've already fought through. Every so often you'll be attacked by giant packs of enemies that come from all directions at once, heightening the tension and mixing up the pacing a bit.
Final Exam's mild RPG elements allow you to upgrade your character between each level. The skill tree is based on XP, but your attributes (your health and damage bonuses) can only be upgraded by finding secrets. This is a problem, because the game seems to have a love/hate relationship with exploration. Finding each map's secrets is the only way to access new weapons or to upgrade your character, but taking too long on a map will hurt your score, and since the maps are rather huge, fully exploring them takes a lot of time.
It would be nice if the game gave you a new weapon each time you completed a level, or based your character's attribute progression on XP culled from killing monsters. For a game that puts such a big emphasis on scoring, there sure isn't much of a reward for doing well. Indeed, getting a worse score can be better for you, because upgrading your character is only possible by exploring a level fully—which usually means getting downgraded for taking too long.
Hope You Like Repetition!
All too quickly, the combat begins to feel repetitive. Enemies take a long time to take down, and the complete lack of strategy involved makes it feel monotonous. It doesn't matter where you hit enemies, either—there's no reward for headshots.
The game has a frustrating reliance on Fed Ex quests: nearly all of your mission objectives boil down to finding an item or character, bringing them somewhere else, and then protecting them for a set period of time while monsters interrupt your progress at every turn. If you're playing single-player, you'll have to put down and pick up quest items over and over again to kill the monsters that won't stop spawning. (An additional weird touch is that the button to pick up quest items is different from the button that picks up health or ammo.)
Fun with friends, combat feels slick.
Gets very repetitive, constantly respawning enemies get irritating, new weapons are hard to find