by Jonathan Fortin
reviewed on PC
Hope You Like Repetition! (cont.)
Final Exam has extremely familiar enemy types: there are the basic runners, the ones that jump on you, the ones that spit acid, the ones that run at you and explode, and the big brawlers that take a while to put down. Many of these same enemy types are found in nearly all modern zombie games, including Left 4 Dead, Dead Nation, Dead Space, Dead Island, and even Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare. (For all its cliches, at least Final Exam doesn't have “Dead” in the title.) There are also flying bug enemies, but they aren't enough to distinguish the game's creatures as a whole. There's just a pervasive feeling that we've fought all these enemies before in other games. Making matters worse, you have to fight the same boss over and over again throughout the game, and he is defeated the exact same way each time.
There is environmental repetition as well. While there are eight missions, several of the environments, such as a school and an amusement park, repeat multiple times with only small changes to distinguish them. This is made worse by all the backtracking the game makes you do—especially if you want to find all the secrets. Due to the constantly respawning enemies, all the backtracking means you'll be stuck fighting the same monsters in the same locations over and over again. This is helped a bit by the occasional fun set piece, such as riding a pirate ship float outfitted with working cannons, but these are sadly few and far between.
Final Exam was originally meant to be part of the survival horror franchise Obscure, but fan outcry caused the game to be retooled into its own title. (It's like the opposite of what happened with Silent Hill 4: The Room.) Final Exam is completely different from Obscure except for its teens-vs.-monsters subject matter. It's a straightforward brawler, with the only survival horror element being ammo conservation. The soundtrack, while adequate, is nothing like the wonderfully atmospheric compositions Olivier Deriviere provided for Obscure, and the tone is significantly lighter and more cartoonish: one could accuse Obscure of being unintentionally funny, but Final Exam is flat out tongue-in-cheek. Unfortunately, it fails at being funny almost as much as Obscure failed to scare.
Perhaps the confused origins are why the story is so half-baked. The four playable characters go to their old high school for a reunion, but along the way are attacked by monsters. Even though our heroes are old enough to attend a high school reunion, evidently none of them have grown up in the past decade or two, because they're all still young-looking high school stereotypes: you've got the jock, the geek, the stylish girl, and the token minority. It's a little perplexing how they're all best friends. (Later you also encounter a girl who's described as “goth,” though she doesn't look it, as well as a fat kid named “fat Billy” who you have to lure with candy. Because he's fat, get it?) The monsters supposedly came from a mad scientist's experiments, but much about their rules and goals remains unclear throughout the game. It doesn't help that the ending is incomprehensible, with our heroes strolling off into the sunset as though they've saved the world, when there is no evidence there aren't still tons of monsters running about.
No Honors Student
In the end, Final Exam is a fun multiplayer game and a mediocre single-player game. It aims low, and hits its target, riding on the simple pleasures of mashing buttons and yelling with friends. The accessible gameplay and competitive scoring could make it great for parties: it's easy to pick up and button-mash. But the game doesn't really have much else to offer. Final Exam doesn't fail, but it's no honors student.
Fun with friends, combat feels slick.
Gets very repetitive, constantly respawning enemies get irritating, new weapons are hard to find