Final Exam Review
Final Exam Review – Introduction
There have been quite a few beat ’em ups in recent years, and you can’t swing a semi-rotten cat without hitting a zombie/nightmarish creature game. That doesn’t mean that the two combined can’t be something interesting and special, it just means that its harder to have the title stand out. That’s unfortunate, because Final Exam probably won’t get the attention it probably deserves.
The ObsCure Reference
Final Exam is a reboot of the fairly well-received ObsCure series, although it’s no longer directly named as such. If you played those games, you’ll know that they were fairly standard in many ways. Resident Evil in terms of gameplay, every teen-focussed horror film in terms of plot. It was an interesting mixture and one that got it a following.
Then, after a sequel, the franchise was abruptly thrown out and never heard of again. Final Exam is a return to ObsCure in some ways, outside of the obvious. None of the characters return and the gameplay is completely different.
Instead of paced third-person survival horror, Final Exam is an action beat ’em up. Instead of occasional monsters, you’ll fight endless waves of easy-to-kill horrors. You can see why they decided to drop the ObsCure name.
For better or for worse, Final Exam is now its own title, without any previous history weighing it down. On one hand this is good; it means fans will be more willing to accept it for what it is. On the other hand, it’s semi-generic design and gameplay model probably would have benefited with a more marketable hook.
Because, really, that’s what this is. It’s a pretty standard beat ’em up with Metroidvania aspirations. You’ll explore large-ish areas, fight things, collect collectibles and complete objectives. Final Exam does all of these things fairly well – enough that you’ll enjoy them, anyway – but never really goes above and beyond. By the time you’ve finished – less than 10 hours to 100%, less for the story alone – you’ll have had more than enough.
The level design is fairly interesting. Each stage is split into a large area that you’ll need to traverse. You’ll get to a certain spot and trigger a mission (turn off all the alarms, for instance) which will allow you to move on. Rinse and repeat. These missions feel very survival horror, and are mostly about going back and forth over the same old area.
Ultimately though, they’re not survival horror. You have a limited but healthy supply of ammo with which to blast enemies away, and then some melee moves as well. You’ll be attacked constantly – the entire game revolves around it. Short of scares, the missions just feel like a grind, a means to an end.
Thankfully, the fighting isn’t too bad. The enemies have a little too much health perhaps, which can make even the simplest fight feel over-extended – but for the most part that’s not too bad. You get to work on your combos and towards a top score, which is where much of the replayability lies.
It’s not all grinding coridors. There are a few other levels that have you doing something else, like travelling down a train, but they end up being underwhelming. You’ll just move from place to play, hitting things.
You can play Final Exam on your own, and you’ll probably enjoy the several hours of entertainment that will provide. Where the fun really lies is in grabbing a friend and playing in co-op. There’s an online option as well, but nothing beats playing together on the same screen.
Final Exam doesn’t really change when played with others, but the monotony of certain aspects of it certainly dulls when you’re able to shot and scream alongside a co-smasher. Fighting, levelling, scores… it all becomes so much more competitive when there’s actual competition, and Final Exam does it well. For a Friday night, with a friend, it would be hard to complain too much.
Final Exam isn’t a great game. There are people that would say it isn’t even a good game. If you enjoy beat ’em ups though and want to see an example of the genre done right, Final Exam is fine. Just fine.
Will it change the way you look at the genre? Will you want to play it for weeks on end? Will it become the game you and your friends look to whenever you want something fun to co-op?
The answer to each of those questions is no. Sometimes, however, being solid is enough.
- Solid beat ’em up gameplay
- Fun for a single playthrough
- Great when played locally with a friend
- Not very memorable
- Rarely goes beyond the standard basics
- Too many ‘back and forth’ missions