Final Exam (Review) Playstation 3

Final Exam (Review) Playstation 3
Review Score:

The side-scrolling beat ’em up genre has come a long way since the days of Double Dragon. The genre has evolved beyond simple button mashing and end level boss encounters. Final Exam by developer Mighty Rocket Studios places you in a post-apocalyptic urban environment that is infested with aggressive monsters and packs of hideous flying creatures.

As the game starts, you must choose from one of the game’s four protagonists – Brutal Joe, the ex-quarterback with a hulking physique; Nathan, the average computer geek with a love for gadgets; Cassy, the agile female street dancer; and Sean, a firearms hobbyist who specializes in long-range weaponry. After selecting your hero, you are introduced to a brief tutorial that explains the controls, the combo system and how to use the various items found in the environment.

On the surface, Final Exam resembles an average beat ’em up as you smash and shoot enemies with a variety of weapons. But as you play through its complex levels and solve some of its puzzles, you quickly realize that Final Exam isn’t your typical game. The object is to solve a multitude of puzzles that involve pulling switches to activate doors, save children from a school trip that happened to get caught up in the ‘local’ apocalypse and even escort an overweight mechanic as he fearfully fixes an electrical cart in an underground subway.

The gameplay relies on a diverse combat system that can be upgraded as you progress through the game. Your character starts with a basic set of combos that can juggle creatures into the air by pushing up on the left analog stick and pressing the Square button in tandem. During the same combo string, you can push down on the analog stick in conjunction with the Square button to ‘slam’ your enemy into the ground. This simple 5-hit juggle combo can be used on large groups of enemies and even bosses. However, until you start upgrading your character’s skills, the damage this attack deals is fairly limited (more on this in a moment).

The combat system is similar to Devil May Cry as you can combine melee attacks with any firearms in your inventory. While not as effective as they should be on their own, weapons such as handguns and shotguns become deadly when they are chained together in combos. Using your character’s melee weapon (which could be a baseball bat, for example) allows you to juggle your enemies into the air and then unleash a barrage of shotgun fire by pressing the R2 button. This results in your enemies exploding into bloody chunks of fleshy debris.

After completing a level, you are awarded CP (Character Points) and SP (Special Points) to build your character. These points are spent in a Skill Tree to unlock a variety of skills that can increase your fighter’s arsenal of attacks. The Skill Tree is divided into three parts – Specials, Passive and Combat. Specials include all the special attacks your character can learn when points are spent in this section. Some skills include The Whirlwind , Armor-Piercing bullets and Carnage, among others.

Passive skills activate on their own and require no intervention from the player. The benefits of adding points to the Passive Skill Tree includes perks such as Quick Reload and Medkits that heal for an additional fifty-percent. While self-explanatory, the Combat Skill Tree adds to your current repertoire of combat skills. While skills in this Skill Tree vary per character, some of the more common ones include Tackle, Air Combo and Mega Hit (i.e. punching a monster out while in full sprint).

The majority of Final Exam’s gameplay is spent running back and forth completing mission objectives. The Amusement Park level, for example, has you running to one side of the level to discover an open gap in the Roller coaster tracks and then searching on the opposite side for wooden planks. When you’re not collecting wooden planks or other mission-based items, you’re rescuing children and returning them to a school bus. Later levels have you escorting scared mechanics in exchange for their services.

Some of these mechanics may pick locks to open doors or even help build vehicles as long as you collect the items needed. During the aptly named level 4 – ‘Come on, Let’s Get Outta Here!’ – you must collect metal sheets, weapons and a Ram skull from the Amusement Park and return them to the mechanic’s underground workshop. Once these items are delivered to the mechanic, a make-shift train with weapons is built for your escape.

Escaping from the Amusement Park isn’t as easy as it sounds, though. You must ‘push’ the new vehicle onto the train tracks by holding the Circle button. As you try to achieve this objective, you are attacked by an almost inexhaustible horde of monsters. Trying to kill off the attacking horde of creatures while pushing the train cart to its destination is no easy feat, especially in single-player.

The controls work relatively well, all things considered. While you can aim your firearm using the right analog stick, your character will auto aim if you fire at a nearby creature. This feature saves a lot of time considering the amount of enemies that attack. Climbing a stairwell can be a bit tricky since you not only need to be standing in the right place, but you must also push up on the left analog stick and press Circle button at the same time. There have been times when I have been caught in the middle of an attacking creature horde because I wasn’t standing in the right place to ‘jump’ on the stairs.

Final Exam includes a large variety of monsters that range from the classic Left4Dead Boomer-style creature to flying insect-like spitters, to name just a few. The bosses or ‘Tanks’ as they’re called are hulking masses of flesh that destroy everything, including enemy creatures. Sadly, these powerful creatures lack variety. Most boss encounters are either recycled from previous chapters or slightly re-textured to resemble a ‘new’ monster. This is very disappointing considering the large variety of monsters that attack you during the course of the game.

Like most beat ’em ups, Final Exam’s gameplay benefits greatly from local and online co-op. In fact, the game difficulty increases when four players are present, making the game more challenging. Thankfully, the online community for Final Exam is very healthy, so finding players shouldn’t be a chore.

With gripes aside, Final Exam by Mighty Rocket Studios is an entertaining game that is worthy of your attention. While not perfect, it serves up plenty of bloody melee action while always finding a way to not take itself seriously.

Mike Pittaro
Playstation 3 (Available on PSN)
Publisher: Mighty Rocket Studio
ESRB: T (Teen)
Price: $9.99

Final Exam’s Official Website

Review Score
Cartoonish graphics with a unique artstyle.
A rocking' heavy-metal sound track accompanies the action.
Intense beat 'em up action.
While not perfect, Final Exam is an entertaining beat 'em up that will keep gamers entertained for hours.
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