Your part of the world or your hometown has been infested with zombies/monsters/North Koreans! Take your survival instincts and defeat the enemies while reaching your goal of saving the your town/the princess/mankind! We've all played 'em, those games that throw you in the role of the every man trying to save something, or teaming up with a group of other people to save something else. For some reason, the zombie or monster is a good choice as a target, probably because they're not technically human or not human anymore. I dig it, I like killing things that should be dead or should be destroyed if they're already dead.
Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2jumped in with 4 characters who would try to survive and get the hell out, and they were fun to play. Zombie Apocalypse came around and offered an arcade-style four-player zombie killfest, and while it wasn't on the level of Left 4 Dead, it was entertaining for awhile before it got a little redundant. Then Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone entered the arena and tried to destroy what Zombie Apocalypse brought by adding annoying characters, boring Point A to Point B gameplay, and nothing really new.
Final Exam came out earlier this fall, bringing a 2D brawler feel to monster hunting. It's a decent brawler where you choose one of four characters each with their own style (much like the other titles do) and have at the monsters while trying to get to your class reunion. The characters are: Nathan, the nerd; Cassie, the token regular woman; Sean, the token regular man; Brutal Joe, the "big guy." They each have upgradeable weapons, skill sets, and special moves which can be upgraded between levels, and are charged during gameplay while you slaughter monsters. You also carry weapons and, of course, a health pack (a Burger Value Meal) which can be easily be used by pressing up on the D-pad.
Above: Scare the girl back to the school bus with a giant bunny head, because the monsters aren't scary enough!
The levels in Final Exam aren't too large to get lost in, but there is a fair amount of doubling back within the level, making them feel too big. Oh you found the exit? Ok, it's broken, go back and fix something or pick an item up that will help you get out of the level! Rescue the kids and bring them back to the school bus. They're scattered all over an amusement park, and some of them need enticements to lead them to safety! The fat kid needs candy, which is somewhere else, go get the candy machine and bring it to the fat kid so he'll follow you. The little girl needs her brother. This girl needs to be scared back to the school bus. Are these kids so damn dumb they don't want to be rescued? Do they all follow the Lois from Goodfellas "I need my hat, can't fly without my hat!" bullshit? The town is infested with monsters, you nimrods! There are also some other escort missions, but, thankfully, only you take damage, not the person you are trying to save. Escort missions where the people you save get hurt or killed are seriously annoying.
Every now and then there will be a pack of monsters attacking, where you'll be scored by how many monsters you manage to kill in a certain amount of time. I liked those sequences, but sometimes they happen in the middle of a boss battle. Ok, there's too much going on right now. In particular, the amusement park boss battle had me fighting the boss, fighting a pack of monsters, and trying to repair the bus at the same time. That's a bit much.
The game looks pretty good, but feels a but slow, even when your characters are running through the levels. Just a little faster, please! The monsters look decent enough but are not anything spectacular, although they do splat and squish with just enough pizazz to feel rewarding. I just wish there were more monsters on some levels.
Also, I have the difficulty set to the normal setting, and it seemed I was fighting no more than four monsters at a time, and they took a hell of a lot of damage to be killed. There were several times I said "What the fuck, it's not DEAD yet!?" Like the first boss battle, it seemed to go on forever, and when I thought it was over, I bumped into the boss later and, to quote Captain Kirk, I felt like saying "Aren't you dead?" And then, I wasn't too sure if I had just fought a boss or a really tough monster.
Below: A boss battle, or a double boss battle, or just a battle with 2 big monsters that should be bosses?
In the end, Final Exam is an OK brawler, held back by double-backing levels that feel the same, and a lack of on-screen monsters that take what feels like too much effort to kill. Online is good when you get a room going, but all told there's not much going on in the XBox Live Community. Nice try with this one, but I can't really recommend it.
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