Upon booting up The Final Station on Xbox One for the first time, it became immediately clear that there is an issue with the game’s main menu. What should be a simple gateway into the action quickly became a mini game in its own right, as unclear button highlights led to a language change and almost a deleted save on a couple of occasions.
At first the greyish block dominating the bottom half of the screen feels a little intrusive and uninspired, but as you explore new areas the grey gives way to more detailed spaces. Blacked out buildings reveal a network of rooms, attics and secret tunnels, the honeycombed structures breathing some much needed life into the world.
It’s gameplay where The Final Station shines, at least one half of it anyway. The enjoyable exploration of desolate towns and stations is interspersed by the quite literal on rails parts, where players are tasked with keeping their locomotive and any passengers who happen to be accompanying them at the time in working order.
What could have been an interesting feature nestled between the on foot sections can quickly descend into chaos, where technical malfunctions continually plague the engine and passengers’ health and hunger levels require near constant monitoring if they are to survive the journey. The unclear design of the main menu also makes an appearance here, turning crafting supplies such as med kits and ammo into hopeful button mashing.
While they may be a pain to keep alive, each passenger offers a reward for their safe delivery, and with limited med kits and scarcely enough food to keep more than three or four in good health at one time, sacrifices will have to be made in order to get the best return for your investment. For the achievement/trophy hunters out there, this may get a little frustrating as delivering a full carriage of healthy passengers (or at least ones that are still breathing) is required on a couple of occasions in order to 100% the game.
A big chunk of the game’s narrative is delivered from listening to these hitchhikers, but between the veritable plate spinning of keeping the train in working order and making sure you don’t end up with a carriage full of corpses, there’s little chance to pick any of it up.
The Final Station’s redemption comes in the form of its explorable areas mentioned earlier. After arriving at a new station, players need to find a four-digit code in order to open the rail blocker and continue progress towards Metropole. It sounds simple enough, but more often than not some hapless station employee has left the code deep within an infected area, meaning you’ll have to go searching for it.
Stepping into an eerily silent and hostile area for the first time is suitably atmospheric, and approaching a closed door and the blacked out area beyond it does a good job of creating some nervous excitement. You’ll quickly learn to enter a new room with caution, as charging in all guns blazing is not only a waste of precious ammunition but also a sure fire way to get yourself killed or severely wounded, taking up equally important health packs.
When things do go wrong, while it can be costly, it can sometimes lead to epic set-piece like events where you find your back against the wall, desperately trying to take out the five zombies bearing down on your with only a few rounds left.
Standing between you and the precious codes are the areas’ corrupted former inhabitants turned flesh eaters. Theses zombies do not resemble the usual shambling and rotting hordes, instead their silhouetted bodies and lamp-like white eyes are more akin to LIMBO’s silent protagonist than your classic undead (although for someone who is a coward when it comes to all things zombie, this wasn’t a problem!).
This being a computer game, zombies naturally appear in a few varieties which require different strategies to take them down. There’s the standard walker, who’s melee attacks deal a fair amount of damage but are easily dodged and killed with a few punches of your own, the small speedy buggers that will make you quickly distrustful of any closed doors, armoured zombies, an exploding type that charges when attacked, plus a few more that help mix things up towards the end of the game.
The melting pot of enemies keeps The Final Station from becoming a predictable slog, and actually makes you carefully consider the best way to clear a room or hallway, especially when faced with numerous enemies. The lack of ammunition and supplies also keeps things interesting, forcing players to risk clearing an area while on little health in order to save the last med kit for that wounded passenger with the big reward, or taking on enemies with melee attacks as you only have four bullets left and you just know an exploding type is going to be lurking up ahead somewhere.
When things do go wrong, while it can be costly, it can sometimes lead to epic set-piece like events where you find your back against the wall, desperately trying to take out the five zombies bearing down on you with only a few rounds left. Surviving such a situation is a pretty good rush, but generous checkpoints mean dying isn’t so much of a problem. The frequent checkpoints also mean it’s easy to quickly learn a building’s layout and enemy locations, allowing you to chain kills together and speedily make up progress, sometimes without taking damage.
At just over eight hours’ completion time, The Final Station offers good value for the relatively low asking price, and although the tricky menu and tedious train sections are a bit of a buzzkill, if you’re willing to forgive the game’s flaws and a few rough edges now and then, there is a decent 2D action adventure to be had for your money.