I’m a big first-person shooter fan, but I’m bored of the likes of Overwatch, Call of Duty, and Valorant. So when I saw The Finals, one of the hottest first-person shooters, blowing up on Steam and Twitch, I had to drop in and see what all of the hype was about. A week later, and I’m sad that the open beta has ended but glad that 7.5 million people got to experience the pure destructive chaos and joy that The Finals offers.
The Finals isn’t your typical shooter thanks to Battlefield-style building destruction. This destruction is the most impressive element of the game, which pits teams of three against each other in an objective-based arena where collecting cash is king. It’s also styled like a game show, so if you play the competitive modes, you have to qualify to progress like an actual competition.
You can shoot buildings, windows, floors, ceilings, and even explosive canisters to shape the combat around you. It’s the most impressive destruction technology that I’ve ever seen in a shooter, and because The Finals has game show events, there are often times when modifiers suddenly appear in-game so there’s low gravity or even more destruction damage. Coupled with a dynamic time of day and weather conditions, it’s a recipe for chaos that always feels different every time you play.
Unlike a battle royale, you don’t have to run around looting for good weapons and armor. You can create a loadout based on three classes — light, medium, and heavy — and each class has different abilities, weapons, and mobility. The light class lets you speed across the map but at the cost of having a lower health bar for combat. Heavy is similar to the tank role in Overwatch, where you get a good amount of health and powerful damage options but you’re slower in combat. The medium role offers a little bit of a balance between the two, with the ability to support and heal your teammates quickly.
The Finals destruction all happens server side, too, an impressive technical feat of engineering that means the physics engines aren’t hogging your CPU every time something blows up around you. I had the most fun grabbing the canisters that are dotted around the map. The expanding foam ones are a great way to create a shield between you and your opponents so you have time to heal or reposition. Explosive canisters can also create destructive chaos when they explode, and the toxic gas ones often dazzle enemies and force them to attack from a different angle.
The light class’s grappling hook is incredibly fun to use, and people have been mastering it to create impressive ways to traverse the map at speed thanks to the fast mobility of the class and zip lines that exist in The Finals maps. There’s also a cloaking device to choose from so you can go invisible and a motion sensor that will reveal opponents that are invisible.
As much fun as the light class is, I spent most of my time playing the medium one. As I’m nearly 40 years old, my reflexes and sharp shooting aren’t what they used to be compared to my teenage years of competing at tournaments and LAN parties. The medium class is more of a support role, with the healing beam allowing you to top up your teammates’ health bars even if they’re close to death. It pairs well with a defibrillator that lets you instantly revive a teammate instead of waiting on a revive timer. I used the defibrillator a lot to bring heavy-class players straight back into fights.
The heavy class has the ultimate in destructive abilities thanks to its Charge ‘n’ Slam ability, which lets you slam through walls. You don’t have to run through the rooms of a building; you can just charge through, opening up new pathways for your teammates. The heavy class also has weapons like a flamethrower or sledgehammer, which are both great for close combat. The shotgun is surprisingly effective for the heavy class, too.
The Finals open beta finished this morning, and I’m honestly not surprised that 7.5 million people played it in less than two weeks. It has been sitting close to the top of the most played games in Valve’s Steam charts recently, with equal amounts of attention on Twitch, too. The game still needs some work to balance the classes, but the core destruction mechanic is truly unique in this time of first-person shooter.
That destruction is all thanks to Embark Studios, a Swedish studio that’s made up of former Battlefield developers. Embark’s studio chief, Patrick Söderlund, was the CEO of Battlefield developer DICE and EA’s former chief design officer. Embark’s studio announcement was full of buzzwords like “connected players, big data, speech recognition, cloud computing, and advanced AI,” and it feels like The Finals is certainly delivering all of that.
The beta wasn’t without its controversies, though. Embark had to defend its use of AI-generated voices recently, arguing that “making games without actors isn’t an end goal” in a statement to IGN.
Now, we’re just waiting on a release date for The Finals and to see how Embark implements its free-to-play battle pass system, progression, maps, and cosmetics. The foundations are there, and I’m intrigued to see where Embark takes this formula in the future.