Multiplayer shooters are a dime a dozen nowadays, so games truly have to do something special to stand out among the crowd right now. THE FINALS is one such title hoping to break the mold just enough to take root among the myriad shooters on the market today.
A multiplayer shooter that sets teams of three against each other in a battle arena where the nature of the battleground will force you to think very differently versus the normal first-person shooter. In a world where verticality and destructibility reign as king, you never know how each match might play out.
The shooter arena reminds me a bit of The Hunger Games, where players are pitted against each other for the spectacle of others as THE FINALS is effectively a game show for the world’s viewers.It’s over the top in the best way possible, bringing some insanely dynamic playgrounds for players to just have at each other.
The gist of THE FINALS sees four teams of three (so twelve total players) jump into a match that plays out like something of an extraction shooter. You hunt down caches of, well, cash, that you then need to extract at select points around the map. Enemy players can see which caches are being taken and where they are being extracted as well, so you’re almost always guaranteed to get into a firefight over the objective.
This can lead to some incredibly intense moments, especially as players converge on the same location. Defending the cache takes skill, planning, and teamwork in order to make away with the cash prize, while the same can be said for those assailing the extraction point.
But all that is normal extraction shooter stuff, right? Take the item to the extraction point and fight off enemies until it’s extracted. What makes THE FINALS feel so different is just the degree of player freedom and choice on how to achieve that end plays out.
Because each aspect of the environment is destructible, you can’t just take for granted that, say, the floor beneath your feet will always be there. It reminds me a lot of the old Battlefield games, like Battlefield 3 or Battlefield Bad Company 2, with the level of destruction that can be brought to bear. And it makes sense, too, since the company behind THE FINALS, Embark Studios, is formed from many of the developers who worked on those titles.
We had the chance to go hands-on with THE FINALS last week during a press preview leading into this week’s Closed Beta test, and while it affirmed that I am still terrible at shooters, it was a ton of fun to play in Embark’s playground for a few hours.
Creating My Contestant
THE FINALS doesn’t have classes per se, but instead, its body type acts as your class, with the heavy characters providing that tank role for the party, while the lighter body types act as a fast, nimble recon character who can disrupt your enemy’s plans.
Each character is customizable, though the character customization isn’t on the same level as, say, Black Desert Online. Rather you have a few pre-defined faces, hairstyles, skin tones, and more to customize. Where THE FINALS aims to truly make a character feel unique is through its cosmetics. As a free-to-play title, THE FINALS will be selling cosmetic microtransactions and a battle pass to players as a way to support its development, and these can be added as whole outfits or piecemeal to truly customize your look.
From there you build your loadout from weapons that each of the body types can use. While there aren’t dedicated classes, the body type does effectively fit that role for THE FINALS, shoehorning in what weapons you can use. Medium body types can rock with an AK-47 assault rifle, for example, while the Heavy type can lay down a barrage of covering fire with an LMG machine gun. Light characters can act as an assassin of sorts, carrying into a gunfight a small blade that, when you get around the back of an enemy can result in an instant kill. It’s a smidge overpowered in practice but adds some unique gameplay to the mix of gun battles.
From there you’ll set your loadout, which are the only weapons you’ll carry into a match of THE FINALS. From setting which weapon you want to carry into battle to which gadgets you want to bring, you’ll coordinate with teammates to ensure you have all your bases covered, from Goo Grenades that drop mountains of, well, goo to block enemies to incendiary ones that scorch everything in their path.
You can also set a reserve loadout that is available for you to swap weapons before a match, though this was a bit confusing to use. It seemed on the surface to be a wholly separate loadout you could access during a match. Instead, it’s a set of items you can swap in your main loadout to better combat the enemy team’s makeup once you know what you’re dealing with. I really would have preferred it to be a true reserve load out you could swap to when you died, especially since there are no weapon pickups in a match so you really have no way to adjust to the flow and challenge of the other players on the fly.
Each bodytype has a special ability as well they can pop off, such as the light bodytype’s cloak and the medium’s overpowered and way unbalanced healing gun. How you use these will depend on your approach, but it adds to the utility of each member of the party.
Into The Arena
The stylized intros for each team are great, though I wish they would last just a little bit longer. As the match loads you’re treated to an opening roll call which shows the various teams posing for the camera before you rush headlong into the match. It’s another reminder that the over-the-top shooter is, at its heart, a game show for this world, and it’s a great touch to the atmosphere Embark is creating here.
The two maps we got to play during the event were the Seoul and Monaco maps, each one very different than the last. While both have plenty of close-quarters combat that relies on urban fighting, verticality, and more to make things interesting, Monaco had more open areas, especially in its rooftop zones while Seoul was more urbanized, with moving platforms, skyscrapers, and much more.
Visually, THE FINALS is stunning. Unreal Engine 4 looks incredible, especially when you’re able to dial everything to 11 using ray tracing to give each map a more realistic look. Running the beta on my RTX 4090, i9-13900K machine was a breeze, and THE FINALS will also support forward-facing tech such as Nvidia’s DLSS Frame Generation, giving performance and an even bigger boost on 40-series GPUs.
In our first match, my team and I were just trying to get used to the mechanics. While it’s a first-person shooter, the way you approach THE FINALS is so different than other shooters it’s a bit jarring at first. Instead of just running and gunning like you might in Call of Duty Warzone 2.0 or PUBG, every inch of the battle arena can be a weapon in THE FINALS. From destructible buildings that could drop someone through the floor to meet their maker to floating caches of environmental effects that can be used against your enemy, the shooter requires much more nimble thinking.
I’m not going to forget for a long while running through a skyscraper in Seoul, only to have the building start to collapse below me, sending me into a fit trying to figure out how I don’t get caught up in the carnage. It was something I would remember during another firefight over a cache being extracted: Knocking down the building around the extractor could get it out of the clutches of our enemy long enough for us to disrupt the upload.
It’s intuitive as well. Basically, if you think it could happen, chances are it might. Blowing up a wall or shooting the glass floor out from under an enemy is exhilarating, and it makes the firefights so much more engaging and interesting than simply pointing and clicking my mouse button.
The gunplay in THE FINALS is pretty solid as well, Embark’s skill and experience with shooters shining through here. I tended to stick with light and medium builds, opting to heal my more heavily armed friends from a distance (it seemed everyone had this idea once we figured out how effective it was as well), though I would oftentimes arm myself with the insanely overpowered Assassin’s Blade to create chaos while my teammates bared down on a point we were trying to take. Stabbing enemies in the back with that blade is an instant kill, and the light body’s hitbox is so inconsistent that getting melee’d in return felt fleeting at best, and impossible at worst.
THE FINALS also throws environmental dangers into the mix as well, though the only map I played during our playtest that showed any original weather, dense fog on Monaco, crashed to the desktop. I could not figure out how to rejoin my teammates during the match, though Embark states it’s a menu option if this happens to players during the closed beta.
Refreshing, Thoughtful Gameplay
It’s such a refreshing take on the arena shooter that I found myself really wanting to play more once our demo was done. I’ve never been too great at shooters - it’s why in most I play healers or support as I don’t have to typically get massive headshots or twitch reflexes to help my teammates. I mean, for all of Overwatch’s life I’ve been a Mercy main. But THE FINALS doesn’t punish me for this. Being able to think laterally, how can we best use what’s in front of us to achieve our ends, THE FINALS rewards this thinking. Teams that approach each map with this lateral thinking are going to come out on top.
It requires some learning, and some planning on your team’s part. Learning how to work together not just to engage an enemy, but set a trap say with proximity mines, or figuring out how to level a building quickly to achieve an end, these types of approaches are going to benefit your team in the long run. Yes, you still need to be able to shoot your weapons, but using the environment around you feels just as important.
It’s a refreshing amount of player agency in a genre that is usually so straightforward. It’s also a bit daunting at first as it’s forcing me to unlearn my instincts in a shooter I’ve built over decades playing them.
But that first time dropping a goo cache from the sky to form a barrier between me and an enemy was awesome. The best example of this could be when I and my team were defending an extraction point. We laid out mines at all the entrances and choke points into the room where the deposit box was located. However, I had simply forgotten that a determined enemy with explosives could just drop the building underneath us and bypass those mines altogether.
They did and stole the deposit from us, putting into stark clarity that you just have to think differently here in THE FINALS.
It’s an awesome realization too, as it just opens up so many more avenues to experience the game and make it your own. From customizing your character down to the loadout and skills you can use to a varied and custom approach to each encounter, THE FINALS could be a shooter that stands on its own in a crowded genre thanks to its unique, fun, emergent gameplay.
All I know is, when the closed beta opens this week, I’ll be right there trying to etch my name into the annals of the contestants who have made THE FINALS.