We’ve been warned ahead of our first match in The Finals, the debut multiplayer FPS from Embark Studios that touts impressive destruction tech (opens in a new tab) since last year that it will take some time to learn how to fully utilize free-form destruction. Yes, yes (I thought), I played Battlefield. Having spent thousands of hours in the most devastating FPS, Rainbow Six Siege, I know the value of creating new doors with C4.
I quickly felt humiliated when, in the midst of a nervous deposit of cash on an exposed roof, an Embark developer on my team suggested we get out of the open by simply punching a hole under the cash register and tossing it into a building where we could easily defend it. My brain couldn’t figure it out – it’s a central capture point that’s critical to winning a game and we can just move it around with explosives?
It’s one of the ways The Finals bends the rules of multiplayer FPS – trading a rigid map design that can be studied, practiced, and mastered for concrete jungles that can be chopped, chewed, or rubbed into piles of physical objects. The Finals is Battlefield in Prey 2017, meaning its systems are chaotic and vulnerable to manipulation in a way that can conjure up memorable moments but also frustrates those looking for a challenging competitive shooter.
I’m a little concerned that The Finals’ premise of a tournament-style game show sends the wrong message to people who spend their nights queuing for rankings in Apex Legends or Valorant. I had the most fun with Finals when I stopped taking it seriously and embraced chaos.
Embark has talked a lot about how The Finals is aggressively different from other popular shooters right now. I was curious what this meant besides destruction, and here’s a cool example: you don’t pick a champion, and loadout isn’t restricted by strict roles. It’s a bit like Team Fortress 2 or Battlefield’s class-specific gadgets are broken down into three broader body types (light, medium, and heavy). Each body type can be equipped with several archetypes.
Light characters are:
- Faster, but have less health
- He can use submachine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles, and light melee weapons
- It can bring movement or stealth gadgets, such as a grappling hook or a cape
- Physically smaller, harder to hit
Medium characters are:
- Balanced in health and speed
- Can use assault rifles and grenade launchers
- The only class that can heal teammates or scan for enemies
- Might bring some explosives
Severe signs are:
- All health and no speed
- Can use LMGs, heavy shotguns, and heavy melee
- Specialize in destruction with RPG, C4 and wall-running skills
- Optionally, he can bring a shield to the tank for the team
I’m quite in this setup. It’s great to re-build your loadout in a non-Call of Duty FPS game, and I love that the silhouette types are so different that our 3-man squad had to talk about who would heal and who would blow up, but gave me enough room to move around so I never got into the fittings I didn’t like. There’s so much flexibility that your single gun slot doesn’t have to be a gun at all. I’ve had better luck driving enemies with a sledgehammer than taking them down with an LMG. The melee style was even more powerful when combining a knife and invisibility cloak on a lightweight build (backstabs were instant kills).
In The Finals, you can feel the DICE legacy everywhere. Guns have a similar time to kill to Battlefield. Sprinting, reloading and jumping are as fast and smooth as BF1 and BF5. Exploded walls crack in very Bad Company 2, and I could feel the Battlefield 4 muscle memory kicking in bouncing grenades around the corner. The two maps we played (Monaco and Seoul) are styled with harsh shadows, saturated colors and lots of glass windows that would feel right at home in Mirror’s Edge 3.
Something not associated with Battlefield, and one of the reasons I leaned towards melee weapons during our pre-release session, are pistols. They feel lethargic and a little wimpy, and I can’t figure out why. It could be that the heavy class has too much health, or that our mix of US and European players created a slow firefight. Maybe the servers have a low tick rate to account for all the destruction calculations. I suspect most of this boiled down to my PC’s performance, which wasn’t spectacular on the RTX 3060 and Ryzen 7 5700 CPUs.
I struggled to maintain a steady 50-60 fps, with regular dips to 30 as 100 tons of wood and concrete gravitated. That’s with DLSS in performance mode and graphics set to medium-low. A setback for sure, but I’ll take a sea of ”TBD” on the Steam page (opens in a new tab) system requirements, which means there is still a lot of optimization left before launch day. The freedom to destroy definitely comes at a cost – big enough to make it clear why most shooters settle for solid, unbreakable walls.
Other than a few glorious moments of wreckage, such as an RPG on the floor above mine to unexpectedly bring an enemy down to my level and punch them in the face, I can’t say my early matches in the finals would be any different with indestructible walls either. It’s certainly novel and fun for Kool-Aid to get through walls or blow up a beautiful facade for the sake of it, but it’s rarely been necessary. It’s not like Rainbow Six Siege where every wall matters because they’re all stuck in one concrete box – finals move fast and you’re rarely in one building long enough for its structural integrity to matter.
After a while, I stopped actively thinking about the destruction and let it become the backing track for casual first-person shooters. Just when I was starting to treat The Finals like any other shooter, the dynamics of its maps crept up on me.
In addition to potential demolitions, The Finals maps are also littered with zip-lines, elevators, toxic gas canisters, and barrels of goo that expand and harden to form makeshift walls, bridges, or scalable platforms. These throwables have a Source engine quality that I love (only the gravity gun is missing), although I haven’t used them much after a few hours.
One thing I am sure of after the closed press preview: the finals I played last week will probably be significantly different from the game that will come out. The class balance was precarious and some skills felt wildly exaggerated, but all the details are up in the air this pre-release period. Example: just hours after our session, Embark already shared a list of planned balance changes for the closed beta on March 7, including toning down the healing gun that was healing too well.
My fun with The Finals was associated with many stars. The fundamentals are strong and it has the spirit of a mid-2000s arena shooter that I automatically want to root for. If Embark can smooth out the performance and keep up with balance tweaks, this could be the first new multiplayer FPS in years that’s worth sticking with.