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The Finals Is One of the Most Exciting New Online Shooters in Years

Frenetic team shooter has a ton of promise

If you want to know what confidence feels like, try launching your free-to-play shooter without warning two days after CoD: Warzone’s biggest free update in a year during The Game Awards.

That’s exactly what Embark Studios did with The Finals at the end of last week, and it’s quite impressive coming from this Warzone-addicted scribe, who has been captivated to this newer entrant all weekend — just as he was throughout its open beta at the end of October.

Ex-Dice developers abound at Embark Studios, and the mentality of older Battlefield games is clear: it’s a shooter with a heavy emphasis on devastation and teamwork.

You play in groups of three, selecting from three different body types for your loadouts, each with a different collection of tools and weapons to access, and your movement speed and health are also modified.

You could design a lightweight, delicate unit armed with a double-barreled shotgun and a grappling hook to buzz around picking off stragglers, or a heavyweight unit armed with ballistic barriers and a sledgehammer to charge through walls and ceilings at will — or anything in between.

Whatever three combatants you choose, you’ll enter a vast arena-style map full with verticality, ziplines, barricades, and dangerous barrels. Depending on the game option, you’ll be focused on amassing cash to bank at specific points.

In the main Quick Cash game, this involves securing a lengthy capture point from other teams, with any of them able to convert your banked money if they can capture the point before it finishes ticking down (even right down to the closing moments of the process).

Bank It, on the other hand, allows you to save money faster and earn coins by eliminating opponents — it’s faster-paced and has four teams against Quick Cash’s three.
Quick Cash, on the other hand, feels like the real heart of The Finals, which is why it’s the mode used by Ranked Play, which pits you against a bracket of other teams to see if you can make it to the final round against just one opponent team.

It has a terrific loop: making it to the next cash drop, successfully stealing it, rushing to whichever banking site you believe is most defensible, then desperately attempting to stay alive as the other teams plot to steal it. Or, indeed, noticing that another team is progressing quicker than you in that process and devising a strategy to grab the bank from under their noses.

If that seems clear, let’s speak about devastation, which The Finals provides in a way that puts almost every other shooter of the day to shame. Almost every surface (save the ground) may be damaged here, and you have a plethora of instruments to do it, ranging from RPGs to C4 charges, grenades, and even barrels laying throughout the level.

This means that most goals can be attacked in a variety of ways, allowing you to drop in from above, assault through a wall, or even drop it down through the floor to disrupt the best-laid plans of its defenders (or to startle criminals as they attempt to take your wealth).

Just when you think you’ve found a surefire strategy to outwit other teams, they’ll do something you never thought of or lock down a room in a creative way that you’ll be desperate to adapt in your next game – and the quantity of alternatives means this isn’t going away anytime soon.
The Finals accomplishes all of this while also looking good: it has a pretty clean style that leans toward concrete and steel, but with flashes of color that are reminiscent of Mirror’s Edge. It also runs smoothly at a consistent 60 frames per second and is sharp enough to pick up foes at a distance easily.

Another brilliant trick up the game’s sleeve is that its maps can appear in a variety of conditions, including night-time versions and different weather options, which can drastically alter how you approach certain situations, whether due to fog obscuring sight lines or darkness offering a stealthier way to get close to the action.

The game also boasts some of that classic Battlefield sounds, with crunching and booming explosions, as well as remarkably precise locational audio that makes monitoring players’ footsteps and firing very straightforward (especially with a headset on).

On the audio front, it’s worth noting that The Finals’ use of AI for its announcers’ voice lines is a letdown — their lines sound weird in a way that could be excused as deliberate, but it’d be nice to imagine that Embark is considering hiring actors to record scripted lines instead down the road.

Because it’s 2023, there’s a Battle Pass to purchase, and the game’s first season of content is currently underway. It has no gameplay options, which is reassuring, and instead focuses on cosmetics. By playing normally, you gain in-game currency to unlock additional weapons and things, and we were able to unlock a half-dozen quite soon, which is fantastic news.

The Finals is still in its early stages; after all, the test of a live-service game like this is how many players are still playing it after six months. Still, we haven’t been this enthralled by a free game since Warzone initially debuted, and shooters’ involvement with premium Call of Duty offerings stretches the term slightly.

At launch, this is a highly impressive new shooter that should appeal to anyone who has played a Battlefield game in the last decade or more and wants a tactical and chaotic palette-cleansing alternative to add to their online sessions.

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