While I enjoy playing first-person shooters occasionally, it’s a genre I’ve struggled to become a hardcore fan of. To me, it has stagnated, with recent Call of Duty and Battlefield games feeling like little more than rehashes of the same quick-kill-focused gameplay on maps that all blend together after a while. That’s why The Finals’ longer time-to-kill, unique match objectives, and focus on level destruction all feel like a breath of fresh air.
Developed by Embark Studios, the new multiplayer shooter is a notable change of pace for a stagnating genre. Because it takes a lot of effort to defeat an opponent, and the map is continuously changing as you do so, no two matches feel quite the same. I can attest to that, as I recently went hands-on with it and had that exact experience. Lots of thrilling, emergent moments organically happened during each match, leading to some of the most memorable matches I’ve had playing a first-person shooter in years.
If you’ve always enjoyed destructible environments in your FPS games and enjoy inventive competitive shooters that aren’t just trying to chase what is popular, then you’ll want to check out The Finals.
The Finals‘ primary mode, Extraction, is framed as a game show where four teams compete to earn the most money during a match. Players do this by locating vaults on a map, obtaining cash boxes, and delivering them to a cash-out station. Extra money is rewarded for kills and a team’s total is halved if they are completely wiped. The basics of the FPS gameplay are approachable enough for anyone who has played a game in this genre before. That said, its longer time-to-kill also helps that mission and gives players time to appreciate just how reactive its world is.
In the Closed Beta preview build, I played on two maps based on Monaco and Seoul. Each contains points of interest connected by some indoor arenas and long outdoor corridors that you’d come to expect from an FPS map. But it only stays that way for a short time. As soon as explosives get involved, the map transforms as buildings crumble and the environment reacts to the players. It stays that way too, as developer Embark Studios’ server-side technology tracks and accommodates any changes to the map.
Last year, the developers at Embark Studios told Digital Trends that they hope this technology would make other developers panic. While we don’t think The Finals will go that far, it certainly handles destruction better than other games that have tried to boast similar strengths, like Crackdown 3 or Battlefield 2042. It’s not only a neat technical feat, but it also opens up many organic situations you don’t get in other FPS games.
For example, a building was crumbling as I retrieved a cash box and headed to a cash-out station. I was under fire, and an opponent’s rocket completely destroyed the pathway to get me to the building my teammates were in. I knew I didn’t want the team chasing me to get ahold of the cash box, so I sacrificed myself by throwing the vault across that gap to my teammate before proceeding to hold enemies off as they delivered it to a station.
Even the greenery reacts to the player, especially when they have a flamethrower or flame grenade. At one moment, the station my team was delivering to was out in the open in a park. Other teams were coming at us from all angles, so I threw several fire grenades, and my teammate used a flamethrower. Doing this, we set most of the park aflame, forcing our opponents into pathways where we could pick them off more easily. Floors can crumble beneath you, staircases that get you to objectives can be destroyed, and a lot of map mayhem helps define each match of The Finals.
The Finals‘ destruction creates some compelling dynamics, making the player feel like they are shaping the world that each match takes place in. Players can customize their characters with outfits and special loadouts ahead of matches, and some of these options allow them to set down jump pads and ziplines or use a grappling hook to improve mobility. Turrets, barriers, and mines are also equippable, which can be used to direct the flow of battle and herd opponents into certain sections of the map. One particularly memorable moment saw my team calling two elevators in Seoul, only to find that another team had put a turret in one and all of themselves in another.
Because matches are fluid and the objective is currency-based, smart team play is much more helpful in The Finals. Someone who runs off to kill as many of their opponents as possible won’t do too well here. That said, those who are good at killing other players are still rewarded for their skill. The permanent destruction backs that up, giving each level in every The Finals match a more personal feel.
Surviving in the modern multiplayer space is an arduous task, especially when the biggest franchises stay on top by continuously reiterating and refining the same idea, for better and for worse. Still, as someone who has struggled to get into recent Call of Duty or Battlefield games, the unexpected gameplay opportunities that The Finals‘ impressive destructibility allows will undoubtedly entice me to check it out on day one and potentially make it my premier multiplayer game.
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