The former Battlefield developers at Embark Studios used The Game Awards 2023 to surprise launch the studio’s debut game: The Finals.
Available now across PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X, The Finals is a team-based competitive first-person shooter with a gaudy game show-like aesthetic and emphasis on destruction. Several playtests have happened over the past year-and-a-half, with an open beta in late October garnering the most attention. Now, Embark Studios has decided to officially launch the game into Season 1 at The Game Awards.
At launch, The Finals Season 1 will contain four maps, including one based on Las Vegas that’s new for launch. It also features Cashout and Bank-It modes, ranked and unranked tournaments, a practice range, and a battle pass that players can use to unlock currency and a variety of skins to customize their characters and weapons.
Ahead of its stealth release at The Game Awards 2023, I went hands-on with the launch version. It retained the exhilarating spirit from my previous times trying it out, and I get the feeling that The Finals could catch on and become another mainstay live service game.
For those less familiar with The Finals, its primary mode, Cashout, has up to four teams of three compete to find cashboxes across the map and deposit them in vaults to redeem that cash. The team with the most money collected at the end of a match wins, but depositing into a vault isn’t instantaneous. Firefights will ensue when teams try to protect their vault or steal a vault for themselves at the last second.
That alone would be an enjoyable mode in most shooters, but The Finals spices it up with various gadgets, character archetypes, weapons, and an emphasis on destruction. Embark calls it a “hero builder” where players kit out their characters. I like to play as a medium-sized class with a grenade and sonar ability that lets me sense how many enemies are nearby. Some of these gadgets can be laid out in the world, too.
That led to one wacky situation during my recent playtest where an enemy team placed a jump pad underneath their vault, so getting close to and stealing it was tough. Each map in The Finals feels malleable due to the shooter’s impressive server-side destruction system. Almost every wall or building can be destroyed, so it’s possible to be flanked from any direction or to trailblaze a path to an enemy vault if they’ve found a way to block the map’s default way to it.
All of these system harmonize, leading to tense, nail-biting moments. I felt so proud progressing to the second round of a tournament during my prelaunch preview despite a total team wipe in the last 30 seconds because we’d fortified our vault just well enough that our cashbox was redeemed with just seconds to go. Moments like that make me want to keep playing, so I can see where it may gain popularity with like-minded players.
The only thing that worries me long term is The Finals’ potentially high skill ceiling, an issue that plagues shooters like Rainbow Six Siege. The more casual Bank-It mode, where the main goal is to collect points from killed players and deposit them in vaults, may serve as a salve to that. Embark seems willing to adapt its live service support too. Its developers explained in a prelaunch presentation that the top priorities are ensuring that The Finals runs well and that players have fun playing.
Executive producer Rob Runesson admitted that running a live service is hard, so the developers will keep a close eye on player feedback and not overpromise with a massive launch road map so its live service support can be agile. Embark also promises to hold some limited-time events and introduce more new outfits, weapons, and modes throughout the first season of The Finals. However, it’s not sharing specific details on those just yet.
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