“I think that many other studios that are working on dynamic shooters will panic now.”
That’s what art director Rob Runesson confidentially told the press at a preview event for The Finals, the first game from Embark Studios (a team made up of many DICE developers who worked on the Battlefield series). In its current state, The Finals initially looks similar to other games in the genre, but one big difference that Runesson thinks will set it apart from the pack: almost everything is fully destructible.
The Finals was already shaping up to be a pretty intense team-based first-person shooter, but the amount of destruction that players can cause is truly astounding based on a hands-off look at the game I saw this week. DICE’s Battlefield series is known for its impressive levels of destruction, but The Finals turns things up a notch above that. Enough explosive shots can make even a giant building completely fall apart and that kind of damage potential is pivotal in the strategy of any match. If its gunplay and environmental destruction live up to the hype, The Finals may become one of the most memorable shooters out there, if only because players will recall all the destruction they left in their wake.
The shooter genre’s final frontier
When introducing The Finals, the team at Embark claimed that the shooter genre has gotten too stale and that they wanted to spice things up. However, many of their inspirations and the primary game mode are quite familiar. Details on the story are scarce, but we do know The Finals follows players in a virtual high-stakes game show. Embark Studios cited The Running Man, Smash TV, American Gladiators, The Hunger Games, and the recent Netflix hit Squid Game as major influences on the narrative. Although some of those influences might lead you to believe this is a battle royale, it isn’t.
Currently, The Finals’ flagship mode is Extraction, where four teams of three try to collect and deposit as much cash as possible in eight minutes. It’s a mode we’ve seen in multiplayer games before, but Embark Studios clearly hopes that the intense destruction will help make this game reinvigorate a stale genre. Embark Studios designed The Finals’ maps, which are all based on real cities, to be fairly small and contained. As a result, it looks like players will constantly be caught up in the action and always be near something they can destroy to create a new path or block off an existing one. The early looks we got at the destruction system were truly impressive and something I’ve waited for a shooter to pull off for years.
Embark Studios says it was able to do this because of its unique “server-side” movement, physics, and destruction system. All of the destruction is taking place on servers Embark Studios controls, not the native hardware someone is using to play The Finals, and it will look the same for all players in a match. That means The Finals will only be around as long as Embark Studios decides to support the servers. It’s something that I have wanted to see ever since early demos of Crackdown 3, which ultimately disappointed in terms of its destruction. Embark Studios even teased that this technology will also be present in Arc Raiders, the other title it is working on.
Ultimately, if The Finals can deliver on its destructive promise, that technical achievement may be enough to earn it a place in the pantheon of popular shooters. It does run the risk of becoming too visually busy with all the environmental destruction and wacky customized characters who explode into coins upon death. While this hands-off demo means I didn’t get a chance to get a sense of how The Finals actually feels to play as a shooter, it’s clear that players have many options and a lot of control over character customization. Embark Studios says The Finals’ time-to-kill is comparable to that of Team Fortress 2, and that somewhat slower pace should be helpful in a game that looks like it will be very visually busy.
Regardless of any potential issues that may crop up once I go hands-on, The Finals quickly cemented itself as one of my most anticipated multiplayer shooters. The first closed alpha test for The Finals begins on September 29 and runs until October 3. Embark Studios hasn’t set a firm release date for the game yet, so expect more alphas and betas to roll out in the coming months.