The Finals Review - An Explosive Game Show

  • First Released Dec 7, 2023
  • PC

The Finals mixes solid shooting with dynamic destruction and game-show-infused presentation to create a thrillingly chaotic concoction.

I wasn't sold on The Finals after playing my first match. A single game obviously isn't enough time to come to any worthwhile conclusions, but still, after playing through its brief tutorial--which does a poor job of explaining the game's concepts--I initially felt lost and underwhelmed. Fortunately, this feeling didn't last, and after a few more games, The Finals had its hooks dug in deep. As a fan of the Battlefield series, this wasn't much of a surprise; The Finals is a team-based first-person-shooter with an emphasis on destruction and mayhem, developed by Embark Studios, which counts a number of Battlefield alumni among its ranks. The two games aren't at all similar in a broader sense, but Battlefield's DNA is present throughout, from its snappy shooting to its chaotic destruction.

One key difference between The Finals and most other competitive shooters is that it pits multiple teams of three players against each other, either in 3v3v3 or 3v3v3v3 matches. This multi-team setup leads to a consistent stream of dynamic firefights as each squad vies for control of The Finals' all-important cash. You end up fighting the defending team as they desperately try to hold on, while also scrapping with your fellow attackers, contributing to the game's palpable sense of outright bedlam. It's a vibrant and colorful shooter, too, augmenting its over-the-top action with a game-show-infused style, featuring a rambunctious crowd and excitable play-by-play announcers. Think 1987's The Running Man but with frantic gun battles. The controversial implementation of AI voicework is the only sore topic relating to the game's aesthetic. It's not particularly noticeable, but each line is fairly one-note so the AI doesn't have to extend itself, and either way, its use still feels gross.

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Now Playing: THE FINALS | Season 1 Launch Trailer

There are currently two main modes to facilitate all of this chaos. Quick Cash sees three teams battling for possession of a vault filled with money, which must then be taken to a designated Cashout Station to be deposited. It's kind of like a mixture between Capture the Flag and King of the Hill, typically resulting in all three squads converging on one location for an all-out slaughter. Whoever inserts the vault into the Cashout Station starts a timer that'll bank all of the cash when it runs out, but any of the other teams can steal the deposit without resetting the countdown's progress. This quickly establishes a thrilling sense of forward momentum, primarily because it eliminates the possibility of a stalemate and ensures that the action maintains its rapid pace. There are few moments as satisfying as managing to steal the Cashout Point at the last possible second and banking all of the winnings for your team. The only thing that comes close is successfully fighting back the hordes and defending the point for a prolonged period of time as the world comes crashing down around you.

Bank It is The Finals' other game mode, focusing more on straight-up combat than Quick Cash does. There are still vaults you can bust into to quickly accrue a load of cash, but every player also begins each life with money already in their virtual pockets. Each time you die, this money drops to the floor for anyone to pick up, whether you're carrying the money you started with or stocked up on cash after breaking into a vault and robbing other players of theirs. The idea is to deposit this cash before potentially dying and losing it all, so you have to consider when to go for more kills and when to break away and bank your loot before it goes to waste. It's possible to win a match without ever looting a vault, choosing instead to kill and steal from those who already have. The addition of a fourth team also increases the probability that a mass firefight will break out at any time, adding to Bank It's more turbulent nature.

Once you've played a certain number of games, you're allowed access to The Finals' Tournament mode, which features a more competitive version of Quick Cash with a few modified rule changes. Here, two matches are played concurrently, with the best two teams in each match advancing to a second knockout round where they'll face one another. Finish in the top two here and you'll move on to the titular finals, culminating in the best two teams facing off to see who can emerge victorious and win the entire tournament. By playing significantly more matches, you're also able to unlock a ranked version of this mode, featuring more knockout rounds, rankings to ascend based on performance, and end-of-season rewards. These matches are quick and riveting enough that even if you're eliminated in the first round, it's difficult to resist jumping straight back in to try again. The only downside is a lengthy respawn timer that can feel a tad too long considering how fast and frenetic everything is, even if it's necessary to aid the game's balance. This is present throughout but is especially prolonged in Tournament mode when your team wipes.

Each mode takes familiar elements from other multiplayer shooters and morphs them into a fresh amalgamation, but it's The Finals' comprehensive destruction that really sets it apart. Pretty much any wall can be blown open with explosives. You can destroy bridges, topple entire buildings by taking out load-bearing walls, or blow open a roof to descend from above. Gadgets like goo guns let you construct temporary bridges or barricades to circumnavigate any destroyed infrastructure, while grappling hooks and portable jump pads provide other ways to traverse The Finals' destructible maps. All of this affords the game a cavalcade of player agency and creativity, especially when it comes to competing for the objective. You might be able to barricade a room with shields, goo, and mines, but that matters little if one of the other teams is able to blow open the ceiling from below and send the Cashout Point tumbling to a lower floor. There's innovation behind this destruction, too, as it all occurs server-side. This prevents any performance issues from occurring each time a building pancakes to the ground since it's not relying on your own hardware.

The maps themselves are all based on real-world locations such as Las Vegas, Monaco, and Seoul. Each one features expansive exteriors and compact interiors, with a good mix of high and low points. Ziplines, ladders, and jump pads provide options for scaling these vertical spaces, while random game show modifiers like meteor showers, orbital lasers, and lava can shake up the latter stages of a match. Each map also has a number of variants, whether that's introducing a sandstorm to hamper your vision or dropping a giant inflatable duck on one section of the arena. With only four maps, though, it does feel a bit sparse.

The moment-to-moment action does paper over the downsides of its limited map selection somewhat. Movement and shooting feel slick, with a plethora of distinct weapons for you to utilize, from assault rifles and SMGs to a katana and sledgehammer. There are three different weight classes to play as--light, medium, and heavy--and each one has its own arsenal of weapons and gadgets that makes them feel unique. The light class, for instance, is typically nimble, trading stopping power and a larger health pool for speed and the mobility to get in and out of combat in an instant. Medium is the all-rounder, with gadgets and abilities that focus on support, such as a defibrillator and healing beam. The heavy class, meanwhile, is a slow but tough brute, able to charge through walls and trade damage while peppering you with LMG fire. The latter tends to be omnipresent in Tournament mode, as their large health bar and heavy damage are certainly appealing. The light class is much rarer, presumably because it can be a struggle to stay alive until you unlock either the dash or invisibility cloak. So there are some notable balance issues to sort out.

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All of the weapons and gadgets you can take into a match are solidly varied, but earning the in-game cash you need to unlock them is a drawn-out experience that saps away the satisfaction you ideally want from a progression system. It's a glacial pace that makes it incredibly difficult to experiment with different builds when so much of it is locked behind hours and hours of gameplay. Like most other free-to-play shooters, The Finals also features a battle pass containing a litany of cosmetic items. The best you can hope for without spending any money is a bucket hat and fanny pack, but nothing restricted to the paid battle pass or other premium cosmetics offers a competitive advantage, so there aren't any pay-to-win options.

This is crucial because the competitive shooter space is a crowded one. For every success story, there's another example of a game unfortunately fizzling out and dying. The Finals stands out amongst its contemporaries thanks to its thrilling destruction, fast-paced gunplay, and anomalous approach to familiar objectives. There are some balancing issues to iron out, its progression system needs expediting, and there are too few maps, but these flaws are ultimately minor when you're in the thick of the action with explosions and gunfire echoing all around you. The Finals is an absurdly fun shooter with the potential to grow, so here's hoping it's one of the success stories.

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The Good

  • Punchy shooting and slick movement make for a satisfying shooter
  • The comprehensive environmental destruction is constantly thrilling
  • Multiple three-person teams result in dynamic firefights
  • Objectives are familiar but morph together to create a unique twist

The Bad

  • With only four maps at launch, the game feels sparse
  • Balance issues lead to some classes being used much more than others
  • Weapon and gadget unlocks are slow and stifle experimentation

About the Author

Richard played The Finals for around 15 hours on PC between all three classes and across each game mode. His favorite moment occurred when he was paired with two heavies who spent the whole game destroying every building with sledgehammers, somehow resulting in a first-place finish.