Previews

The Finals hands-on preview — What a show!

I’ve always loved first-person shooters, especially the ones that reward creative play, but recently I’ve been in a massive slump. The best game that scratched that itch was Battlefield 4, but that game came out over a decade ago. Sure, there have been FPS games I’ve enjoyed since then, but none of them hit the same… until now. Earlier in November I played an open beta for The Finals and quickly fell in love. The destruction, be it strategic or wanton, is on an impressive scale. The weapons and gadgets offer interesting playmaking potential and counterplay, the three archetypes are somewhat balanced, and it all ties into the game show theme so neatly. When the beta ended, my heart sank a bit. Luckily, I was able to partake in a hands-on preview and presentation led by Ron Runesson, EP for The Finals. There’s plenty of new content to cover, so let’s jump into the preview.

Rob Runesson describes The Finals as a “hero builder game,” and says, “It’s a completely new and unique experience.” I’m inclined to agree with him. I have never played a game like The Finals before. It’s definitely not a battle royal, and I don’t think the term extraction shooter would fit. I would call it the ultimate play-making arena.

For those who didn’t play the beta, you’re in a team of three, and each member picks an archetype: light, medium, or heavy. Lights have the least health, but have the smallest hitboxes and are fastest, mediums are a step up in health and size and a step down in speed, and Heavies are slow and big targets, but have the most health by far. Each also has their own weapons, abilities, and equipment. For example, lights can cloak or grapple around, mediums have healing beams and can see through walls for a time, and the heavy can smash through walls or deploy a bubble shield. Of course, that’s just the tip of the equipment and ability iceberg.

Your goal is to secure cash by taking it from vaults and then cashing it out elsewhere. However, cashouts take time to process. Anyone can steal your hard-earned money by switching the cashout over to their side before it ends. It’s imperative to maintain control, or take control. There’s also a few different maps, the newest of which was shown off in the play test, Los Vegas. It’s what you would expect, a flashy neon playground that Runesson says “Encourages tight gameplay.” An iron canopy runs down the length of the map, flanked by buildings, meaning there’s plenty of healthy verticality. The insides of the buildings are equally beautiful and interesting, with chic casino layouts. Some cashouts are even surrounded by laser security systems that activate turrets. To add, there’s map variation such as time of day, weather, and other conditions. Of course, the occasional monkey wrench was thrown into the match. During my playtime, the arena was invaded by U.F.O.s who’s powerful tractor beams were a constant hazard.

Lights got a few new toys to play with, the throwing knives and the vanishing bomb. The throwing knives are a main weapon and never have to be reloaded. They have a pronounced throwing tempo of a three knife burst and an alternate fire mode when you throw two at once. The new piece of equipment, the vanishing bomb, allows you to turn your teammates invisible in a burst of purple smoke. It seems like Embark is giving lights more room for team play, and bringing them back in line with the powerful heavy class.

On another note, the vanishing bomb seems to be tied into the new skin, “Odilia, The Trickster”, described as an illusive past contestant. There’s plenty of content with 96 rewards in the battlepass segmented into themes, the skins of which look exceedingly well crafted. One legendary weapon skin that looks mighty fresh turns the Lewis gun’s drum into a spinning roulette wheel.

I’m typically skeptical of live service games, but it’s clear Embark are prioritizing sustainability. Their priority is that “…the game runs smoothly, is balanced, and is a safe and fair space for players,” Runesson said. He also stated that their goal is to give promises they can keep, a notion that I’m sure players can appreciate. There will be events during season 1 with fun new content and modes, and Embark promised surprises this upcoming season. Given what I’ve seen so far, I have no reason to doubt them, Embark knows how to put on a show.

Let’s address the AI commentators, Scotty and June, real fast. In my opinion, it’s borderline unnoticeable that they’re voiced by AI. Although, at one point, I heard the same voice line 3 times in a row in rapid succession, so that’s a kink to work out. I don’t believe they subtract from the experience in any way.

Overall, one sentiment was repeated over and over by the Embark team, and that was: The Finals is about fun and creativity, being a gameshow at heart. I can get behind that wholeheartedly. It’s so easy to just jump into a match and have fun, make crazy plays, and laugh with some friends. I can tell this game will be around for a while, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

Jackson loves to play and write about video games. Rogue-lites, FPS, and RPG games are his favorite. He's a big fan of the Battlefield series and Warhammer 40K.

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