The Finals offers rare novelty in the competitive multiplayer genre, encouraging creative strategies impossible in other titles because of its immense environmental destruction, physics-based hazards, and armory of whimsical gadgets. This first-person shooter occurs amid a digital game show where varying counts of three-person teams fight over money caches in an objective-focused format. The Finals is unpredictable in the best way: gameshow events like meteor showers or orbital lasers remap previously memorized paths, map variants like moving platforms or suspended structures can obfuscate objectives, and your team’s best-laid defensive plans are often interrupted as explosives obliterate the buildings around you.
Developer Embark Studios showcases its mastery of Unreal Engine with gorgeously lit, fully destructible level designs that are incredibly fun to maneuver. Monaco, Las Vegas, Seoul, and Skyway Stadium – the four maps present at release – require distinct strategies and feature randomized elements that make every match impressively dynamic. You might load a map and find it under construction or unrecognizable, such as when sandstorms cover Vegas with enormous dunes.
The game features three unique classes: Heavy, Medium, and Light. Heavies can equip a rocket-propelled grenade, flamethrower, energy shield, a massive sledgehammer, or a glue gun that allows the user to create makeshift walls and cover. Mediums most closely resemble a support role, featuring the option to equip a healing beam, automated turret, zipline systems, jump pads, and defibrillators for quick revives. Lastly, the Light class specializes in grappling hook traversal and multiple invisibility gadgets. Each role is satisfying to explore, offering numerous possibilities for emergent play. Witnessing brilliant synergies like propelling the Cashout – an ATM-like objective – toward the opposite side of the arena by using the Heavy’s rocket to bounce the object atop a Medium’s well-placed jump pad leaves me energized and curious. Ultimately, team collaboration is crucial in finding success in The Finals since the skill ceiling becomes much higher with these potent equipment combinations.
It’s incredibly satisfying to interrupt an enemy team’s attempt at stealing the objective (an ATM-like device) by blowing the floor from beneath them with an RPG or C4 pack and ambushing them as they unexpectedly fall to a lower level. On the flip side, you can avoid a perilous fall with a well-timed goo grenade, creating a makeshift floor or bridge where one didn’t exist before. The reactive, high-stakes strategies the physics system facilitates remind me of the breakneck decisions that define the best fighting games.
Ignoring current multiplayer trends, The Finals features sturdy health bars, long respawn times, the exclusion of multiple weapon slots, and a lack of scopes on most guns. While using the iron sights on larger weapons like the M60 light machine gun is sometimes tricky because the optic’s alignment markers obscure my view, I admire Embark’s commitment to novelty through these choices, as they reinforce a focus on gadgets, environmental destruction, and the creative strategies that emerge from the intersection of those features.
However, in a game with many well-designed characteristics, Embark’s use of generative A.I. text-to-speech voicework is unappealing. The gameshow’s characters sound believable at best but broadly fall flat due to one-note performances and mediocre writing. Additionally, I’ve heard duplicate voice lines multiple times, making the developer’s use of generative art largely pointless.
Notably, the cosmetic microtransactions are fairly priced and offer robust character customization. Whether earning a new skin via the battle pass or purchasing it from the in-game shop, you can equip various parts of the outfit and pair them with others. Despite the slow progression of the battle pass, which I hope is adjusted in the future, the mix-and-match nature of its rewards makes them exciting to unlock.
The Finals has given me some of my favorite multiplayer moments in 2023. Whether actively engaging in vertical combat or excitedly scaling rooftops on the way to the next objective, navigating the environments feels incredible, and the thrill of watching the ground disappear from below my feet never gets old. In a year of groundbreaking video game releases, The Finals is yet another highlight.