‘The Finals’ preview: a boombastic shooter with plenty of character
The Finals is a multiplayer shooter that grabs you by the face immediately, blending game-show mechanics with arcadey fast-paced shooting for a truly memorable experience. But, for players seeing it for the first time, the unique selling point will be the sheer level of destruction you can deliver to the environments around you.
There is a level of destruction here that far outstrips what we’ve seen in multiplayer shooters so far. This means your three-man team isn’t just waging war on the three other trios roaming the map fighting for possession of cash-filled vaults, but also on the world itself. Rocket launchers, mines and even C4 explosives don’t just scar the map but fundamentally change it, carving up buildings, trashing access routes and rooftops and leaving smoking rubble in their place.
At first, it’s just fun to toss explosives around. Later, as you become literate in the destructive potential of The Finals you’ll start to see how you can use that destruction to shift the battle in your favour, creating choke points or even just destroying entry routes to ensure you can get your box of the cash to the cash-out point and defend it easier.
At the risk of overemphasising the point, pretty much everything can be exploderised. Houses can be torn apart and collapse on themselves, skybridges between towering skyscrapers can be turned into groundbridges with lethal results and if a sniper is harassing you from a rooftop you can turn the entire building to rubble. There’s no performance hitches and the game looks great constantly, so it’s hard not to be wowwed.
One upsetting thing about this is that destruction is largely limited to the heavy class, who has the job of destroying things and defending teammates. There are other classes, the medium who is good at spotting people, putting down irritating turrets and healing his teammates, and then the light, who is a little guy that runs really fast and has sniper rifles, machine pistols and other high-damage tools in their frail little hands.
If you want to get your hands on the heavier items, you’ll have to play the heavy, while the light has next to no way to interact with the environment at all… presumably because all of the explosives were in an area of the armoury gated off by a “you must be this tall to detonate” sign that the light and medium have steadfastly obeyed.
Outside of that, combat is quite good. Time to kill feels excessively long at first but that’s because health regeneration is generous and fights can go on a long time. If you’re fighting around a building for a minute or more – not uncommon – then you’ll often be throwing down with an enemy that has regenerated their health once or twice already. As a result The Finals is a game that rewards aggression. I’ve had success running enemies down with a flamethrower or even just dropping a building on them with C4.
Die and it’s no big deal. Respawning involves paying a coin but it’s not immediately clear even after 40 hours spent with the game how those coins are awarded. However, more common is getting revived by a teammate, where they walk to a tiny little miniature that represents you and hold E on it until you’re revived. This can be done quicker with the Medum class’ defibrillator, but the most interesting part is that your team can pick up the statuette and carry it to a safe place before reviving you, even tossing it to another teammate who has their defibs out to get you back on your feet mid-fight in the coolest way possible.
By throwing out realism, The Finals has made this one of the most entertaining shooters in recent memory. There’s no fall damage, so diving from a rooftop carries no risk, but they’ve also got rid of the idea of finite ammo too. This isn’t new – Overwatch also gives you reloads and cooldowns and The Finals apes this system – but it means here that you always have a grenade when you need one, and an RPG is never far away if you think you might help your current situation.
Even when you’re now destroying the place with combat and the deliberate use of high-explosives, the maps wow because it isn’t just a game about destroying things, it also has a lot of scope for building things, too. It’s easy for a player to slap down a zipline or jump pad to get themselves to a new position and this means that the maps feel unique pretty much every time. Different ziplines, entry points and half-collapsed buildings mean that every battleground feels fresh even if you’ve accidentally landed on the same map three times in a row.
This is helped by different weather conditions that really mix things up too. Playing as a sniper is excessively difficult in foggy weather, but the close-range heavy will shine as you often can’t see them until they’re in your face. The reverse is true in blazing sunlight, and the game’s audio becomes unreliable when beating rain offers low-level noise that masks footsteps and makes it easier to ambush people.
With a team, The Finals is my favourite multiplayer experience of 2023 so far. When you’re winning it’s the best feeling in the world, whereas when you’re losing the frenetic gunfights are fun enough and silly enough that you won’t take it too hard. With coordination you can drop an objective through several floors of a building for a quick theft from the team that was previously guarding it, or even just try to outflank an enemy team by blowing a whole above them to offer fire support.
As a solo experience, it’s rather more frustrating. There’s no way to communicate with your randomly assigned teammates at the moment and because the game is so chaotic – regardless of how delicate your approach is – teammates will either wander off on their own adventure or just immediately disconnect after being killed.
Either way, I’ve struggled to put The Finals down. With a combination of the pace, destruction and how closely it rewards a three-player team, playing it feels like slipping into a warm deadly bath, and I’m dreading what happens after the closed-beta comes to an end on March 21.
This is going to be huge, and it absolutely deserves it.
The Finals Closed Beta is currently on Steam and you can request access right now. It runs till March 21.
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