The Finals makes modern FPS games look boring

Like a bolt from the blue, Embark Studios has delivered a shot in the arm to the FPS genre with its excellent free-to-play hit The Finals.

A character wearing a panda mask and flying up a zip line in The Finals.

The Finals almost feels like a peek into a parallel universe – one where developers of multiplayer shooters don’t need to have the shiniest graphics or most intricately realized weapons, instead favoring large environments, specialized toolkits, and destructible terrain. All of these qualities used to be hallmarks of the Battlefield franchise, so it comes as no surprise that The Finals’ Embark Studios is made up of several DICE veterans.

That’s not to say that The Finals is a straightforward throwback, as it also bears many of the trappings of modern FPS games. The three-person team setup is reminiscent of Apex Legends, while its free-to-play monetization is largely standard at this point. Yet The Finals feels fresh and vital.

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The real genius of The Finals is the ‘anything goes’ mentality of its chaotic gameplay mechanics, giving you a huge range of tactical options while not overwhelming you or bogging everything down in meta considerations.

Positioning and environmental awareness are far more critical than accuracy here due to the verticality of the map structures. Ziplines provide direct access to objectives but will leave you exposed. Jump pads can be placed anywhere but might only get you part of the way to your destination. If you control an objective, you must consider the myriad and developing ways your opponent could attack, which is easier said than done given how much of the map is destructible.

A rooftop gunfight in The Finals.

The Finals’ virtual reality gameshow conceit presents near-endless possibilities for outrageous destruction, in direct contrast to Fortnite’s building system. Where Epic Games’ megahit encourages you to gather materials to prolong fights or act defensively, The Finals demands you use the tools at your disposal to destroy and with purpose, causing chaos and confusion for the enemy side.

The game invites you to conduct chaotic experiments in arson, confounding opponents with unpredictable acts of wanton destruction. When every wall, surface, or structure can be demolished in an instant, you never really feel comfortable or safe. After all, the rug (or actual, literal floor in this case) could be unceremoniously pulled from beneath you at any moment.

A building wall blown open by explosives in The Finals.

This unpredictability virtually eliminates camping as a viable tactic. The game’s objective – cash points – are often flung across the map, falling through destroyed ceilings or propelled into the air by an explosive blast. In a game where even the objectives aren’t static, the need for constant movement is imperative.

Goo Grenades offer a respite from attacks, or a way to cut off escape routes, depending on how you implement their viscous walls. You’ll frequently find your carefully thought-out plans of attack scuppered in an instant by these glutinous obstacles, which can rearrange the battlefield in surprising ways.

A snowy forest area in The Finals.

All of these elements make for an urgent, ever-changing experience. It’s a cliche, but no two matches in The Finals are ever truly the same – there are simply so many variables it becomes impossible to devise a one-size-fits-all battle plan. This on-the-fly strategizing is invigorating and leads to magnificent clutch moments.

For all its successes, though, The Finals isn’t immune to the common pitfalls of free-to-play monetization. Fans have taken to Reddit to decry the game’s lengthy battle pass, which demands upwards of 100 hours to complete. It is a tall order, especially when The Finals’ visual style is wanting when compared to more aesthetically distinct multiplayer games like Apex Legends and Overwatch 2.

A gunfight across a rooftop in The Finals.

The game generally lacks identity in its cosmetics, with most skins and accessories adding only slight modifications. The best skins lean into the virtual reality theme, with cubic designs boasting a futuristic flavor. But even given the Las Vegas map, quite why anyone would want to dress in an Elvis costume in the year of our lord 2024 is quite beyond us.

At the time of writing, there is also a dearth of available game types, with just two modes for players to choose from – the objective-based Quick Cash and the deathmatch-like Bank It. The Tournament mode adds some extra excitement, ramping up the tension by having teams compete in successive matches for a huge reward. This further emphasizes good team play in a game that already demands communication.

A pop up message in The Finals that reads "Oribital Lasers."

Crucially, these problems can all be remedied by further updates, which will surely be forthcoming thanks to The Finals’ impressive player count. Its success in a crowded market shows there is still some room for newcomers in the shooter space. With shuttered projects like SEGA’s Hyenas littering the multiplayer landscape, it’s refreshing to see a new FPS with genuine ingenuity emerge to fanfare and a substantial audience. Sleep on The Finals at your peril.

If you’re looking for some of the other best new PC games, we’ve got you covered. You might also want to check out the best co-op games available right now.