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The Finals is a gloriously destructive shooter that's too frantic for its own good

Demolition derby

Blue skies and jump pads in The Finals.
Image credit: Embark Studios

Mad dashes, daring escapes, last minute reversals: these are some of my favourite moments in multiplayer shooters. It’s exhilarating to scream towards the chopper in Left 4 Dead or a dropship in Titanfall.

The Finals is a multiplayer shooter that seems to take place entirely at this elevated pitch. In the dozens of open beta matches I've played, the result is as thrilling as those other games, but also exhausting. I wish it would chill for just a moment so I could fully enjoy its delights - of which there are many.

There are a lot of multiplayer shooters vying for playtime and those that succeed tend to have a strong, obvious hook. I’d argue The Finals has several. The most obvious is its entirely destructible world which lets you smash holes through walls, floors, ceilings until entire buildings collapse

In the Cashout mode, three teams of three rush to grab a vault then rush to deposit it in one of several available cashout stations. Cashing it out takes time and other teams can “steal” the cashout while the process happens, setting up a scenario where one team is defending an entrenched position while the others try to breach,

Defenders can create cover with goo grenades, lay down toxic gas, fire bombs, detection sensors, then take up positions to ambush anyone who comes through the windows or doors. Except, the attackers can come through the ceiling instead, using grenades, breaching charges, and propane tanks to make their own path. It's not uncommon for a cashout to begin on the fourth floor of a building and end on the ground, as a building is razed one storey at a time.

Two enemies stand in front as the player holds an explosive gas tank in The Finals.
The player is dead but also the building is exploding in The Finals.
On the left: I enter a building and confront two enemies with an explosive canister. On the right: I die, but half the building goes with me. | Image credit: Embark Studios

This isn’t Rainbow Six: Siege, partly because the time-to-kill is huge. You're not going to be defeated by a single headshot, so there's less incentive to hide, stay quiet, move slowly. Maybe it’ll play differently once players get to know maps and tools better, or if you’re playing with two friends rather than strangers like me, but most matches I’ve played have been rapid and chaotic. There’s rarely a chance to set up a defensive position before another team arrives to take you out, with a third team hot on their own heels. Most cashouts change hands at least once, often two or three times, before they complete.

Each time you die, you have to wait a short while before respawning, and longer if your whole team is wiped. Respawn points move around the level at different stages of a match, but you’ll often be dashing, desperately, across one of The Finals' large, urban maps towards a cashout in progress. Once a cashout completes, another vault activates and the process repeats. There’s not a single moment of respite, no second when you’re not rushing, or attempting to defend a building every corner of which is exploding.

The other mode, Bank It, isn’t too different. Cash boxes are replaced by floating, arcadey coins that can be collected from vaults or from killed players, which can then be deposited at specific machines in just a few seconds. It’s a variant on the common headhunter game mode, sans flaming skulls, but it still inspires a rush of collecting coins after a kill and a rush to find a place to deposit them before you in turn are killed.

Everyone is shooting everyone in The Finals.
The high TTK encourages teams to stick together. | Image credit: Embark Studios

All of which maybe makes it sound as if I don’t like The Finals, which isn’t the case. I think I might love The Finals. Its adrenaline high exhausts me, but I keep returning to it across several betas.

The Finals is being developed by Embark Studios, which was founded by some former Battlefield developers. Battlefield is another game with destructible buildings which could occasionally be too chaotic for its own good. What made that series really click for me was Rush mode, which turned the haphazard dash from one capture point to another into an orderly tussle between defined attacks and defenders at a single, moving frontline. I think what I’m looking for is The Finals’ equivalent.

Not Rush mode specifically, but a mode that lets me make the full use of those delights I mentioned earlier. Being able to blow holes in buildings, or simply charge through them as the Heavy class can, is such a childish power fantasy, I love it. Movement is great, too, with easy sliding and clambering to navigate around ruined buildings, and a grappling hook tool for the Light class.

You’ll be shooting (and unlocking) machine guns and other various realistic weapons, all of which feel great, but there’s a silliness to The Finals, too. Jump pads, no fall damage, enemies flailing swords around... If a match goes on long enough, world-altering modifiers are introduced which rain meteors upon levels or turn the gravity on low, like a restless server admin getting creative with console commands.

The team intro screen in The Finals.
Me and the boys coming to mess you up/fall off a building into the void. | Image credit: Embark Studios

Exhausting though it may be, I’ve also had several memorable fights just during the open beta. In one 3v3v3 battle, my team had two cashouts stolen in their closing moments by each of the other teams. It was deeply frustrating, but then we then managed to steal and secure the third ourselves, making it a three-way tie. Next cashout would be the winner. My team started the process, creating just the kind of entrenched defence scenario I mentioned before. Rarely are multiplayer shooters so dramatic.

Alas, just as the building we were in started to collapse, the match ran out of time. My team was deemed in third place by some other scoring metric. As endings go, it was anticlimactic, but everything up until that moment was electric. I’ll never know what might have happened next as that building crumbled around us, but damn if I didn’t immediately start another round afterwards.

The Finals’ open beta is over now, but the full game is due to launch fully in late 2023. From beta player numbers, it looks like it’s already cleared the first hurdle of finding an audience; I just hope it does well enough at retaining that audience long enough to also find its final form, because right now it feels like it’s one right mode away from being an all-timer.

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