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The Finals’ Season 2 is a happy hackathon that laughs in the face of physics

More outlandish gadgets make for a more exciting shooter, though the new 5v5 mode disappoints

A team intro screen from the 5v5 Power Shift mode in The Finals season 2.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Embark Studios

I’ve spent many gleeful hours in The Finals (as has Graham), but I’ve always felt it could do more with the concept of its FPS gameshow deathmatches essentially taking place in hyper-realistic VR. Exploding into coins upon death notwithstanding, and to be clear, rad as hell. Happily, its Season 2 update is all about rewriting the rules of its glistening digital battlefields. I’ve played a few rounds and the new, hacking-themed gadgetry it introduces looks like just the thing to freshen The Finals up.

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To the dull surprise of its AI-voiced announcers, a hacking posse have jacked into The Finals’ mainframe (apologies to Alice0 if I’m using these words incorrectly) and taken control of the proceedings. They’re not entirely black hatted, mind, so have spliced in a shiny new map and several new, reality-warping toys to play with. The former, named SYS$HORIZON, is great: a sprawling yet fast-flowing sci-fi cityscape that looks like a debug test map buffed to a mirror sheen. "ENTER THE SIMULATION" is not a new theme for shooter settings, but this is one of the better ones I’ve played, with a similar, lightly (and intentionally) glitchy feel to Titanfall’s superb War Games map.

The deployables are all great fun as well. My favourite is the Heavy’s Anti-Gravity Cube, which creates a vertical tube that send anything – players, revive statues, cashout stations – floating upwards. The mobility applications are obvious, but it’s also a effective defensive tool, as anyone attempting to steal a cashout on a suspended station will need to let themselves ascend into the line of fire as well.

Looking out on the new SYS%HORIZON map in The Finals season 2.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Embark Studios
Fighting off enemies while a teammate revives in The Finals season 2.
Defending a cashout in The Finals season 2.
Everything looks like it's made of bytes, but it blows up with all the gratification of concrete. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Embark Studios

The Light’s new Gateway grenades, which set a pair of linked portals, aren’t as versatile. Still, since anyone on the team can use them to zip around, they do add a welcome element of teamplay to the Light’s own slipperiness. Mediums also gain both offensive and defensive flexibility though the Data Reshaper gadget, which transmogrifies environmental objects and enemy defences alike. I mainly used it to turn fire canisters (unreliable, not that scary) into goo bombs that could plug up an exposed entry point, but with quick fingers (and feet) it can morph sentry guns and mines into harmless potted plants and bins. Useful and funny – that’s top notch support gear design.

By equipping the Dematerializer specialisation, Mediums can also instantly delete a small section of wall, floor, or ceiling, for quick ingress/escapes or to drop objectives into a more advantageous position. Next to the Light’s explosives and the Heavy’s big, meaty arms, Mediums have always been lacking in ways to break through barriers, so this is another welcome addition even if it lacks potential for more dramatic destruction. My only complaint is that taking the Dematerializer means forgoing the Healing Beam, and forgoing the Healing Beam seems like such a dereliction of Medium duty that you could get done for it at the Hague.

None of this new tech dramatically changes how The Finals plays out, which at this stage – remember it only surprise-launched in December 2023 – is fine. If anything, it’s impressive how neatly they fit into the existing theme of environmental manipulation, despite being more akin to computer magic than the relatively grounded C4 packs and RPGs that usually induce building breakages. Matches are most fun when you’re shaping the arena to your will, and Season 2 is smart to offer up more ways to make that happen.

Healing a teammate while looking through a Dematerializer gap in The Finals season 2.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Embark Studios
Defending the platform from attacking players in The Finals's Power Shift mode.
Using the Data Reshaper to remake a bin into something useful, in The Finals season 2.
The new gadgets are surprisingly rich in tactical options. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Embark Studios

There’s more to this update than a few new throwables, of course. I particularly enjoyed the ferociousness of the Medium’s new burst-fire rifle, and while the Heavy’s added weapon – a pump-action slug shotgun – isn’t quite to my tastes, I do recommend Light fans check out their own new burst pistol. I initially worried this might be another overtuned firearm of the sort that plagued The Finals’ earlier builds, but that was based on just one enemy player using it to murder an entire lobby three times over. With the same gun in my less capable hands, I lost plenty, so I suppose that balance concern was merely what the kids call a skill issue.

I didn’t get to try a couple of Season 2’s other big features, namely the private match creator and the supposedly improved ranked league matchmaking, though I understand both have been much-requested by The Finals faithful. I did get in a few rounds of Power Shift, the new 5v5, platform-pushin’ casual mode, though this doesn’t currently feel up the same standard as Season 2’s gear additions.

Look, The Finals probably does need more ways to play outside of its central cash heist match types, and having only two teams removes the misery of being third-partied immediately after winning a fight. I’m just not sure that Power Shift plays to the wider game’s strengths. By encouraging teams to park themselves on a single, indestructible objective point, it discourages both the nippy movement mechanics and the entertaining terrain destruction that make The Finals fun in the first place. The platform slowly, almost nonchalantly battering through structures is superficially amusing, but don’t deliver the same satisfaction of inflicting the damage oneself.

Attacking a platform full of players in The Finals season 2's new Power Shift mode.
If you see this, you've probably already lost. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Embark Studios

It doesn’t even work that well competitively. The platform is lined with unbreakable walls that provide defenders ample cover, even without any defensive gadgets or specialisations, and it regularly lifts off several storeys in the air. By far the most common result, if my games are any indication, is that the team that wins the initial brawl over the platform can just turn it into an impregnable floating fortress, gliding all the way to their endzone with near-impunity. This obviously makes a terrible experience for the attacking team, but winning isn’t particularly exciting either. It just turns into an on-rails shooter where you can occasionally take shots at someone popping up on a rooftop, who’s almost certainly attacking alone because all their mates are watching a lengthy respawn timer tick down. In only a single Power Shift game did I witness the platform change hands more than once, and one of those swaps was owed to a perfectly executed five-man ambush move, the Navy SEALish coordination of which could surely never be replicated in the Discord-deprived chaos of a public match.

Even if this new mode is a bust, mind, the rest of Season 2 has renewed my vigour to steal cash and detonate office blocks in the original ones. I know it sounds like I’m placing excessive emphasis on what are ultimately a handful of grenade replacements, but I’ve repeatedly been surprised and impressed by how they mix up the gunfights that, while already dynamic, I had become accustomed to. Maybe The Finals should get hacked more often.

...In the lore, your honour.

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