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The Finals gets surprise release during the 2023 Game Awards

New shooter from ex-Battlefield devs is a throwback

Ari Notis (he/him) is a guides editor at Polygon, where he writes, edits, and shepherds service-oriented articles about the biggest games du jour. He previously worked at Kotaku.

The Finals, one of the buzziest new shooters of 2023 despite only existing in beta, finally has a release date. It’s out… right now! Developer Embark Studios announced the news at the 2023 Game Awards.

Created by ex-Battlefield devs, The Finals is a free-to-play first-person shooter in which various teams of three shoot each other a bunch to see which team is the best at shooting the other teams. Embark Studios ran a closed beta in the spring and an open beta spanning from late October through early November that racked up 7.5 million players.

One of the huge draws of The Finals is that it’s not a battle royale. There’s no circle or storm or slowly encroaching safe zone. You also don’t really get punished when you get eliminated, save for a brief 20-second respawn timer. Matches last no longer than 15 minutes. It feels like a throwback to the deathmatch modes that dominated the mid-2000s, except it’s as gorgeous and technically impressive as any other modern shooter. Nostalgia for an earlier, arguably simpler era of gaming is no doubt a factor in The Finals’ popularity.

The other huge draw is that every single building can explode.

Last week, I got a chance to play The Finals during a closed media session meant to illustrate The Finals’ final state before its launch. I cannot express how frequently the thing I was standing on exploded.

A player in The Finals aims a gun at an opponent as the wall of a building explodes in the background. Image: Embark Studios

For the most part, that tracks with Polygon’s more extensive preview of The Finals from earlier this year. The general concept is that you’re a contestant in some sort of shiny, violent, futuristic game show. Matches take place on maps like Monaco and Las Vegas. (Get it? Because gambling!) When you’re eliminated, you turn into a pile of coins. (Also because gambling.) Buildings, however, don’t suffer such a cartoonish fate. Shooting a wall or floor with an RPG causes it to collapse into a pile of rubble. When a building takes enough structural damage, the whole thing comes crashing down — even if you’re meticulously perched on the eaves, trying to get the drop on an opposing team.

You can choose from three classes, simply named “light,” “medium,” and “heavy,” each replete with all the gear and movement speed (or lack thereof) you’d expect from those barebones classifications. For the session, Embark paired attendees off into squads of three. We played two different quick-play modes: Quick Cash and Bank It. Both modes tally your score not by how many eliminations you have but by how much cash you can steal from opponents and deliver to various drop points. But I’ll be honest: The shooting in The Finals is so distractingly solid — so emblematic of the golden age of Battlefield — I couldn’t help but spend my time prioritizing spraying and praying over learning “rules” and “objectives.” You’re welcome, teammates!

A player of The Finals runs up stairs behind a teammate wearing bunny ears. Image: Embark Studios

The Finals also features a tournament component with higher stakes than the quick-play modes. If your squad doesn’t finish in the top two for your existing round, you’re eliminated from the bracket. (I’m not sure what happens after the first round, because our squad finished last. Twice.)

I’d be remiss not to mention our experience playing The Finals was marred by technical difficulties. Such things are generally excusable for a beta; that is, after all, the whole point of betas. Still, for roughly half the games we played, one or two players of our three-person squad would inexplicably fail to load in. When we’d successfully get into a match, for about half of those matches, one player would get dropped. Since The Finals does not have an option to rejoin an existing match, one party member getting kicked out meant we all had to quit. (Let the record reflect that we totally would’ve won all of those matches otherwise.)

Aside from those hiccups, which may very well not be present at all in today’s full release, The Finals is an energetic and competent multiplayer shooter I could see myself dipping into for a few rounds when Halo Infinite gets too frustrating. Players have by and large moved on from the sort of arena-style gameplay on display here, so sure, like the contest that defines this game’s minimalist lore, The Finals is ultimately a gamble. But it’s one I hope pays off.

The Finals is out now on PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X.

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