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The Finals Review

If there’s one genre that lends itself to boom or bust, it's the online shooter. For every success like
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, it seems like there are at least a dozen other games that have come and gone with barely a spark before they fizzle. With so many good competitive shooters in play, what makes one stand out? After dozens of hours I’m beginning to see how The Finals answers those questions: with an excellent gameshow-infused style and a brilliantly destructible playground.

If the 1987 movie The Running Man were about 3v3v3 gun battles, it would’ve resembled The Finals. You and two teammates face off against other three-person squads in a virtual gameshow, vying to see who can be the first to score enough cash before time runs out. The vibrant color palette combines with a pair of live sports-style play-by-play announcers to give it that over-the-top, American Gladiators feel that people in the ‘80s thought was going to be the future of sports. That strikes a great balance of not taking itself too seriously without making it a total joke or becoming obnoxious.

There are currently two main modes: the first, Quick Cash, has each team vying to collect a vault of coins and deposit it at a designated spot on the map, which tends to result in the bloody convergence of all three squads at those points. This really effectively keeps the action going, and because taking over the deposit doesn’t reset its progress, rounds move at a steady pace and avoid momentum-killing stalemates altogether.

Meanwhile the Bank It mode focuses a bit more on direct PvP battles, but they also tend to be more scattered. Here, each player carries coins in their virtual pockets, all of which is gathered either from vaults around the map or by eliminating enemies. The on-the-fly strategizing of going for kills one second and then needing to deposit your loot before it all goes to waste the next is exciting, and it’s pretty fun to eliminate someone right in front of the bank so you can deposit all their coins yourself.

Quick Cash really effectively keeps the action moving.

Individually, both modes are well designed and generally very fun. The fact that The Finals is limited to just those two options, however, is a red flag. If the player base starts to grow tired of these game types and there aren’t any other options, there is a real possibility of people moving on before too long. While I didn’t find that to be an issue during my time playing, that does present a potential concern for the long-term health of this community that I hope is addressed with new modes in future updates.

Once you’ve played a few matches you’ll unlock tournaments, and this is where the competitive attitude of The Finals really shines. The primary tournament mode puts you and seven other teams in a bracket playing modified versions of Bank It. Two games of four teams each run simultaneously, with the top two squads from each game advancing to the second round. The top two teams from that game then face off in a direct 3v3 match to determine the overall winner. It does a great job mixing the high stakes nature of an actual competition with rounds that are fast and satisfying enough to elicit that “just one more game” feeling after each tournament. There’s even a ranked version, where players can move up in leagues based on their performance.

You can choose from three different weight classes for your character, and they all play very differently from each other. The Light build, for example, focuses on mobility, trading stopping power for a grappling hook to quickly get to high or far places. The Medium, meanwhile, is an all-arounder, and has abilities that focus on support, such as its healing beam. Finally, there’s the Heavy, which could have been taken straight from Rainbow Six: Siege, as it alternates between controlling the battlefield with heavy weapons and smashing through walls like the Juggernaut.

There’s a solid variety of equipment for you to choose from before each match, and they can have a major impact on the battlefield if used properly. There are standard choices, like frag grenades and deployable cover, and those are tried and true options that do what you’d expect – but they hardly stand out when you can instead drop jump pads that launch you high into the air, or goo grenades that can seal large spaces with an expanding foam. Some options are universal, like the pyro grenades, while others are restricted to specific classes, like the Medium builds’ defibrillator that instantly revive downed teammates.

Hopefully future updates can even the balance out.

Those choices are undermined, however, as balance issues are a bit of a concern at the moment. Heavies tend to be ubiquitous in competitive modes, and their huge health pool and high damage output makes it easy to see why. Certain weapons like the flamethrower, grenade launcher, and sword seem to make up an outsized portion of the player arsenal I’ve come across as well. Hopefully future updates can even things out, but as it is, a lightweight build with the semi-automatic battle rifle, for example, really struggles to compete with the rest of the meta, and that’s a shame.

Each character archetype also has a litany of cosmetics that can be unlocked through XP progression or by spending real world money. There’s a pretty solid assortment to choose from right out of the gate, though the amount of time it takes to unlock good looking items (without taking out your wallet) is in need of major retuning. After 20 hours, the best I could afford was some fanny packs and tights on one character, which makes getting the whole squad glammed up feel like a pipe dream.

That slow progression is also true of VRs, the in-game “cash” you earn for playing that’s used to unlock non-cosmetic things like different abilities, weapons, and gadgets. I get that there needs to be a balance between giving you everything too soon, which can take away the joy of progression, and making it take too long to earn things, but right now The Finals skews a bit too much towards the latter. It’s hard to experiment with builds when all the pieces for each character are locked behind dozens of hours of matches.

Multibucks are the paid premium currency, and the cosmetic items that can only be purchased with them are the right mix of being unique enough to consider, but not necessary for folks who don’t want to spend the money. They are the flashiest items by far, and include things like an Elvis-style jumpsuit in the paid battle pass, or gold skins for your weapons you can buy outright. Importantly, nothing restricted to Multibucks offers a competitive advantage, so there’s no pay to win option – especially since VRs can only be earned through playing. None of the premium stuff is essential either, with the possible exception of the tin-foil hat wearing Conspirakitten that can ride your shoulder into battle. That’s just too adorable to pass up.

The destructibility of each stage is the real star of The Finals.

The destructibility of each stage is the real star of The Finals. Sure, you can enter a room from the door or window. But taking the less obvious path of crashing right through the ceiling is a thrilling way to get the drop on unsuspecting teams, and you haven’t really played The Finals until you’ve stolen the vault by blowing a hole in an upper floor and had it drop right in front of you. By the end of a tense match, the battlefield is often littered with debris from entire buildings beginning to collapse.

There’s a lot more to that system than some cool rubble and an ad hoc door, too, as the strategic impact is huge. One map is high atop skyscrapers connected by sky bridges, and I sat in stunned silence the first time I saw a team destroy the section where a bridge met a building, causing the entire thing to collapse to the ground below. Split second judgment calls when buildings fall around you about whether to jump off or ride the debris down can make or break firefights and create unforgettable moments – like when my entire team was dead in the final seconds of a match, and the only thing that stopped another team from stealing the bank for the win was the amount of rubble they had to dig through to reach it.

If you don’t have many friends to share those triumphant victories with, matchmaking as a solo player is quick and easy, and the single button ping system makes it simple to communicate with random people without needing to be on a mic. There’s nothing to be gained by ignoring objectives and going for straight kills, so teammates tend to do a good job being focused on the task, making solo play very viable. It does have one glaring weakness, however: in matches where I either didn’t get grouped into a full three-person team, or someone left mid-fight, people were rarely pulled into our team to refill our ranks. It’s very disheartening to be in a match by yourself, knowing you have no shot at winning and no reason to hold out hope that help is going to arrive.

There will always be an element of luck in the quality of teammates you are matched with, which is a big part of why The Finals (as with most team-based shooters) is better across the board with people you know. It’s so much fun to coordinate an assault with friends, or to seize the bank and then protect it with mines and defensive structures. It’s also a huge advantage to work together. A flamethrower wielding Heavy supported by a healing beam from a Medium can wipe an entire team, and the strategic element of choosing complimentary builds and kits is very engaging. When someone dies, they leave an action figure behind that can be used to revive them, and scooping one up so you can find a safe place to bring them back is as useful as it is hilarious. (Crossplay and progression also made it quite nice to be able to bounce back and forth between different friends on my PC and Xbox Series X without missing a beat.)

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