The Finals is an upcoming free-to-play first-person shooter developed by Embark Studios, which previously revealed it was working on free-to-play first-person shooter Arc Raiders. Both games couldn’t look more different though, with The Finals leaning into the extraction-focused gameplay of something like Escape from Tarkov or Hyenas, but with a hefty bit of environmental destruction, not unlike what is seen in the Battlefield series.

At a preview event, I got to see some gameplay of The Finals and hear from The Finals creative director Gustav Tilleby about the game. The Finals sees squads competing over a case they need to extract prior to other teams. With every extraction, a new case is added to the map, and the process repeats, with the team at the top of the leaderboards by the end of the match taking the win. As seen in the gameplay reveal trailer, The Finals features fast-paced action and highly destructible environments, allowing you to create new sightlines, drop rooftops on unsuspecting foes, or even demolish entire buildings that are in your way.

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Now Playing: The Finals Gameplay Reveal Trailer

“The vision has been to make a team-based first-person shooter that pushes environmental dynamism and destruction and player freedom to the very limits of possibility,” Tilleby said. “That’s what we set out to do. So we want to build a game that provides players with the tools to fully interact, change, and use the world as they play. So it is a shooter–it’s a game where aiming and shooting are important. But it’s also a game where it’s the players that can use the environment and adapt to the changes in the environment that will succeed.”

In The Finals, you get to fully customize your character’s appearance and the abilities that they have. During the presentation, I saw a variety of body types and heights, as well as masc, femme, and androgynous features. The presentation didn’t provide the full breadth of what players can expect, but from what I saw, I’m hopeful that The Finals will feature an inclusive offering. The developers were even vaguer about what sort of hero abilities you’ll be able to apply to your character, though Tilleby referenced making characters geared towards stealth kills or characters that specialize in demolishing buildings as examples.

The main idea of the game is that you’re playing as someone who participates in a virtual game show, and so you’re customizing your appearance with the currency earned from sponsorships or your winnings from previous rounds in the competition. “It’s an over-the-top brutal experience where you and your teammates fight for fame, riches, and the favor of generous seasonal sponsors,” Tilleby said. “And our inspiration comes from a variety of places–everything from Formula One to American Gladiators and Smash TV. And, if you’re familiar, that old arcade game Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, The Running Man, and more recent influences like Squid Game.”

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The most interesting seems to be The Finals’ immersive sim elements. The game features a gun that fires blobs of white material that’s very reminiscent of Prey’s Gloo Gun, even allowing you to shore up pathways and crumbling structures, as well as create makeshift bridges and platforms between buildings. Objects in the environment seem to react to whatever is happening, so more explosive and flame-based weapons can cause items like furniture to catch fire, and the fire will spread as fire is wanted to do. You can interact with almost all of the objects in some way, including picking many of them up to use as makeshift weapons. Plus, there’s the whole environmental destruction aspect, with buildings crumbling in realistic-looking chunks.

Frankly, as an online multiplayer game, I can’t fathom how The Finals is going to work. For now, the default extraction mode will feature 12 players divided into four squads of three. With that many players running around destroying buildings, picking up and using any number of objects, and seemingly being able to create anything they want with the same level of freedom that Prey’s Gloo Gun allowed, how will this game not crash in the middle of any of its eight-minute matches? But the team seems pretty confident that there won’t be any problems.

“One of our key innovations that we’re bringing to The Finals is our own server-side movement and destructions, where movement and destruction doesn’t happen on the client side of the game; it runs on the server,” Tilleby said. “And this means that the moving platforms and realistic collapsing of entire buildings is possible just as our players are running around. Service side movements and destruction has really been a thing that we’ve been chasing for a long time. And in the multiplayer space especially, it opens up for so many possibilities. So it’s kind of like a holy grail that we’ve been chasing for a long time.”

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Tilleby added that the team wants The Finals to be a game that rewards intuitiveness, much in the same way an immersive sim would, where “if you think something should work, it probably will.” Without actually playing the game, I can’t say for sure whether The Finals has what it takes to hold its own in the shooter market, a genre already dominated by the likes of Call of Duty, Fortnite, Apex Legends, Valorant, and Rainbow Six Siege. But this focus on player intuition does sound pretty cool, and I think that could be the game’s saving grace if Embark Studios manages to pull it off.

The Finals’ first closed public playtest will begin September 29 and continue until October 3. You can sign up for a chance to play via Steam. The game is scheduled to launch for Xbox Series X|S, PS5, and PC.

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