The Finals is too sweaty for its own good

 The finals free-to-play FPS.
The finals free-to-play FPS.

Inside of every FPS player are two beasts: the casual enjoyer of lightly competitive shooter romps, and the sweaty coordinator yelling callouts and going only for headshots. Lucky for both of those beasts, the genre is brimming with really good options for every type of shooter fan. I bounce around shooters depending on the mood, but I'm still not sure what mood I should be in to enjoy The Finals.

I've had my eye on The Finals since its 2022 announcement that went a little something like this: 12 players facing off on fully destructible maps, all synced on the server with technical wizardry, with modern guns and gadgets that look like they came out of an immersive sim. It shot right to the top of my most anticipated shooters. But I've put around 10 hours into The Finals over three different alphas and betas now, and it's just not clicking.

Fundamentally, The Finals should rule. Guns: They're sleek, simple, and feel like Battlefield guns with faster bullets. Movement: Fast and varied. Customization: Tons of it, with loadouts you can fill with whatever combination of gadgets and abilities your chosen class supports. The cosmetics offer more choice than we're used to in service games, too—every type of clothing is its own slot that can mix and match with outfits bought or earned on the battle pass.

And that ambitious destruction engine? It freaking works. Every class is outfitted with some way to blow stuff up, and it only takes a few minutes for a city block to become Swiss cheese. Entire landings drop, fold, and crumble over each other, creating improvised ramps to higher floors or subtracting whole rooms from contention. This is geometric malleability on a scale I've never seen in a videogame that isn't made of blocks.

I like the maps, the guns, and the extremely-DICE vibrancy of The Finals' world, but I kinda hate how sweaty it is.

Try harder

I promise I'm not salty that people are trying too hard in an FPS, because that's what you're supposed to do. I'm more irked that The Finals feels out of place as a hyper competitive squad game. Despite being a round-based game with medium-sized maps, gunfights in The Finals feel a lot like a battle royale. The 12-player lobby is divided into four teams of three fighting over one cash objective. Times-to-kill are high—somewhere between Overwatch and Apex Legends—which, just like in those games, places a huge emphasis on team fighting. The team that sticks together and focuses targets in unison can melt an entire squad before they can react.

My takeaway is that it's always a bad idea not to be right next to your teammates, and yet, it's so frustrating that your teammates often can't go where you can go. If I'm playing a Light build, for instance, I get a very fun grapple hook that can zip me straight up to the rooftops. Except, oops, my teammates are both Heavy builds with zero mobility gadgets whatsoever, so unless there's a map zipline to where I'm at, they can't follow me, so I'm just asking to get demolished by the first group I see.

the finals concept art
the finals concept art

Dying sucks in The Finals, similar to how it sucks in battle royale. Teammates can revive, but it takes almost as long as the respawn timer. If your team gets wiped while you're dead, your timer is reset to a mind-numbing 15 seconds—just enough time to check my phone, and seriously question why I'm still playing. Wiping carries such a harsh punishment that I feel constantly discouraged to experiment with my gadgets or try anything risky with destruction.

It's obvious that The Finals was built with tight teamplay in mind, which gels with millions of Apex fans, but I prefer shooters that allow individuals to shine, too. It's no coincidence that my two favorite competitive shooters—Rainbow Six Siege and Hunt: Showdown—have strict one-shot-headshot damage models that allow a single sharpshooter to turn the tide of a round. You won't see clutch moments like that in the Finals, at least not while outnumbering a team is the same as beating them.

It's weirdly incongruent with the actual tools you're given. Grapple hooks, cloaking tech, and melee weapons give the impression that you can play however you want, but I constantly feel forced to take support gadgets like the med gun and defibrillators if we want any chance of winning fights.

Or try easier

It's like the ex-DICE folk at Embark set out to make something completely different from Battlefield and then accidentally made a better Battlefield with an identity crisis

So no, The Finals probably won't enter my competitive rotation. It's too messy to take seriously, and the objective modes aren't interesting. What's driving me up the wall is that The Finals could be a fantastic, casually chaotic FPS sandbox if it wanted to be. Given the same exact set of tools in a different context, I think I'd be obsessed with the Finals' malleable maps and top-tier gunfeel. Give me 6v6 team deathmatch so that fights are actually even more often, shorten TTKs to make individual play matter, let people go wild with destruction without the urgency of a single objective, and shorten those respawns.

I want a competition, but I don't think a hectic attack/defend mode with four teams and only three winners plays to The Finals' strengths.

The Finals weapon showcase
The Finals weapon showcase

All of the pieces of a playful class-based shooter are already there. Three builds with different specialties, big maps, adaptable roles, strong fundamentals—there's even a freaking goo gun that lets you 3D print sky bridges. The Finals is full of toys you're not encouraged to play with. At some point in every match I get the urge to plant explosives on every support in a building to see if I can kill someone with a house, but then my teammates run off and I have no real choice but to follow them and stick to the mission. What if destruction was the objective, instead of a mechanic that you can mostly ignore?

I try not to judge games for what they aren't and instead focus on what they are, but jeez, it's like the ex-DICE folk at Embark set out to make something completely different from Battlefield and then accidentally made a better Battlefield with an identity crisis.

Or maybe The Finals is the perfect blend of Apex Legends and Battlefield you've been waiting for. It's impossible to say yet whether it'll be a hit in the long run, but there sure are a lot of people on Steam giving it a shot. The open beta is live from now until November 5, and you can opt in from The Finals Steam page.