The hottest game on Steam right now is an FPS that's not technically out yet. Hundreds of thousands of people are trying out The Finals, a highly-destructible competitive shooter from ex-Battlefield devs currently in open beta.
The beta is so popular, in fact, that The Finals has claimed the top spot on Steam's top wishlisted games, beating out longtime juggernauts like Manor Lords, Hades 2, Ark 2, and Hollow Knight: Silksong. The Finals has hovered among the top 20 wishlisted games for about a year now, but its rise to the top happened all at once. An influx of 200,000 enthusiastic players will do that, though it also helps that several games that previously dominated the list, like Starfield, Atomic Heart, and Party Animals, all released in 2023.
It's also a potent reminder that there's an unending appetite for great shooters. Many FPSes come and go without making a big impact, but The Finals has a decent chance to stick around, depending on its post-launch support. This year's BattleBit Remastered sold two million copies in two weeks and still has a steady playerbase, but in past years, Hyper Scape, The Cycle: Frontier, and most recently Sega's Hyenas shut down early into their lives.
We're still very much in the honeymoon phase with The Finals—players are excited and inspired by its slick gunplay, skill-based movement, and jaw-dropping destruction tech that just works. It's a lot of fun with friends. Inevitably, though, the shine around The Finals' strong fundamentals will wear, and common complaints or requests will rise to the surface. Server instability is a big one right now, though Embark has made it clear this beta is a legitimate stress test for their servers, so that's to be expected.
I wonder, also, if The Finals has a deep enough meta to keep serious players interested further down the line. The maps are highly malleable, but its classes are simpler than other games'—currently each class has only a handful of weapon options (the Light gets a few extra). Guns also can't be customized or paired together with a secondary slot, which has led players to quickly identify which guns are clearly the best and which ones aren't worth using (if you're playing Medium, stick to the AK). Most variation for class setups comes from which gadgets you bring. There are a dozen or more options for each class, and it takes awhile to unlock each one.
Maybe The Finals will be the sort of game that mostly relies on maps and modes to shake things up. The open beta has three maps, but developer Embark Studios also cooked up both time-of-day variants and map modifiers randomly chosen at match start, including floating structures, moving cashout boxes, and a gigantic rubber duck that crushes an entire corner of the map. "Game Show Events" add further chaos to the middle of the match with modifiers like low gravity, meteor showers, and rising lava. These all sound really cool, but the game show effects have rarely triggered in the more casual Bank It mode I've been playing, and the map variants don't change the flow of the match very much, except for when the cashout box is on a moving platform.
As much fun as I'm having outplaying squads with friends at the moment, what I'd like more than anything is a mode that captures the casual chaos of Battlefield in The Finals. Larger teams, more opportunities to blow stuff up, and classic arena shooter modes like CTF could work really great in its sandboxy maps, and I'd appreciate a way to enjoy The Finals' impressive destruction in a less sweaty competitive environment.
It's all possible, though we don't really know how Embark plans to support The Finals as a live service. It'll be free-to-play with the usual battle passes, that much we know. Its actual release date is unknown—the studio previously said it planned to release The Finals in 2023, but with just two months left in the year and the open beta ending on November 5, early 2024 might be the safer assumption.