My most anticipated FPS this year comes from ex-Battlefield devs, and its destructibility looks unreal

the finals concept art
(Image credit: Embark Studios)

Every time I think there's no more room in my life for yet another multiplayer FPS, a game like The Finals comes along with a pitch so good that it can't be ignored: a band of ex-Battlefield devs coming together under a new banner, Embark Studios (backed by publisher Nexon), with ambitious destruction tech that I still can't believe is real. Early trailers and brief snippets of gameplay have gotten me really jazzed for, enough that The Finals has become my most anticipated FPS in a year with lots of promising shooters.

There's an air of mystery around The Finals as its planned 2023 release looms. Embark has floated under the radar since the game's announcement, holding hush-hush playtests via signups on its Steam page, sharing no raw gameplay beyond a brief trailer, and divulging scarce details on exactly what type of shooter it is. 

Some key details we know for sure:

-⚔️Pure PvP: Four 3-player teams for a total of 12 players
All buildings, objects, and furniture are fully destructible
You customize your own character and loadouts
Varies with loadout but is on the "longer side"
Fluid movement and traversal gadgets included
Primary mode is a race to collect the most cash in 8 minutes

Off the wall

As we collectively search our PC gamer lexicon for the correct label to pin on this product, it's at least clear what The Finals isn't. Executive producer Rob Runesson put some misconceptions to bed in an interview with PC Gamer:

"It’s not a military sim, it’s not a Battle Royale, and it’s not a hero shooter," he said. "It’s a virtual game show, an arena shooter that takes you to iconic real-world locations around the world, and it’s a 'hero builder' where you as a player get a ton of freedom to create your own unique characters with combinations of abilities, attributes, items, weapons and unique outfits."

OK, it's an arena shooter then. In the sense that people are shooting inside an arena that sounds right, but then again, you couldn't lob grenades at the towers in Facing Worlds until they were rubble. How freeform destruction will meaningfully change the core FPS combat is still an open question for me. It's cool to have the option to obliterate any wall, but should I? When does it make sense to level a building rather than focus on simply staying alive? That's not a question I ever ask myself in Battlefield because every match is one swirling toilet bowl of chaos where nothing really matters, but The Finals' small player count and focused objectives suggest a more serious competition.

Runesson says understanding the best tactics utilizing destruction will be an early hurdle for players used to "static" shooters (read: pretty much everybody), but believes it'll all start to click over time.

"For the first few sessions and even days of playing, players don’t fully grasp what can be done in the game," he said. "But once they get familiar with the movement options, we’re constantly surprised by the new and inventive ways players utilize the freedom the game grants. Why open a door when you can use a rocket launcher to blow a hole in the wall, right?"

Tactical bash

Something else Runesson emphasizes is that map knowledge can only go so far. "What used to be a building or a piece of cover, may not be there the next minute," he said. "It’s part of what makes this game unique, that you can’t really rely on the same tactics and map knowledge to play the game the same way all the time."

You can’t really rely on the same tactics and map knowledge to play the game the same way all the time.

Rob Runesson, executive producer

In learning about The Finals, I've actually been thinking more about Rainbow Six Siege than Battlefield. Siege is basically The Finals if it had to speak with its inside voice—here the granular destruction is limited to the interior walls, floors, and ceilings of single-building maps. You might assume that arenas made up of mostly crumbly walls would be hollowed out by players until nothing is left, but that's not how Siege's meta developed over time. One of the first lessons you learn in Siege is that, contrary to all of the explosive opportunities at your fingertips, you really shouldn't breach most walls. It's often better to leave them intact as cover or as a canvas to create thin sightlines into other rooms. Erasing walls, floors, and ceilings willy-nilly is like closing your eyes and pulling a random block out of a Jenga tower.

This is how I can foresee The Finals playing out, too. I don't think anybody wants to fight it out on a flat bed of exposed rubble. Maybe it's less about which buildings your team destroys and more about which ones it fortifies.

Embark still isn't ready to answer my most burning questions about The Finals. Even though I haven't been given reason to doubt it yet, I'm worried about performance. All that complex wrecking surely comes with a hardware cost, even if the most taxing calculations are happening server-side. System requirements on the Steam page remain TBD, though it's telling that the console versions of The Finals are targeting the current-gen PS5 and Xbox Series X/S only. If you're still packing a 10-series graphics card, I'd expect some bad news.

Arguably more important than flashy demolition are the FPS fundamentals that Embark won't yet talk about. I want to hear about bullet ballistics, weapon customization, hipfire, tick rates, hitboxes—you know, the good stuff. We also know nothing about its monetization. Is this another battle pass game with $20-$30 store bundles? All in good time, I suppose.

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.