While Embark Studios might not be a household name yet, members of the dev team are comprised of former DICE devs — yes, the studio behind the hugely popular Battlefield franchise. The studio is now working on The Finals, a free-to-play shooter that promises to bring destruction to a whole new level.
For anyone who’s heard of or played any Battlefield game, one of the franchise’s trademark mechanics is environmental destruction. If you missed the destruction elements in Battlefield: Bad Company 2, you’ll be glad to know that in The Finals, it’s not only implemented well but cranked up to 11!
- Related Reading: The Finals PC Requirements for the Closed Beta Revealed – Minimum and Recommended Specs
Over the last decade, Battlefield fans have been clamoring for the franchise’s return to form. While visuals and the player count have increased since the time of Bad Company, the one area that seems to have gotten smaller and lesser in scale was none other than the very thing that helped set Battlefield apart, which was the level of destruction it had to offer. Many fans consider the Bad Company series to be the pinnacle of the series when it comes to destruction, and for good reason, since it provided a level of freedom that no other Battlefield games have managed to capture since.
So when Embark Studio, a team composed of ex-DICE devs, first came to the scene and unveiled Arc Raiders in 2021, we couldn’t help but draw up the comparison to classic Battlefield, only in third-person. We weren’t the only ones either, as the community also picked up on that vibe, though found it to be more comparable with Battlefront mixed with a Battlefield.
However, this wasn’t the only title that Embark had been working on, as shortly after the reveal of Arc Raiders, the team teased that they were working on yet another title, a first-person shooter tentatively dubbed “Project Discovery,”
Embark is celebrating 3 years! So what have we accomplished? We’ve grown to more than 250 game makers, we’ve got big plans for the future, and a few projects we are just itching to share. To celebrate, we thought we’d share a glimpse of *another* unannounced game in the works. 🎂 pic.twitter.com/TdeZQcuvDs
— Embark Studios (@EmbarkStudios) November 9, 2021
Little was known about the game, but the short tease of destruction with a modern-day look certainly caught the eyes of Battlefield fans worldwide.
Fast-forward to a little under a year later, and Project Discovery finally had a name: The Finals.
That was six months ago, and the excitement in the community has grown significantly. While no release date has been set, Embark did confirm that an alpha, as well as a beta, would be on the horizon for players to finally get a sneak peek at what they’ve been working on. Well, that day is almost upon us, as players around the world will finally be able to get a taste of Embark’s upcoming shooter. But before we all dive into the closed beta tomorrow, we were given an opportunity to try the beta out early. So let’s talk about it.
First, let me start by saying that The Finals is NOT a Battlefield clone. No massive open maps that are designed for teams of 64 players for all-out warfare. There are no vehicles or classes (there are builds, but I’ll discuss that later.) It’s an arena free-to-play first-person sandbox shooter that pits four teams of three against one another, as they scramble to collect cash and defend extraction points. Reading that, you’re probably thinking this couldn’t be any from the Battlefield franchise, yet despite that, The Finals manages to capture the same vibe that fans have been waiting for the last decade. The Finals is a game about player freedom, allowing them to play however they want while shaping and evolving the Battlefield as they do it.
They accomplish this by offering unparallel destruction, the likes that we haven’t seen since the days of Bad Company 2.
From those looking outside the window, you might think this is some cheap marketing ploy to rope people in with nostalgia. Well, after getting some hands-on with a pre-beta build, I’m happy to say that, when it comes to destruction, The Finals is everything you’d hope for it to be. It’s Battlefield: Bad Company 2’s destruction but on steroids.
Everything you see, you can destroy. It’s not some static destruction either, where dealing enough damage will always cause a structure to fall in a scripted way. Everything is dynamic, working off a physic-based system designed by Embark Studios. It not only works, but it’s friggin’ brilliant.
Buildings can be leveled entirely, as can nearly every major structure around the map. Individual floors can be destroyed, walls can be torn, and roofs can all be blown off.
What’s even more important here is it’s not just a gimmick. You’ll need to know how and when to use destruction to your advantage to win — need a shortcut to reach the cashbox? Well, blow up that wall that leads right to it. What about cover, not feeling like you have enough of it? Tear down the building and make some. Flanking? Why not surprise your enemy by blowing up the floor or ceiling and dropping on top of them? Is the objective being stolen? Well, let’s move it by demolishing the room it’s in.
This is the destruction Battlefield fans have been asking for since Bad Company days, and Embark has delivered on this.
Of course, all the destruction in the world won’t mean squat if the actual gameplay is subpar, and we’re happy to report that even in this pre-beta build we played, the overall gameplay was super solid. You can tell that the people behind The Finals have worked on shooters before. What’s interesting here is the actual gunplay feels different depending on the build you play. Say you’re playing the “Light” build; it feels reminiscent of Call of Duty, while the Heavy build will remind you of Battlefield. The Medium? It’s like a mixture of the two (yes, that’s not a joke).
The guns also feel great, displaying amazing animations, excellent sounds, and feeling like they have a satisfying hit-detection. I’ve tried out several different guns in The Finals, and although I have my favorites, the way they all handled gave me a reason to want to use even my least favorite ones because of how good they felt.
That’s not to say that some things don’t need balancing, but that’ll be something more widely addressed when the closed Beta begins tomorrow.
What I do love about guns is how they react differently to causing destruction. Hitting a point with a grenade, rocket launcher, C4, and other explosives all produce different levels of damage. Shooting through certain things is also dependent on the material and the power of the weapon you use. It makes sense since it’s all physics-based, but still surprising.
That adds more strategic value to the overall gameplay and how you use destruction to your advantage. In some ways, it also reminded me of Rainbow Six Siege, in that you want to go in thinking about how the environment will react and what kind of benefits it provides you and your teammates.
Team Play Matters
One thing I noticed about The Finals is that solo wolfing isn’t going to get you very far. This is a game that focuses heavily on teamwork. With four teams occupying space, getting picked off is easy if you’re wandering around alone. That’s not a complaint, as the game is set in a virtual game show. So the competitive aspect is going to be a large one.
You need to work with teammates and coordinate where to go and how to do it. Teams must also pick proper composition with the three types of builds available.
Builds, in a sense, are sort of like heroes. But I want to point out that this is not another hero shooter. Instead, Embark describes it as a Hero Builder. While builds have light, medium, and heavy archetypes, with some unique weapons, gadgets, and abilities, the way you customize them is entirely up to you. Appearances are fully customizable, but so are their load-outs. So it’s not about what that “hero” can bring to the table, but what players can do with what those builds offer.
That allows players to cater builds to their playstyle rather than picking one based on it, thus building their hero. When I started playing, I found the Medium build to be my go-to, not liking what the light and heavy ones offered, but once I began to change their load-outs, I soon learned just how big of a difference they can play based on a few tweaks.
There’s also a rock, paper, scissor dynamic going on, as each build is served to counter one another or support them in some ways. What weakness the Heavy Build may have, in that they’re slow at moving, may be countered by a fast-paced light build on the opposing team. At the same time, a teammate may have a weapon or gadget in their arsenal to help you counter them, be that with constant heals or creating defensive measures while you attempt to escape. For example, I was fending off a few light-build contestants with my heavy one. They were too fast to follow, and bullets flew in at a rate that made my health drop fast. Luckily, a teammate close by had the goo gun, which, while providing no damage, did create a wall of defense that forced these light builds into my line of fire. Their counter to me was countered by a teammate, which in a way, also exploited them to my builds’ strength.
Winning a skirmish doesn’t always mean you have better skills. I’m nowhere considered a good player, and even more horrible when using a mouse and keyboard (though I’ve improved). However, planning with my squad members how we’ll use certain defenses or use destruction is such a huge game changer. It makes matches all feel different each time because you never know what you’ll end up doing or the other contestants. That level of unpredictability is hard to produce in most standard shooters today, and Embark has masterfully done it.
I also love that reviving plays into all that too. Reviving a teammate could turn the tides of war, but you have to be smart about it. You can’t just go into a skirmish expecting to get lucky and revive a teammate. But you don’t need to kill the opposing team to do it, either. Countless times a teammate or I had gone done, only for us to use the goo gun to build a wall. What surprised me, however, is that when a player is eliminated, they leave behind a trophy/statue of themselves until either they’ve been revised or the respawn timer ends. Teammates can rush in and pick up these statues to bring them to safety. I’ve had it plenty of times, allowing us to come back from the brink of defeat.
Performance and Visuals
With players heading into the beta tomorrow, I wanted to share my overall experience with The Finals regarding its presentation and performance. Visually speaking, The Finals is an impressive showcase on all fidelity fronts. Animations are smooth as fuck, with the visuals rivaling even that of major AAA titles. This is surprising, considering it’s a free-to-play experience. I don’t think I’ve ever played a F2P game that looks and plays this well.
The frame rate was buttery smooth using an RTX 4090, and I’ve heard the same thing from other previewers using GPUs that meet the minimum specs. There’s Ray tracing support in the form of RTX global illumination, which was incredible to witness in all the different weather and time of day. Shadows especially were on full display as the environment reacted to the lighting produced by explosives and the crumbling of buildings.
Many of you will be shocked at how well this game runs and how incredible it looks. Outside of network-related issues, which can and will be fixed, the overall beta build of The Finals felt superbly polished. That’s not surprising to me, considering the alpha build we played last year also was in an impressive state.
REACH THE FINALS
I had the opportunity to play The Finals last year, via its closed alpha and if there’s one thing that was cemented in my mind long before this beta, it’s the fact that The Finals is, by far, my most anticipated upcoming shooter this year.
The beta only pushed that for me, and as a long-time Battlefield fan who misses the glory days of Battlefield Bad Company and the franchise’s past explosive entries, The Finals has captured everything I have ever wanted. In some ways, this is a spiritual successor, but so much more. As I said, despite all the comparisons, The Finals is not a Battlefield clone. It’s something different, an entirely different beast, that if done right (and it is) could possibly be the next bit thing. Its dynamic, captivating, and intuitive approach to destruction and gunplay feels like a game changer — one that I think will resonate with gamers and find huge success. If the studio can maintain a steady stream of communication with the player base, then the future of Embark is looking bright.
The Finals goes into closed beta testing (sign up here) on PC, tomorrow. It currently has no release date and is planned to launch on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series.
The Finals beta code was provided for preview purposes.