The Finals has me believing in FPS games again

The Finals Xbox store promotional screenshot
(Image credit: Embark Studios)

Hey everyone, I'm Mike, a 34-year-old gamer who's been playing first-person shooter games since the late 90s. Having been raised during the early era of Nintendo's gaming dominance, I hurled myself into the world of the digital at an early age.

All of this quickly spiraled out of control with the entry of Goldeneye, my first-ever competitive FPS. I thrived in this genre via console and PC alike. At one point, what I'll call the zenith of my career, I was the number one FFA player in Rainbow Six Vegas 2. And before I go off a little too much about myself, let's say I'm pretty good at games like Counter-Strike and Halo. Real good.

However, after over 25 years, these games have started to blur, becoming a hazy cloud of sameness. Heck, at one point, all the industry tried to do was copy Call of Duty. Individuality was dying. This idea of chasing similarity was how Medal of Honor met its end over a decade ago. The genre was trickshotting itself into nothing.

Escape from Tarkov was a refreshing take on an FPS and has gained huge popularity. (Image credit: Battlestate Games)

Thankfully, the genre has seen uniqueness rewarded within the last decade through influential hits like the original Overwatch, Escape from Tarkov, PUBG, and more. I know PUBG isn't technically an FPS, but they include a first-person-only mode for us purists. These games popularized entirely new genres within the first-person shooter market: hero shooters, extraction modes, and battle royale. Hilariously, Call of Duty is now the one going out and copying others. After years of perfecting their version of Battle Royale, they're chasing the extraction market by implementing DMZ.

All of those titles I mentioned above came out years ago. It feels like it's been forever since someone tried to do anything new. Something daring. Even if a company hits success with something unique, they'll sit on that property and find ways to annualize their profits through expansion passes for said product via battle passes or seasons. Overwatch changed its entire model, turning to F2P and releasing a sequel that one can't describe without using air quotes.

Titles like PUBG and Rainbow Six have been squeaking out the same but new content since their inception. New clothes, emotes, characters, weapons, but all within the same game. Nothing changes. It's all rehashed garbage or remastered nothing. Then came The Finals.

A new contender has entered the arena

Death is a highlight reel. (Image credit: Michael Hoglund via The Finals)

The first time I heard about this game, I laughed. I didn't take it seriously. How could a game designed around three to four teams competing be fun or even competitive? All I could think of was the party mode from Halo. Nobody thought of multi-team game modes outside of battle royale as something they wanted to play. Did they?

I tried the beta before launch, where the word 'tried' is being pushed to its limit. I loaded into a game where most of each team left, and I was ultimately disconnected from it. Whether it was a server error or my internet, I didn't care. I didn't have fun. So when The Finals shadow-dropped and I saw everyone's hype, I decided to give it another shot. Maybe I was in the wrong.

My first game went virtually the same. I was placed in a match where everyone but one other player and I stayed. After I was up eight kills to none, and neither of us had bothered to capture an objective, he left. Wow, much fun. Insert Dogecoin.

The crane in question (Image credit: Michael Hoglund via The Finals)

I decided to walk around and check out the map. I had gotten this far already; why not? Seeing a giant crane in the middle, I headed towards it. "There's a ladder? Alright, I'll bite." Once I reached the top, I saw the controls, "Can you really use these?!" The map had a functioning crane where players could destroy entire buildings.

That's when the realization hit: I was playing something where the developers were trying to be unique. They weren't chasing similarity. These devs dared to try something new in an era where everyone else seemed too afraid to. They wanted to be different. Let's say I've played a few more games since then.

Embarking on an adventure

A beautiful building ready to be unbeautied. (Image credit: Michael Hoglund via The Finals)

Embark Studios, the developers behind The Finals, took a gamble in making the game. With companies buying intellectual property up left and right rather than pushing anything fresh, creating something new must be terrifying. Even studios backed by veteran IPs are facing layoffs or complete closures. These guys are even developing another title simultaneously, ARC Raiders.

Look at Sony with Bungie or their latest closure of Factions, Microsoft with 343 and other studios at Xbox, or those currently under Embracer Group. Nobody is safe in 2023, and everything is on the cutting block. While it's true that Embark is backed by Nexon, to develop not one but two new titles off the bat takes guts. 

Every time I see a studio form, and they're off making multiple titles to start, I can't help but think about 38 Studios and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. A studio that, to me, released an RPG with the best combat ever, only to close three months later because of financial stress. Nothing in gaming is guaranteed, even when backed by a  buttload of money from a former World Series-winning professional baseball player.

I Keep Coming Back

Yeah, I'm bragging about myself. Why not? (Image credit: Michael Hoglund via The Finals)

The Finals cemented itself in my gaming catalog when I fell asleep thinking of things I could do better or try next time. I was strategizing in bed, only a step away from it becoming part of my dreams. This game had its hooks in me. Individual deaths were pouring over my mind, inspiring my competitive drive in ways I hadn't felt in years. That sensation of needing to improve had returned for the first time since PUBG launched.

My favorite build is a simple, medium loadout with the AK, defibrillator, healing beam, and sonar grenades. I'm a gun-heavy slayer who also needs to promote group synergy with my heals. When I need even more death, I swap over to my heavy build to better mesh with some friends.

One of my besties can't stop manically laughing into the headset while swinging a sledgehammer as a heavy or zip lining around the map as a light. Competitiveness aside, this game is built for everyone, which is something so many games today fail to account for adequately.

This game is a gift that keeps on giving. (Image credit: Michael Hoglund via The Finals)

Look at Tarkov, for example. No casual will pick up the game and continue playing as a casual while having fun. I know numerous people who dropped it because they couldn't keep up. Some people don't want to farm gear or level their character to keep up, and Tarkov doesn't capture that casual audience as a result. It's your only choice if you're going to play it.

The Finals doesn't have any of that. Sure, people get better and can leave others behind as the meta changes, but there's still so much room for a casual player to come in and have a wonderful, unique experience whenever they pick up the game. That's one of the reasons games like Fortnite took off.

And Finally...

That glorious feeling! (Image credit: Michael Hoglund via The Finals)

I could talk for days about this game and the incredible moments I've had on Xbox and Steam. I'm having so much fun that I can't wait to be done editing this article, so I can go back and play again. While this might not be the case for everyone, for me, it's literally and figuratively rejuvenated my love for first-person shooters all over again.

I dare anyone in a slump like myself or others who love the genre to try The Finals; a good try. Make sure it's better than the first one I gave it. I almost missed out on greatness because of it.

Go play The Finals! Or tell us why you aren't!

Michael Hoglund

Michael has been gaming since he was five when his mother first bought a Super Nintendo from Blockbuster. Having written for a now-defunct website in the past, he's joined Windows Central as a contributor to spreading his 30+ years of love for gaming with everyone he can. His favorites include Red Dead Redemption, all the way to the controversial Dark Souls 2. 

  • Bunbun68
    No mention of the rampant cheating problems or lack of legion lock of China. Great article definitely not biased