The Finals Season 2 is "a love letter to the NES era" and a retro salute to gamers

The Heavy class getting caught in a gravity cube
(Image credit: Embark Sutdios)

What you need to know

  • The Finals Season 2 is launching on March 14 as CNS, an in-game group, has hacked the arena.
  • All class types get new gadgets, whereas Medium players get two based on a hacking theme, and each class receives a new weapon.
  • The first-ever two-team game mode, Power Shift, is coming to The Finals, alongside revamped progression mechanics, a new League System, and more.

The Finals is one of my favorite games from 2023. I've been very upfront about my love for the game. It reinvigorated my passion for the competitive first-person genre. When it came out, a 3v3v3 competitive game was an absurd thought to me. I was so wrong.

It turns out that The Finals made a splash on the scene. Riding mostly word-of-mouth hype, it reached an all-time concurrent player count of roughly 250,000. That's higher than Rainbow Six Siege has ever seen on Steam. While it's down to the 25,000 mark as of writing, it's normal for a free-to-play game in the early stages to go through some ups and downs as it establishes itself in the marketplace. After diving into Season 2 with fellow journalists, content creators, and Embark employees, I can safely say it's about to hit an up.


This interview has been edited for grammar and clarity.

What is The Finals Season 2?

Catch this! (Image credit: Embark Studios)

Season 2 for The Finals is an ode to retro gaming. The update, which drops on March 14, will give players access to new weapons, tools, gadgets, and the best map the game has ever seen. In addition, players will have access to a fresh contract layout and a revamped league system, which will delight competitive players.

The tools and gadgets are as follows:

  • The Dematerializer for Medium is a specialization that temporarily erases physical surfaces, like walls, ceilings, or goo, allowing contestants to see, shoot, and pass through them. It creates new passageways and closes them back up again, turning every obstacle into an open door. 
  • The Anti-Gravity Cube for Heavy is a deployable cube that manipulates gravity in its immediate area, lifting contestants and objects upwards! Is it a traversal tool or a defensive gadget? It’s up to each contestant!
  • The Gateway for Light is a pair of limited-range deployable portals! When both are thrown and activated, contestants and objects can move between the two locations. Anyone can use a portal, but players can’t see or shoot through them! Perfect for a quick getaway when things get hairy. 
  • The Data Reshaper for Medium is a gadget that transforms enemy fortifications (or any random object, for that matter) into something else entirely—like turning an enemy mine into a chair or an enemy turret into a table. It's great for breaking through enemy defenses!   

Each class will also gain access to new weapons:

  • Light
    • 93R burst-fire machine pistol
  • Medium
    • FAMAS burst assault rifle
  • Heavy
    • KS-23 slug shotgun

The new map is astonishing when played. I'll cover more on that later. According to Embark Studios, the map is a realization of CNS gaining access to assets and source files. They've called it SYS$HORIZON.

This glitchy, neon-filled cityscape exists in the loading realm of the game show and features a mix of vertical and horizontal gameplay. Voxel bridges create pathways between buildings, and pieces of floating, glitched geometry allow contestants to parkour through the arena. Partially loaded and out-of-place, SYS$HORIZON is a sight to behold, especially at night.

My favorite addition to Season 2 comes from the latest game mode, Power Shift. In it, players battle over a platform that follows a glowing, guided trail. Each team battles it out in a 5v5 format, attempting to push the objective towards the opposing team's side. The trail this platform follows doesn't miss as it bulldozes through buildings and players alike.

It was all planned from the start

CNS is here, most likely for good, as Scotty isn't too hotty. (Image credit: Embark Studios)

I sat down with Gustav Tilleby, the Creative Director, and Joakim Stigsson, the Map Designer of The Finals. When I asked about the inspiration behind the season's content, they told me that Season 2 had been planned for quite a while. Tilleby started off by explaining that this wasn't a new concept to them.

"The idea behind the scenes, the hacking of the games, and everything else have been part of the plan for a very long time. It's been hinted at in our trailers and other things. So we talked about using this for a long time, and having them sort of come into the show has been planned for a long time!"

Going back and digging into this, we can see that it had been alluded to. I first saw this image during the game's launch trailer, but it goes so much deeper than that. Dating back to June 2023, I found it again in a Closed Beta trailer. Holy Finals, Batman, they've been teasing this thing like crazy.

A sign of the times ahead. (Image credit: Embark Studios)

This "hacking" was hinted at throughout season 1, with another easter egg released a little over a month ago, blatantly telling us it was coming. "Seek the truth beyond the walls" is seen for a split second at the end of the sequence. Players, far more dedicated than I ever realized, have been at this for over a year and a half!

A YouTube channel named RouckhoundBlack has been scouring since September 2022, when Embark started this whole ordeal inside their official Discord. Several videos on his channel go through easter eggs and lore for The Finals, including a massive introduction video detailing the history of clues and mysteries Embark has been leaving on their Discord and trailers. It's unbelievable how involved this whole thing has been. Even having recently changed spots on launch maps to denote a "hack" was occurring.

When answering this question during the interview, they never alluded to how elaborate this process has been leading up to Season 2. I spent two hours digging into this narrative. If it weren't for the fact that I needed to get this story out before my self-imposed deadline to boast about how good Season 2 would be, I'd still be scouring.

If you don't care about these things and take nothing else away from this passage, I want you to note the care they've established here. It reciprocates throughout the whole experience, that is, The Finals. These developers genuinely care about the product they're putting out in the world, and it shows—it Game Shows. From the nuanced narrative they've composed to the intuitive level design players will encounter come launch day. They don't skip a beat to ensure every aspect of the game is handled carefully.

The map is a representation of where this has all led: Nostalgia

The color palette of this Arena is tasty. (Image credit: Embark Studios)

Stigsson went on to detail how the map (named SYS$HORIZON), the sound effects, the aesthetics, weapon charms, and everything else was a symphony to the past, from where they came from. While I was technically an 80s child, born in 1989, you get a real sense of the developer's heritage and the time from which they come throughout Season 2's aesthetic.

"The level itself, that exists at the moment when the world spawns in. When you run through the tunnel, jump through the thing, and go into the level, it gets generated in front of you with this sort of grid pattern. It's at that moment, that is when map the map is created. And the aesthetics of CNS. They are rooted in 80s and 90s nostalgia and the gaming culture. The advent of modern gaming culture and arcade games. The whole 8-bit scene as well, which you can hear in the music. From the NES, the N64. It's a love letter to that, the whole era."

It's a love letter to that, the whole era.


He's right, too. Browsing the store for Season 2 leads to a plethora of goodies that date back to a period that many of us Millenials would call a simpler time. 8-bit swords, analog televisions, and dial-up modem sounds hit differently than the sounds of symbols of today. While I didn't get to use every single one in-game, I have a few favorites I can't wait to rock when it officially opens up on March 14.

I don't even like melee and I'm still going to use this. (Image credit: Future via Michael Hoglund)

The map, SYS$HORIZON, is what I imagined the future would look like when I was a kid. As though Tron went to heaven, there's a vibrant glow no matter where you peek. The seamless coordination of digitized memories mixed with modern architecture isn't just another map. 

This isn't a rehashed collection of assets the team already had. It's remarkable and pleasing to look at. The wow factor is in full gear the moment you load in, which didn't go away until I was notified I had to stop playing. Take me back!

Every area has it's own uniquely laid out aesthetic. (Image credit: Embark Studios)

Tilleby added, "The hacked Arena allowed us to be quite creative with the map flow. We introduce voxel bridges that allow you to traverse from one area to another. We have floating voxel cubes as well that you can use to traverse or zip-line through or go from one edge to another. The anti-gravity cube that you can use to destroy certain parts of the glitch areas, and then those cubes [from the destruction] would float in the air, and you can use those to traverse, as well. The theme, in general, allowed us to be pretty creative with this one. This map is something we haven't seen before. We've been on top of skyscrapers and close combat gameplay before, but this one introduced another type of gameplay. I'm super excited about this new map."

This map is something we haven't seen before. We've been on top of skyscrapers and close combat gameplay before, but this one introduced another type of gameplay.


I then went on to praise the map layout. As Stigsson mentioned, they were inventive with the map flow. I praised them, saying that no matter where I went, even though I had never played the map before, I always felt like I knew where I was going. At times, I'd run towards an objective inside of a building where I'd instinctively realize what turn I should make to get out of the building and onto a specific rooftop or some other area. This feeling repeated itself no matter what route I took on SYS$HORIZON. It always felt familiar, like a distant memory.

Even the outdoors is a sight that most players will awe at while under fire. (Image credit: Embark Studios)

Stigsson illustrated, "Now that we've done this a bunch of times, we learned a lot from the first season. We learned about the pacing of the game and how people move, and we've been looking at heat maps. Where do people usually get lost? We have all that data from season one, and that's been helpful for us in creating this map as well. Where do people normally get stuck? Where do people normally look? How would they traverse this area? So yeah, it made it a little bit easier from that perspective, and now we know these things."

Power Shift will change the way people play

(Image credit: Future via Michael Hoglund)

During the second half of my session, I got to play Embark Studios' latest game mode, Power Shift. Notably, Power Shift feels like something derived from Overwatch. Not that it's a clone, because it's not, it's something distinct. If not only for the fact that, in Overwatch, the payload doesn't slam through buildings.

After loading, the map settles into existence; you're treated to a single objective: "Platform." The principle is straightforward: take the platform, protect the platform, and win. How you do so is up to you, but I believe many diverse strategies will emerge with this game mode.

Rooftops dominate the landscape of the Arena. (Image credit: Future via Michael Hogund)

At the start of my stint with Power Shift, multiple players dominated the objective by putting a couple of players on it while the rest spread across the rooftops. A solid team, like some of the content creators I played with (I was top damage, no big deal), will light up enemy players quickly if they're running solo. Players were picked off left and right if they attempted to approach the platform impatiently. Using your whole team of five will be critical to the success or failure you see in Power Shift.

Stigsson explained, "The idea from the very beginning was to do a game with two teams instead of three or four. Bigger teams were another one. We wanted a simple objective, something you know is there, and you go to that [objective].

It's important for us that when we design modes, they leverage unique aspects of The Finals and the dynamic environments. Having the platform burst through buildings and rocking back and forth, and all that stuff was a very important aspect of it."

Having the platform burst through buildings, rock back and forth, and do other exciting things was a very important aspect of it.


The devastation left behind in the wake of the platform is just plain gamer-cool. Sometimes, in gaming, something is fun because it's fun; this is one of those times. The perfect cutouts left behind in the walls feel like something out of Looney Tunes in this dystopian virtual world. While simultaneously acknowledging the ground you've won and fought for.

Boom goes the dynamite! (Image credit: Future via Michael Hoglund)

Depending on platform placement, teams will want to be ready to swap to another class for the best loadouts. I commented on this and received some praise for making that point. Go me.

Tilleby added, "We also added the functionality to swap your class. You can go from Light to Medium to Heavy. It's completely open in that sense. You can adjust more freely to your team. I think you had an interesting point before. You might want to change your strategy depending on where the platform is.

When it's far away, if the opposing team is taking it, you could focus more on traversal. Then, once you have it, you may want to hunker down and defend it. So there are a lot of dynamics there that you don't see in the other game modes."

Skill is being rewarded

Rewards are on the SYS$HORIZON. (Image credit: Future via Michael Hoglund)

As part of the update, players will also see a new face for career progression and ranked systems. A unique contract interface has been added for daily and weekly completionists. A fresh League Progression system is also in place to reward competitive play better. Players can reach these milestones by completing tasks separate from the ranked rewards players earn by being ridiculously good.

Rewarding skill is at the forefront of this update, but this doesn't leave casuals in the back room. There are plenty of things for both groups of players and everyone in between to work for. No matter where you land on the scale, everyone can access this season's new weapons and equipment. The developers all have their personal favorites already picked.

Stigsson spoke up first, saying, "I play Medium, but the Dematerializer is up there for me. I'm using it to peek through different areas and also help my teammates. One thing that I've been doing is using it [on the floor], then bringing the Cash down one floor. I close the hole, then steal it myself. It makes it harder for the enemies to get me."

Beam me up, Scotty. (Image credit: Future via Michael Hoglund)

The new Light portal is a personal choice of mine. Initially, I tried to use it as a traversal tool to cross the map faster, but this isn't its intended use. Getting out of tricky situations, or better yet, making it tricky for the enemy, is the idea behind this latest gadget.

I watched an Embark employee who went by the name of Sio zigzag his way through enemy defenses like they weren't even there. He threw one end of the portal on top of a building, baiting the team to chase him as he ducked into a structure where he threw the other end. He vaulted through, where the enemies followed into a trap of open gunfire on the other end. 

The weapons themselves also feel very skill-oriented. Two of them are burst weapons, the R93 and FAMAS. I loved my time with both, but the FAMAS quickly became my new go-to out in the Arena. A burst weapon with the range of a semi-auto felt incredible in my hands but also rightfully balanced.

It's easier to miss than you think. (Image credit: Future via Michael Hoglund)

The new shotgun for the Heavy class, the KS-23 Slug shotgun, was the one that threw me for a loop. This is a precision weapon at heart. Don't let the term "shotgun" fool you into complacency. Missing a slug from this bad boy means a massive opening for whatever opponent you're in a battle with. Hit every shot, and you'll be handsomely rewarded.

I made the observation that skillfulness was required for these latest weapons. I asked what the basis for this round of firearms was and Tilleby let me know.

"Our objective was to add some distinct flavor. They are definitely different from what we have, but they still fall neatly into our established categories of weapons. That's a really good observation. It is definitely more important to line your shots up with a burst weapon. So they're still there, but it's a favorite thing. Some people will like it; some people won't. And that's totally fine. So we'll see [how people respond]."

Get ready for a comeback

Just out of reach. (Image credit: Future via Michael Hoglund)

I truly enjoyed my time with what Season 2 offers so far. From the weapons to the gadgets to the new everything there is. I believe everyone will find a little spot of happiness somewhere in this update, if not a lot of happiness.

In my opinion, Power Shift will become the most popular game mode. While Cash Out and Bank It will continue to be part of my regular play, Power Shift will be more inviting to new players when they join. Many players like traditional two-team gameplay, and I can't blame them. It's that hook that will hopefully get people trying the other modes as well. If not, Power Shift will remain for players who want to stick to that paradigm. 

I can't wait to get into the content Season 2 has to offer. I look forward to it tomorrow when it launches on March 14. I hope to see you all out there with me, digitizing to make Scotty proud.

Is there anything you're personally excited to see? Let us know in the comments before, or reach out via social media. As always, happy gaming!

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.