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The Finals Season 2 proves this FPS is no fluke, it’s the king

I’ve battled alongside Embark Studios in The Finals Season 2, and this new update proves it’s the current king of the FPS genre.

The Finals Season 2 preview: An image of the finals season 2 battle pass cosmetics.

The Finals took us all quite literally by surprise last December as it emerged onto PlayStation and Xbox consoles during The Game Awards. I couldn’t have predicted the hold it would have on my spare time since then. But I was worried its initial launch might be a fluke – could Embark Studios really sustain this level of creativity? I’ve played nearly three hours of The Finals Season 2 in a recent preview event, and I’m happy to report that The Finals isn’t just a flash in the pan – it’s a genre leader. 

Before I even step foot into the arena, I notice that The Finals Season 2 reconfigures how it rewards players for their time. Weekly and daily contracts kept Season 1 fresh, but it was lacking a sense of progression beyond ticking off a list. Thankfully, Season 2 overhauls contracts in a major way with Career Circuits. These are split between Rookie, Challenger, Pro, and Master Circuits, each of them providing unique rewards upon contract completion. Beyond leveling up, Career Circuits are designed to encourage adopting other play styles and increasing your skill level as a versatile contestant. They won’t be instantly available, as you’ll need to put in the work as the acclaimed multiplayer game evolves across Season 2.

It’s a welcome addition, and one I’ll be embracing as changing up your mindset is crucial to keep matches fresh. Sure, I’ve found myself leaning on the same loadout choices in the past. But greatness can come from trial and error. However, while these changes are awesome, it was the Season 2 battle pass that had me drooling. The Finals already has some of the slickest cosmetics around compared to other free shooting games, and they’re so good that Embark would kill it with official The Finals merch.

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There is an enormous offering of dripped-up threads to be earned. I kitted out my contestant with a CRT TV helmet, a pearlescent jacket, and much more. Again, Embark reiterates that the battle pass and store items will remain cosmetic-focused, keeping pay-to-win elements out of the equation.

Season 2’s refreshed vibe is immediate, as compressed 8-bit style keys reverberate through my speakers, and splashes of pastel colors light up the screen. This is all courtesy of CNS, an in-universe group of hackers looking to shape The Finals’ digital realm into their own synthwave paradise. There’s a far more sinister undertone here, as CNS fights back against the corporate shilling of the game show’s sponsors. The 90s cyber fantasy-inspired storytelling is superb, leaning on movies like Hackers and a Keanu Reeves double dose of Johnny Mnemonic and The Matrix. Although, the visual depiction of this is far from The Matrix’s desaturated world.

Embark Studios senior environmental artist Joakim Stigsson tells me Season 2’s aesthetic is very deliberate, avoiding the “gritty” route of other FPS games out there. The new map, SYS$HORIZON, already feels like a superb evolution of Embark’s design ethos. It’s all about calling back to the “origins of gaming”, according to game director Gustav Tilleby. Embark once again instills its glistening, sharp art direction, but this time with bursts of verticality. Anywhere can be a vantage point, and getting the high ground is more crucial than ever.

The Finals Season 2 preview: An image of The Finals Season 2 battle pass cosmetics.

A gunfight on a fire escape towering above the streets below hammers this home quickly, as other players reduce the stairwell into nothing more than digital fragments. That’s done with the might of some fresh cyber-tastic hardware for each of The Finals classes.

Gizmos such as the Dematerializer can delete pieces of the map temporarily right before my eyes. I found myself turning walls into new passages so that I could assault teams with a barrage of grenades, or deleting the floor to literally pull the rug from under my foes. There’s also another new device, the Gateway, a Light-exclusive gadget that creates portals for instant teleportation. It calls back to the sparks of greatness that Splitgate demonstrated, allowing me to plot paths for a devastating tactical advantage. It is so joyous dreaming up ways to deploy these new gadgets and looking at the environment as a techno playground.

Making the environment such an active part of the acclaimed multiplayer game is what made Season 1 so fresh, and it continues here tenfold. Although, I’m not just smashing down buildings for the awe-inspiring scale of it. The new Hacker play style these gadgets complement is all about pushing you creatively. Every nook and cranny of SYS$HORIZON is waiting to be reshuffled. The Data Reshaper lets me neutralize threats from canisters before they happen, turning them into random, non-lethal objects. Having those tables turned on me doesn’t make me infuriated, it encourages me to mess with my opponents with a neon-soaked grin on my face.

There’s action beyond the new The Finals map, though. We’ve seen Embark experiment with limited-time modes before, more recently with Solo Bank-It and the Smoking Guns event. Power Shift is a permanent addition in Season 2, showcasing Embark’s continued approach to veer away from what its competition is doing. You won’t find Team Deathmatch or anything like that here. Tilleby tells me Power Shift comes from listening to player feedback and ensuring it adheres to the “pillars and the direction” of the PS5 and Xbox hit.

Power Shift is the game’s first 5v5 mode and requires players to dominate a moving platform that obliterates anything it collides with. Buildings are basically non-existent to the platform, and it opens up every battle to some truly overwhelming scenarios. Overwhelming in the best way possible, of course. The longer you and your team hold the platform, the closer your chances of victory become. In Power Shift you can also switch up your classes on the fly beyond just weapons. Want to become a Light player? I did it, using the Evasive Dash and the immensely satisfying new 93R burst pistol – one of three new The Finals weapons to dominate with.

The Finals Season 2: An image of the new map SYS$Horizon in The Finals Season 2.

Power Shift is pure, unfiltered carnage. It’s a great omen for The Finals’ future in introducing expanded playlist options, signaling that Embark is confidently following its own beat of the drum. That’s what strongly resonates with me so far for Season 2. The sheer bravado and assured direction Embark is commanding here is extremely refreshing, cementing The Finals as more than just a novelty concept. I’ve already professed my beliefs in The Finals reigning as the first ‘true next-gen’ shooter, and Season 2 is a wholehearted reinforcement of that notion.

There are still plenty of surprises to come for one of the best PS5 games and best Xbox games around, as the Embark team notes that I should keep an eye out for more easter eggs surrounding the mysterious CNS. If that means there’s more glorious chaos like what I’ve experienced so far on the way, then Embark is genuinely unparalleled in the FPS space right now. We might be trying to reach the final in Season 2, but this game is far from over.