As a new Unreal Engine 5 FPS developed for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series consoles and PC, The Finals released quite suddenly in late 2023. After a smattering of previews and an open beta, the complete game stealth-launched to the public in free-to-play form – and it’s surprisingly great, with an emphasis on physicalised destruction that makes sense given that developers Embark Studios are crewed by a cadre of former DICE developers. Alex already looked at the PC release, so now it’s time to see how the console versions fare by comparison.
The game’s central premise certainly survives the transition to PS5 and Series X/S unscathed. With buildings crumbling piece by piece, C4 detonations blowing out chunks of the terrain and RPG-7s blasting through floors and ceilings, the pristine and beautifully realised levels quickly become cauldrons of destruction, a chaotic war zone that rewards quick and creative thinking as much as twitchy flick shots. Add on realistic spreading fires and the ability to add new partitions with a goo gun, and there are plenty of ways to manipulate the space based on your chosen class and achieve your objectives against rival teams.
Impressively, ray tracing tech is included in all three console versions, with an RTXGI technique that uses probes to provide global illumination, helping create more realistic ambient lighting. As you’d expect, light from a small window bounces to light and colour the corners of a room; blast a hole in the wall and the space becomes brighter. The effect runs with fewer rays and at a slower update rate than the lowest setting selectable on PC, but it adds a lot to the presentation even if you’re sometimes left waiting for 10 to 20 seconds for changes to be fully reflected in the environment.
With all of that in mind, how do the PS5, Series X and S compare? All consoles target 60fps, which is great news, and there’s no quality/performance mode toggle as is the trend these days. With that in mind then, it’s the Series S that is the expected worst case scenario given its raw performance disadvantage versus the more powerful PS5 and Series X – so how does it compare in terms of both settings and resultant performance?
All three consoles run with dynamic resolution scaling, dropping resolution as GPU load increases, but the first cutback on Series S is that it operates at a lower resolution range – 720p to 1512p according to my measurements, versus 1440p to 4K on the more powerful machines. That makes for a blurrier, less defined image on the smaller console.
Settings are also reduced, with reduced foliage density, worse texture filtering and effects like lens flares are removed versus the PS5 and Series X versions, which appear identical to one another.
Moving on, screen-space reflections and cube map fallbacks are used across all three machines, with no RT option – this doesn’t even exist on PC. That means all of the usual drawbacks with regards to disocclusion artefacts apply. Still, as far as Series S is concerned, SSR quality is matched to Series X at least. Series S also exhibits lower-quality shadows with more visible noise and break-up on movement and an obvious filtering line as you approach distant shadows. Draw distances on geometry are reined in on Series S too, so expect more pop-in overall on the 4TF machine during any quick sprints across the map.
Despite the cuts to resolution cutbacks, foliage detail, shadow quality and geometry draw distances, Series S still looks and plays well – but how’s performance? Impressively, Embark’s optimisations mean an almost perfect locked 60fps even in peak action with full destruction in tow. There are ways to trigger a frame-time drop, but you really have to work at it.
For example, you might take to a high vantage point above a large and complex area, look at the sky to raise the resolution to that 1512p maximum and then quickly look down. This dramatic shift in GPU load can cause a drop to the 50s with screen tearing. I’ve not seen any similar drops in real-world play, though it is possible they exist. Generally though, the DRS system does well to avoid any noticeable lurches in frame-rate on Series S.
Next along is of course Series X, which puts in an even more consistent 60fps reading – I only spotted extremely minor drops in the Vegas and Seoul stages, with alpha effects triggering a brief flash of tearing up and down the entire screen with a corresponding drop into the 50s. Certain moments with physics-based destruction cue a similar-sized drop, but nothing egregious at all. Honestly, it’s easy to show a collection of all the worst moments from hours and hours of play, but the truth is the vast majority of my time with Series X was met with a flat 60fps line. Great news, and again, all credit to Embark Studios for optimising realistically to the console’s abilities.
Last is the PlayStation 5 version which, much like Series X, has no problem hitting 60fps consistently. However, it must be said that when drops do occur, they seem to happen for longer. This could just be luck of the draw, or it could be a genuine issue – but without the ability to run the same content at the same time, it’s hard to say for certain. Based on a five hour sample of gameplay, I noticed heavy destruction physics and alpha effects trigger drops into the 50s on PS5, and they don’t resolve back to 60fps as quickly as on Series X. Plus, added to that we get sustained bouts of tearing, up and down the frame. Still, like Series X, a perfect 60fps readout is very much still the expectation across the run of play.
If there is a genuine performance issue here on either platform, further optimisations should be possible to fix it given the relatively minor nature of the frame-time drops I’ve experienced so far.
That’s the state of The Finals as it stands right now. As a free-to-play game, it genuinely surprised me with the robustness of its mechanics and how successfully it commits to its physics destruction twist. The concept works brilliantly.
The only complaint I have is the default look of your characters, which goes back to its F2P design. Embark Studios needs to make money somehow from this project, and hence cosmetic changes must be paid for in real life currency. As a result, you’re stuck with a rather bland default costume until you pay up. I think that’s a fair trade, given that weapons and skills are unlockable without spending a penny. The mechanics are unaffected – and the pure joy of playing The Finals comes for free.
In assessing PS5, Series X and S versions today, it’s a real pleasure to say no console loses out on 60fps gameplay. You get the destruction physics and RT global illumination on each machine, and sparing some visual cutbacks on Series S – in resolution, foliage, and shadows – they each offer a superb way to play the game. If you missed its original stealth release, I’d highly recommend giving it a go.