Fortnite: Battle Royale Review

FORTNIGHT: BATTLE ROYALE (Epic Games/People Can Fly) One, PS4, Steam

Epic Games and People Can Fly (AKA Epic’s Polish studio) brought us Bulletstorm, the Gears of War Series, and way back in 1998 the very first Unreal game. Simply put, they have a good record for making great games. If all goes well, Fortnite will continue this trend. The main mode of Fortnite is still in beta or early access or whatever, but its developers surprised the gaming world by releasing the Battle Royale mode for free for everyone to enjoy. We’ll eventually get to the Save the World main mode of Fortnite for a full review, but for now let’s focus on this free PVP mode.

Battle Royale is a direct ripoff of the massively popular PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Maybe that’s a bit harsh. Loving tribute? After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Whether ripoff or tribute, it’s still pretty damn great. The PUBG formula is simple and easy to learn. 100 unarmed players airdrop onto a large island. They search for weapons and other gear and fight one another to be the last person standing. The mechanic for dealing with a quickly dwindling player count is genius. Every few minutes the field of play contracts. As a circle of pain closes in, players race to a smaller part of the island or risk environmental death.

It’s a style of gameplay that lends itself to long stretches of tense exploration peppered with hectic firefights. There’s no music to be heard, only the terrifying sound of gunshots in the distance. Running into a well-armed sharpshooter seconds after landing is absolutely infuriating, but it’s super quick and effortless to hop into another game in just a few minutes. It’s a style of play that’s all about tension. It feels so good to be one of the last few survivors and so humiliating when dropped early on.

There is one element that Battle Royale, and Fortnite in general, possesses that Battlegrounds completely lacks. Whimsy. Where PUBG is all about gritty realism, F:BR feels much more light-hearted and sometimes just plain silly. Characters are cartoonish, looking more like action figures that real soldiers. Players begin each round by parachuting out of a party van kept afloat by a massive balloon rather than a military transport plane. Holding down on the D-pad causes characters to break out their best dance moves. This makes the game less a grim battle for survival and more an enjoyable romp. Thankfully, it’s a romp that’s evolving very quickly too. Over a matter of weeks, it’s gone from solely 1 versus 99 gameplay to include both duos and four-person squads. Airdrops including very powerful weapons (another feature of PUBG) have recently been added as well. It’s promising to think about the developers’ excitement for the property and just where this title may go in the future.

I suppose there’s one other difference, it’s just one that isn’t utilized all that often in this PVP mode. Fortnite has a robust building system that’s carried over into Battle Royale. It can be used to craft mighty fortresses that keep other players at bay and can even damage them with traps if they dare get too close. It’ll be interesting to see how this influences wi nning strategies in the later stages of the game’s lifespan. For now, most players are way more interested in looting as many rare weapons as possible than erecting strong defenses.

Is Battle Royale’s map as big as Battlegrounds’? No. Does it have vehicles and massive amounts of gear? No. Is it as robust an experience as PUBG? Probably not. Is it a helluva lot of fun and totally free? Hell yeah!