James: I have played more Fortnite than any other game this year, more than any other multiplayer game in my life, and I’ve yet to win more than three solo games. That’s an endorsement, not a cry for help. While the building system is difficult to learn (so was WASD, once), stumbling into basic competence is made palatable by a playful mixture of weapons, tools and vehicles. I regularly see duos propel themselves hundreds of feet into the sky on the back of an ATV, sniping players in an accidental homage to the best bits of Halo and Tribes. I nabbed a second place spot by consuming stones that turned me invisible, stalking players in their hideyholes before surprising them with a shotgun hello. And yeah, I’ve won a few infamous build battles. With so much going on, Fortnite might seem inscrutible. Helping get you over that hump is the fact that winning is rarely the reward. As long as I improve my building or pull off a wacky play with the grappling hook, deployable transdimensional rift, portable fortress, balloon, jetpack, shockwave grenade, or whatever volatile gadget Epic introduced that week, I’m probably having a good time.
And yet, so much of discussion around Fortnite orbits its face. Strip away the dances, the skins, the streamers, the brash teens, and what’s left is just a creative, surprising, hilarious, and totally unique shooter. It is a near-perfect PC game. And it’s free. Wes: I’m terrible at Fortnite, but that hasn’t stopped me from having fun with it. The building system and bright world bring me back to playing with toys as a kid—it’s the rare multiplayer game where the more imaginative and creative you are, the better. Mostly, though, I’ve enjoyed watching Fortnite evolve. So far, at least, Epic has barely cared about catering to the competitive scene, while the rest of the world is desperate to launch the next big esport. Think about how amazing that is: The biggest game in the world is being designed with a cavalier spaghetti on the wall mentality. Jarred: I rarely make it into the final ten when I play, but the limited-time modes are a great diversion. They’re chaotic and sometimes don’t work, but the 50v50 fort battles were amazing. I probably caused more harm than good, but my team won about half the time. Law of averages is on my side in that sort of competition.
It is a nearperfect PC game. And it’s free