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

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