There’s a popular joke in the Super Smash Bros. community where players imagine taking Super Smash Bros. Ultimate back to the year 1997 and showing it to a gamer to get their reaction to its wild roster. I imagine doing the same with Fortnite these days. The battle royale game is entirely different than what it looked like in 2017. The differences between the two, while much more expansive than Super Smash Bros., are ironically what makes Fortnite stay so relevant, and you can once again see that in its latest season.
When someone talks about a game straying too far away from what made it originally great, it’s usually in a negative context. You’ll often hear complaints like “this isn’t why I fell in love with this series” leveled against long-running franchises like Final Fantasy that are constantly reshaping themselves. We’ve seen it with God of War, the Mario Party series, and it’s a serious point of contention with the Sonic the Hedgehog fanbase. However, Fortnite has taken what many would see as a mistake and made it into one of the main draws of the battle royale.
The only constant is change
Fortnite‘s latest season takes the shooter even farther away from its initial “battle royale with building” gimmick. Instead of just existing as a lovechild between PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Minecraft, the current version of the game looks more like an amalgamation of Jet Set Radio, Sunset Overdrive, Unreal Tournament, and other games.
Last year saw Fortnite get rid of its building entirely for a moment to introduce a Zero-Build mode. That move convinced more players to give it a try and was so popular that it soon became a permanent playlist. After that, more movement options were introduced, including a slide, mantling, and sprint. In the latest season, the the momentum-based gameplay has expanded even more with rail grinding and a radical katana called the Kinetic Blade to mix things up even more. Being able to do all of that with the new Resident Evil 4 Leon Kennedy skin is just perfect.
In my time playing through this new update, I’ve been completely infatuated with all the new ways I can mix up movement options to disorient opponents, escape bad situations, and just pull off some all-around cool stuff. Recently, I grinded through a city, jumped off a rail, used my Kinetic Blade to air dash to the top of a building, quickly slid to the ground using that momentum, and instantly killed a player with the new pump shotgun. Moments like that happen on the regular throughout the game now.
Out of left field feels right
Then there’s Augments, which return from Season 4 Chapter 1. These are level-up bonus abilities that you gain over time while playing, sort of like unlocking hero abilities. Some of these add even more to my movement arsenal, like a teleporting air dash. All this comes together to make Fortnite into the best “Smoovement Shooter” I’ve ever played.
All of these additions are things I never would have imagined would come to Fortnite years ago. In fact, I remember being skeptical of Zero-Build initially, due to it doing away with the very mechanic that made the game so unique. Now, it’s the only mode I’m ever playing in the battle royale.
Day by day, Fortnite is growing and changing in ways that keep it the most relevant battle royale in the genre and one of the most talked-about video games, period. From its two battle royale playlists to its competitive modes and casual metaverse-like playgrounds, there’s always something new to look forward to with this title.
At this point, I won’t be surprised when the game adopts a Street Fighter-like fighting game mode and somehow blows us all away yet again with something completely left field.