Not only did we play it and have an incredible time at E3, we learned lots of details about how this one will take full advantage of the Xbox One X's horsepower.
Built over more than a fortnight
Fortnite comes from Polish developer People Can Fly (which also developed Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition) and Epic Games. It was first announced a whopping six years ago, quite an extended development cycle.
The developer explained to us that Epic allowed it the practically unprecedented freedom to iterate and go back and incorporate new ideas throughout development, letting the company create just the game they wanted rather than be constrained by a fixed deadline. At long last, the game is nearly here and Epic's trust looks to have paid off.
Fortnite is an action-building game for up to four players. The gameplay combines Epic-style third-person shooting along with exploration and fast and intuitive building. Players build temporary and permanent bases strategically and are then forced to repair and change them during the heat of battle. You'll need to switch between combat and building on the fly, which I found surprisingly easy.
Becoming the commander
Fortnite begins with a mood-setting cinematic in which we learn that 98 percent of the world's population has suddenly vanished. Monsters and strange storms have also overrun the world, threatening the remaining population.
The view then shifts to our silent protagonist's perspective. The hero detects a distress call from a remote science outpost (helpfully dubbed Homebase) and answers the call. There, we meet a spunky floating robot with a female voice called Ray. She runs the commander support crew at the base, and their mission is to stop the earth-shattering storm from happening. Since that didn't work out and the previous commander was lost, she now needs the player to take over as commander of the base.
Things kick into gear when a survivor named Ramirez radios the base for help. The view shifts to third-person and we take over as Ramirez, Fortnite's first playable hero. She is trapped in a mine and beset by Husks, zombie-like creatures.
Fighting, scavenging, and building
Playing as Ramirez, we blast the Husks with her semi-auto handgun and set about looking for means of escape. She reaches a passage blocked by mining equipment, providing us with a chance to break out the pickaxe. At any time, players can hold the Y button to equip a pickaxe and use it to destroy breakable objects like machinery, cars, and trees. Everything drops crafting materials, not unlike Minecraft. Hitting Y again switches back to your current weapon.
Upon emerging from the mine, Ramirez finds herself trapped in a pit. To get out, she'll have to build some stairs.
Building in Fortnite is surprisingly intuitive. Just hit the B button to switch to build mode, then hit Y until the desired object is selected from the menu at the bottom-right corner of the screen. Press Right Trigger again to build the stairs and escape from the pit. Later on, you'll be building doors traps and even mazes to keep monsters at bay. Structures can also be customized with better materials like stone and metal to increase their strength.
Eventually, Ramirez reaches a fort beset by monsters and is forced to rescue the survivors inside. Fortnite's combat isn't limited to third-person shooting (although the shooting feels great), as players can also find and build melee weapons like swords as well. After fighting off the Husks with the guns and swords we scavenged, Ramirez builds some spike traps to damage and slow down any more monsters that dare to enter the base.
Inside the base, we discover a rocket equipped to launch a satellite. It runs on a radiant fuel called BluGlo, which we retrieve from around the room. After initiating the launch sequence, a new horde of monsters attacks the base – this one led by a hulking elite enemy that is blue, has glowing eyes and mouth, and one gigantic arm. To stop it, we call in an airstrike by pressing left on the D-Pad and the Right Trigger.
Having cleared the enemies and protected the base until the launch timer counted down, the rocket finally sends our satellite into space. This concludes the tutorial mission, after which point we can build our home base and start taking on new missions.
Fortnite currently features a total of four home bases to build over time. Players complete dozens of missions at each base, eventually moving on to the next base once the story has progressed. You can still return to old bases to complete more missions or help out other players.
Some of the mission types players will encounter:
- Exploration — One of the ways players will unlock new missions is by exploring procedurally generated zones around their bases. These take place in numerous environments like cities, industrial areas, grasslands, forests, and suburbs.
- Fight the storm — This exciting mission sends players into the heart of the mysterious storm plaguing the area. You'll move through an abandoned train for protection, eventually reaching the calm in the center of the storm. From there, the team must place an atmospheric laser and build around it to defend it.
- Search for survivors — Head out and find survivors.
- Building — Build radar towers to detect new survivor areas.
- Defense — Protect your base from waves of monsters.
A big part of Fortnite is collecting an array of heroes and leveling them up. When you go out into a multiplayer mission, you'll want a balanced team. Not only does each hero class play a valuable role in combat, but they can all build different structures as well.
Heroes come in four basic classes:
- Constructors — These hefty characters can build the most things, including forts, and perform crowd control during battle.
- Soldiers — Soldiers wield the largest variety of weapons, including big guns and grenades. (Ramirez, the first playable hero, is a soldier.)
- Outlanders — These small and thin characters excel at harvesting, wielding unique tools, and melee combat.
- Ninjas — Tall and thin, this class moves quickly and uses swords and throwing stars.
Heroes of every class come in multiple genders, ethnicities, and rarities. The more legendary the hero, the more distinctive their appearance.
Xbox One and Xbox One X performance
Fortnite will run at 30 frames per second (FPS) on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. But the game is really going to shine on Xbox One X when Microsoft's new console arrives later this year.
When playing on Xbox One X, Fortnite will run the equivalent of the PC version on all Epic (maximum) graphical settings. The resolution will be 4K and dynamic (to maintain frame rate). The view distance and particle effects will be boosted, shadows enhanced post-processing, and HDR enabled as well.
As for Vsync, it can be toggled on or off on consoles but will be on by default with Xbox One X. Players on 1080p displays will still reap the benefits of these enhancements, because the 4K image gets supersampled with full effects down to 1080p.
Also, the game will have dedicated servers for multiplayer on all platforms.
Only a Fortnite away
Fortnite is due to launch on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on July 25. It will start out as a paid early access title. Eventually, the game will shift to a free-to-play structure, much as Epic's Paragon did. But early adopters will, of course, retain all the items and bonuses they receive from the initial purchase, not to mention the progress they make along the way.
The PC version of Fortnite won't be coming to Steam. Instead, Epic will sell it exclusively through its Epic Games Launcher, the same service used to distribute Paragon and other recent Epic titles. Considering that Activision plans to sell Destiny 2 for PC only through Battle.net, and EA already limits some of its titles to its Origin service, it seems like shying away from Steam is becoming a trend among big publishers – for better or worse.
Xbox One players can preorder Fortnite via a variety of Founder's Packs. The Standard Founder's Pack costs $39.99 and includes seven loot packs. For $59.99 you can get the Deluxe Founder's Pack, the Super Deluxe costs $89.99, and the Limited Edition one goes for $149.99 – each with more exclusive items and boosts.
Fortnite was easily one of the best games I played at E3 and definitely one that Xbox One and future Xbox One X owners should look forward to!
- Preorder the Standard Founder's Pack
- Preorder the Deluxe Founder's Pack
- Preorder the Super Deluxe Founder's Pack
- Preorder the Limited Edition Founder's Pack
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