If envy is truly a sin, consider me a sinner, because I really want that chicken dinner. As a PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch player who refuses to shell out for a gaming PC, I’ve suffered for months now watching hours of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds footage. Seeing the incredible feats performed in the battle royale game gave me the urge to go prone in a bathtub and shotgun any unsuspecting fools in the face, or murder multiple people in a car going at high speed (not in real life but in a videogame, mind you). So with the announcement that Epic Games was bringing a free-to-play battle royale mode for consoles via Fortnite, I was quite intrigued.
I threw myself into the game without knowing what exactly Fortnite was or how to control it. Before I knew it, I was already in a familiar waiting area surrounded by other players, wielding a mighty pickaxe. The cartoony art style felt reminiscent of something more generic like Battlefield Heroes rather than the distinctive look of Team Fortress 2—while not as plain-looking as Battlegrounds, the visuals left a little to be desired. Still, I was sure that all of my time watching others play PUBG would have been enough of an education to prepare me for my drop onto Fortnite’s own island of murdering.
After jumping off a silly-looking flying bus, I glided (not parachuted, you see) to a fast food joint called the Greasy Grove. I observed the wave of humanity around me, aspiring murderers all flying to the same destination. I touched down next to the restaurant, and after turning a corner, I spotted another player. I ran to them with my pickaxe in hand, but little did I know that this person had already found a gun, killing me less than a minute into my first game.
Needless to say, this moment felt like an authentic Battlegrounds experience.
My longevity extended once I joined three friends of mine to form a full squad. From there, we commenced with our seemingly never-ending quest for a Fortnite chicken dinner (or, as a friend of mine refashioned it, a “gas station burrito”). Finally, I had the time to explore the game’s mechanics, specifically those unique to Fortnite.
To my dismay, there was no way to go prone, nor were there any vehicles. In my attempts to crouch in-game, what I accidentally ended up doing was bringing up the game’s fort-building feature. Once I got over the fact that running around in a battle royale game with a pencil and paper looks utterly ridiculous, I eventually learned the value of these abilities. Being able to destroy structures, walls and floors with a pickaxe in a Minecraft-esque fashion made it so I could change the environment to my advantage, and building walls, ramps and stairs provided for ample opportunities for traversing the space.
But what I learned about Fortnite Battle Royale, and Battlegrounds by proxy, is how playing the videogame entirely focuses on situational awareness, more than any other game I’ve played. Gunplay isn’t as clean as it is in other traditional shooters—whether this is due to the physics of Fortnite or a deliberate decision I do not know, but either way it made every interaction a massive challenge. One could go throughout multiple games without landing a single shot on an opposing player. Calling out opposing players and yelling bearings on the mic was truly an exhilarating experience. Some games were short and saw little action, others were extended by a litany of violent encounters. But at all times, there was a lot of running, from the “storm” of the closing circle, and from when bullets flew at me from unknown directions.
Ultimately, being successful in a game felt like a luck of the draw, and not particularly in a bad way. And this isn’t just about the loot that I encountered, with glowing chests and weapons of different colors and strengths to find. Where I dropped at the very beginning of each game was essential, and where the circle ended up closing into determined so much.
In my squad’s most successful game, we landed in Pleasant Park, and after a kerfuffle with two other squads who landed there as well, the four of us found ourselves in control of the area. We found that the circle was closing in on Pleasant Park, meaning we had the time to set up our defenses and rest a little easier. But a subsequent encounter proved difficult, and while I was able to drop another player, I and another squadmate both fell. Still, getting just one kill as an essential contribution to the squad felt like victory enough.
Luckily, our MVP cleared those opponents off, saving one of our downed teammates. By the time the circle closed to an absurdly small diameter and about ten players were left, our squad made a final stand, dying at around fourth and fifth place. Out of curiosity, we watched the remainder of the match. Two players running away from the closing circle found themselves running in the same direction, with one finally noticing the other and shotgunning the other to death. Surprisingly, the match ended with an anti-climax, with the second-to-last player falling victim to the storm. Then, silence. There was no text on-screen saying “Winner Winner Gas Station Burrito.” We watched the victorious player stand still, until the character dropped dead and was teleported away. Well, I guess Epic Games didn’t make an ending yet. This is, after all, a full free-to-play game within an early access game. While this is a sign of the game’s early state, it inadvertently served as a metaphor for the futility and meaningless of life: We will all die one day.
Chris Compendio is an editorial intern for Paste and aspiring funny person. Support the brand by following him @Compenderizer on Twitter.