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Fortnite Reload Is An Apology To Sweaty Streamers -- And It's Amazing

Fortnite finally has an OG-style version of its battle royale that's worth keeping around.


Fortnite Reload--a new version of battle royale in the vein of Call of Duty: Warzone's Resurgence mode--came out of nowhere this past weekend, a surprising shot in the arm to a game that's needed one badly after the launch of the vehicle-oriented summer season fell flat for a lot of players--in particular with folks who prefer build mode. That included many prominent streamers, who struggled to adapt to all the new changes in Chapter 5 Season 3 that were at odds with normal build-mode playstyles.

Reload feels like Epic's constructed-as-quickly-as-possible response to the poor season launch. And while I'd love to be annoyed that it seemingly hacked something together so quickly to appease streamers, Fortnite Reload is so much fun, and such a dramatic change of pace from Fortnite norms, that I'm pretty sure I'm in love. Epic got this one right.

Jack Sparrow pays Tilted Towers a visit in Fortnite Reload.
Jack Sparrow pays Tilted Towers a visit in Fortnite Reload.

The reason why Fortnite Reload works is because the idea is a good one that Epic had probably been pondering for a while. Call of Duty Warzone's Resurgence was created as a sort of bridge between standard Call of Duty deathmatch and the battle royale of Warzone, allowing players to automatically respawn after they die, so long as they have living teammates. It was a great hybrid between the modes of Call of Duty, the best of both worlds.

Fortnite's version of this is fairly simple. It's squads only, with a maximum of 40 players, has a loot pool of weapons and items from Chapters 1-4, and takes place on a compressed version of the Fortnite OG map from last November, populated with familiar spots like Tilted Towers and without much wilderness in between the towns. With the smaller map, the fighting tends to be hot from the second you hit the ground, but the stakes for these fights are lower--as long as one of your teammates survives for 30 seconds after you die, you'll automatically respawn in the air with a gray assault rifle to drop in for more. Late in the match, though, respawns will be disabled and you'll have to fight the endgame more carefully.

The result is the fastest-paced and sweatiest version of Fortnite's battle royale ever. If you land at Tilted Towers at the center of the map, you will be fighting non-stop from the moment you drop until the moment your time in this match ends. And despite the lack of cars or Nitro Fists, there's plenty of flying through the air going on in Reload thanks to the OG versions of shockwave grenades and crash pads, which are a lot more powerful and send you flying much further than the modern versions do.

The respawn mechanic, too, fuels the action in a lot of interesting ways. You'll frequently have enemies shooting at you from all directions, and freshly respawned folks have a habit of dropping behind you while you fight their friends. Keeping your head on a swivel is a must. But while these fights are usually all the way out of control, the respawns allow you to play in a looser and freer way, since the stakes for any random fight are significantly lower. Accidentally flinging yourself into the middle of a full enemy squad doesn't have the same consequences in Reload as it does in BR, so it's safer to try daring moves that will probably get you killed, at least until the respawns are turned off for the endgame.

But my favorite little quirk in Fortnite Reload is how personal the fights can become when you're trading kills with the same group of enemies for ten straight minutes. You just can't seem to finish them off, and they can't quite get you either, and you end up locked in a seemingly permanent struggle until another team wanders in and upsets the balance. And when you're finally able to finish off these mortal foes, the satisfaction is immense--and when you lose to them, it's so much more painful.

I've always been wary of the idea of Epic adding new, permanent battle royale modes, but Reload hits a unique sweet spot because it's so sweaty and intense, much more so than a normal round of battle royale. To me, it fills a void: This is Fortnite's version of deathmatch, but it preserves enough of the core Fortnite battle royale experience that it's still a lot more intellectually engaging than just shooting people in a hallway over and over.

And while I have no particular affection for the Chapter 1 map or the old guns since I didn't start playing until the end of Chapter 2, I do like that Reload has a completely different map and completely different pool of weapons than battle royale--and they do sprinkle in enough more recent weapons, like the Stinger SMG or the Hammer Assault Rifle, to keep things from being too antiquated. It's a meaningful change of pace from the normal battle royale mode in every way.

And while some folks don't like that Reload is only played in squads, I actually think it's perfect this way for now. With the map full of four-player teams, it keeps things crowded and frantic from beginning to end, because it's not easy to quickly wipe a full squad when there's a 30-second respawn timer. And it's a very fill-friendly mode, even without comms, because of how deathmatch-y it is--since Reload moves so quickly, it's more about the fighting than the winning. Though with how intense these matches are, the wins are definitely sweeter in Reload than in battle royale. Even just wiping a team is comically satisfying, inspiring an enthusiastically crude shriek from me every single time.

So, yeah, I love Fortnite Reload, and I wasn't even one of those folks who hated Chapter 5 Season 3--I've been a big fan of this season's whole car thing, in fact. But Reload is so distinct from Fortnite's battle royale, with its OG map and completely separate loot pool, that there's room in my heart for them both, and I look forward to seeing what new wrinkles Epic adds to it over time.

Phil Owen on Google+

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