Fortnite Battle Royale has become a great, arcadey alternative to PUBG's plodding pace

I love PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, but playing it can feel like banging my head against an armoured UAZ (without a level three helmet). I can play a two-hour session and—if I avoid dropping into populated areas—see perhaps three or four intense firefights. Or I might play for half an hour and come across one enemy, before falling to a headshot from a sniper that I never saw. Sometimes I’m just not in the mood for something that slow. And that’s where Fortnite Battle Royale shines.

Some elements of PUBG have been transplanted almost unaltered into Fortnite: the ever-shrinking battle zone, the loot drops, the gliders that ease you from the sky to the ground. But Epic Games has built in some key differences, and those changes make encounters with enemies more frequent and matches faster. More shots fired means more chances of getting kills—and the adrenaline rush that goes with them. So while a chicken dinner is arguably tastier than a victory royale (because getting one is harder work), I find Fortnite’s 100-man battles more consistently fun.

You can’t lie down in Fortnite, so if you’re hiding it’s normally going to be in a big, obvious building that will immediately draw fire.

The first major change Fortnite makes is with its map, which is far smaller than PUBG’s. Packing 100 players into a tighter space automatically leads to more conflict. The map is small enough that you can get wherever you want when you dive off the Battle Bus, the equivalent of PUBG’s starter plane. So even in a distant corner of the map there’s always another player just over the next hill. I enjoy that constant tension—if I pick a less common drop spot in PUBG I can relax and loot at will. Fortnite doesn’t allow that luxury, and so my fingers grip the mouse a little tighter.

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Likewise, the game’s looting systems is designed to make you bump into other players more often. In PUBG you scrape the map for scopes, foregrips, weapon stocks, and silencers. Plus, that powerful Mini 14 or an elusive 8x scope could be hidden behind any door in any building, so you'd better check every nook. Fortnite simplifies that: you won’t find weapon attachments, and most of the good stuff is housed in chests that glow and emit noise. I never feel like I have a reason to hang around after I’ve cleared a building—camping is possible in buildings, but the race for loot feels fiercer.

That's partly because high-tier loot is more important in Fortnite. I know getting geared up in PUBG is vital too, but the differences between the AK, the M4, the SCAR and M16 are not game-breakers, whereas in Fortnite a gold SCAR and a blue assault rifle are night and day. Higher-tiered weapons give you a huge advantage, and can save you even if an enemy has a drop on you (like in the clip below). I always feel like I need more kills and the loot that comes with them to give me a chance in the late game, so I’m more aggressive than I’d ever be in PUBG. I take chances that perhaps I shouldn’t, but that puts me in situations in which I can light up the killfeed and bask in glory.

All these changes make Fortnite more of a bloodbath. By the time the first circle has closed there might be 30 or 25 players left alive. And the numbers don’t stop thinning out. A single game can be as quick as 20 minutes. In PUBG, you can go for double that length of time. Because you’re investing less time in Fortnite you feel like you have less to lose, so you’re more willing to go weapons free. It’s quite liberating knowing that you might as well go for that impossible sprint-and-spraydown on the off chance that it works. If you pull it off then you’ll be on a high (and pocket a great gameplay clip), and if goes wrong you’ll have another chance in five minutes’ time.

If you do pull off those big plays and make it to Fortnite’s endgame, you’re going to have more fun than in PUBG. Because you can lie prone in PUBG, battles between the final few players sometimes descend into a pair of belly-on-the-ground snakes squirming through the tall grass until one gets bored and pops their head up, or three players in ghillie suits cosying up to trees to try and stay hidden the longest. You can’t lie down in Fortnite, so if you’re hiding it’s normally going to be in a big, obvious building that will immediately draw fire. And even if you do get a good hiding spot, the bright colour palette makes it easier for enemies to pick you out. Again, this encourages aggression. 

Thankfully, Epic Games recognises that it’s this arcade feel that sets Fortnite apart, as shown by recent updates. Earlier this month it added jump pads, which send you into the sky and let you drop into an enemy base. When players discovered an exploit that allowed them to surf teammates’ rockets to get closer to enemies, Epic left it in the game. Both hand the advantage to the aggressor, and make camping less viable. It’s surely a signal of what’s to come, and shows that Epic knows there’s an appetite for a faster, more frantic battle royale game. If you like PUBG but yearn for something with a quicker pace, then it’s time to buy a free ticket for the Battle Bus.

Samuel Horti

Samuel Horti is a long-time freelance writer for PC Gamer based in the UK, who loves RPGs and making long lists of games he'll never have time to play.