Fortnite makes it hard to play a silent assassin, but we tried anyway

In this series, I play Fortnite Battle Royale using a set, restricted playstyle that gives me just enough tools to have a reasonable shot at a win (providing my terrible aim holds up). I’ll play 10 rounds following with each ruleset, hopefully bagging a few kills and learning more about the game on each outing. 

The rules: I’m an assassin. Naturally, I can only use silenced weapons, which limits me to the silenced pistol and the suppressed SMG. I’m only allowed to shoot another player once I get within (roughly) 20 metres of them, the idea being that I follow them from the shadows and pounce when they least expect it. Let’s see how it goes. 

It’s a rocky start. I don’t spot a single silenced weapon for my first five rounds. In fifth-game desperation, I chance my arm at the loot-packed city of Titled Towers, and die weaponless within 30 seconds, cowering in a corner. I even check the latest game update to make sure Epic hasn’t removed silenced weapons temporarily. Nope. It’s just bad luck. But that quickly changes, because for the next five games I’m swimming in suppressed SMGs. The gun water is warm. 

I emerge from behind a rock, aiming my gun directly at his back. He’s completely distracted. There’s no way I can mess this up.

I pick one up early in the next round, and spot an enemy kicking up dust near Junk Junction. Tracking players from afar is relatively easy in Fortnite, and this playstyle is a good way to learn how to do it. Unlike in PUBG, you have no option to freely look around you, so players tend to focus on what’s ahead of them, ignoring their rears. If you’re following someone, you’re generally safe as long as you keep out of earshot. Still, I’m constantly checking sightlines, making sure that if he turns around I can duck behind some natural cover. It’s surprising how far you can go in round without firing a bullet if you exercise restraint and think about how to use the contours of the map to your advantage.

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I stay on his trail, traipsing up and down the mountains, and before I know it we’re in the last five. Then four. Then three, and he still hasn’t stopped running, or even turned around. He finally slows down, cresting the hill ahead before revving up his minigun at the remaining enemy, feet rooted to the spot. Now’s my chance.

I emerge from behind a rock, aiming my gun directly at his back. He’s completely distracted. There’s no way I can mess this up. 

I mess it up. I want to line up a headshot, but the image of him spinning around and ripping me to shreds flashes across my mind. I panic, and hammer on my mouse, the pressure locking my wrist in place. In total, I fire 15 bullets. They fire one.

Those nerves were something I wasn’t expecting, but they cropped up throughout my ten rounds. Because there’s so much downtime in this playstyle, every fight becomes feels more important, and your lack of firepower means that a few misplaced shots will kill you.

Still, at least I know that I have a shot at a win. Game seven is a washout, but games eight, nine, and ten are much better. In eight, I finally land a kill. I’m blindsided by another sneaky player, but perhaps my aim is contagious, because they whiff more shots than I can count. I build enough walls to confuse them and manage to pop a crucial headshot, finishing them with the very last bullet of my silenced pistol’s magazine. Phew.

On a high, I tip-toe into Tomato Town, tracking someone who I see jump from their nearby base to get to the next circle. I follow them into the underpass to the south, crouch behind a car, and wait for them to walk into my crosshair. They oblige. This time my aim holds up, and they hit the ground before they even know where the shots are coming from. It’s one of the beauties of Fortnite’s suppressed weapons: if you catch your enemy off guard they won’t know where to place cover to block your shots, so you have more time than normal to finish them off. Plus, you’re less likely to draw attention from other players nearby, giving you some time to compose yourself before the next engagement.

Now to plot my ambush. I wait, my gun trained on the door in front of me, which leads to a set of stairs that takes you to the hilltops above. Explosions boom overhead, the number of players ticking down until it’s just me and one other. I’m not planning on moving. They have to come to me. 

As they sprint into view I pummel them with my pistol, ripping off chunks of health. They juke behind a wall and jump out the other side, minigun blaring. In the end, I get greedy. I know my pistol can’t outshoot a gun like theirs, but I also know they’re low on health (21HP, I later found out, a mere one shot from death), so rather than playing smart and peeking from behind a wall, I meet them head on. Their hand is simply steadier than mine. I die. Again.

Game nine is another close one, and I net a kill to make it to the final two, losing to a rocket launcher from the high ground. That’ll happen a lot if you try to play silenced. Once an enemy knows where you are, you’re toast, especially if they’re looking down on you. Try to use natural high ground wherever possible, because building a base attracts attention, and you’re not going to win in a shootout.

And then it’s game 10. My last chance. I drop in Anarchy Acres and see an enemy sail overhead to the north, landing on a rooftop. I find an SMG and creep towards the house, waiting behind a bush next to the porch while they crash around inside, oblivious. I don’t move a muscle. I hear them approach the front door and as they swing it open I let fly, downing them before they can get a shot off.

I head south, keeping to the edge of the circle and watching the numbers thin out, ending up on the edge of Titled Towers. As I rush to make the next circle, I see a bush casually hopping down the road. Another easy kill.

Suddenly, I’m in the last five again, parked behind somebody’s towering base. They have no idea I’m there, and when it comes down to the final three we lose the circle. We’ll both have to move east. I sneak under their base, waiting for them to make a break for it, and all of a sudden they fall from the sky, crunching down behind me. I land the early shots but he has some cover, and that makes all the difference. (Also, I have this annoying habit of crouching and then not standing up straight during a fight, making me easier to hit. I really need to stop that).

What we learned: 

The score

Total kills: 5
Top 10 finishes: 4
Average finish: 23rd
Best finish: 2nd
Worst finish: 69th (Editor's note: Nice.) 

So, no wins but—bad aiming aside—I’m relatively pleased with how it went. I placed in the top five four times. Yes, I was playing conservative, which gives you a better chance of going the distance, but it shows just how far you can get if you stick to the shadows with enough patience and cunning. Playing an all-out assassin is a legitimate strategy, which is a nice surprise in the battle royale game that introduced the world to pumpkin rocket riding. Still, I should’ve won at least one of those matches, but silenced weapons aren't great in one-on-one firefights. Maybe next time I’ll control my nerves.

Reckon you can do better? I don’t doubt it for a second. Tweet me clips of your Silent Assassin attempts at @SamuelHorti. And if you have a suggested playstyle (remember, it can’t be too daft), then leave a comment below. 

Next time: The Floor is Lava.

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.