It’s got me hook, line, and sinker
Let me paint a picture for you of a quiet Sunday afternoon. I was in my living room playing with my Ripley figure as she explored a deserted town alongside Wolverine, a Stormtrooper, and Batman. Suddenly, we were attacked by a football player, Joker, a green army soldier, and Cable. It was a dramatic battle as everyone darted in and out of buildings, performed reckless jumps, and found perfect hiding spots to ambush their opponents. When the dust had settled and the fight was over, the Stormtrooper was dead, but so was everyone who’d attacked my group. The only thing those of us who remained could do was mourn the loss of our comrade and press on.
Now, what did I just describe: a game of Fortnite or me as a 10-year-old playing with my big collection of action figures?
I know this isn’t some wildly original observation to make about Fortnite as the game has basically been a toy chest of figures from my childhood since it started getting DC skins back in 2019. But recently, it’s become difficult to ignore. Before this year, all of my opinions on the game originated from when it first debuted. Over the course of its first few seasons, Fortnite didn’t really speak to me. It was slow, I hated building, and I couldn’t stand repeatedly getting teamed up with little kids who’d shatter my eardrums with screams of “ANYONE ON MIC?!” I can honestly feel myself going sterile every time a kid lands on the other side of the map and cries out for us to come revive him.
For many months, that was how I saw Fortnite. Even when I started to really get into the battle royale genre with games like Apex Legends and Spellbreak — that’s right, I still play Spellbreak — those horrid memories of the early days of Fortnite dominated my perspective. But you know what? I can only see so many pictures of Poison Ivy teaming up with a Ghostbuster to shoot Silver Surfer in the face with a shotgun before I want in.
Or, at the very least, before my inner child wants in. Because that’s what Fortnite has been doing for its past two seasons: speaking directly to the kid in me who could only experience the type of situations the game offers up on the regular using his imagination. Growing up, I had one of those big, circular tins that gross holiday popcorn comes in filled to the brim with all of my action figures. I had everything in there from Star Wars to Batman to X-Men to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I couldn’t wait to get home from school, dump all those figures on the carpet and imagine far-out adventures for my toys.
Those days are now long behind me as I move closer to middle-age, but picking up Fortnite again, the sensation I got from those quiet afternoons alone has come roaring back into my psyche. Just dropping onto Spawn Island and seeing all of these different skins from all of these different properties together is, for me, like that scene in Ratatouille when Anton Ego tastes the ratatouille at the end. It’s like I’m Quantum Leap-ing back into my fifth-grade self.
Not only is Fortnite taking me back to a simpler time, but it’s offering scenarios I could never fathom as a child. Not once growing up did I imagine teaming with a Stormtrooper and Deadpool to hunt the Predator, but I did that in my first game back in Fortnite. Just a few matches later, I joined a team that hunted the Mandalorian at Kit’s Cantina before having a shootout with a stack of pancakes that had seen one too many Spaghetti Westerns. This game is absolutely bonkers, and my only regret is I didn’t give it a second chance last season.
The skins for Chapter 2: Season 5 have been great, with Kratos, Master Chief, Ryu, and Chun-li joining the game as its narrative brings together hunters from different dimensions for reasons I haven’t bothered exploring yet. The variety of characters now available has gotten so good I actually did the once-unthinkable and spent money on the game to buy the Ellen Ripley skin so I wouldn’t be stuck with those starter looks anymore. But damn, do I wish I would have tried to get back into Fortnite last season when it collided with the Marvel Universe. Not only did it have that bomb-ass final battle against Galactus, but I would give my kingdom to be able to play as Storm.
None of this would really matter if I didn’t actually like playing the game now. My original title for this article was going to be “Fortnite has everything I could want in a video game (except gameplay I actually like).” That’s no longer the case. I’m not sure of all the changes it’s seen since I last played, but everything about it just feels better than it did before. The gunplay feels better, the movement feels faster, and I’m actually getting pretty good at constructing rudimentary shacks on the fly with Builder Pro. On my PlayStation 5, the game looks fucking amazing and loads so damn quickly. Fortnite Island is more varied than I remember, and I’m actually considering doing something substantive with its creator mode. I still prefer the speed and the feel of the guns in Apex Legends, which continues to reign supreme as my choice battle royale, but enough has been added to Fortnite that I’m ready to go all-in with it. And if anything, me writing that out brings a smile to the face of the kid inside me.
By the way, the correct answer to the question at the top of this story is: a game of Fortnite. If I were describing my actual childhood, Ripley would have been replaced by Princess Leia’s Boushh action figure and Cable would have been the blue Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger.