What is Fortnite: Battle Royale?
Fortnite is a free-to-play, online multiplayer "battle royale" game, where 100 players start, but only one player (or squad) can win. Parachuting into the game's gigantic map, it's up to you to either work together with your squad, or go it alone, as you build makeshift bases, gather weapons, sneak around, and take out other players whenever the opportunity presents, in an effort to be crowned the winner.
How do you play Fortnite: Battle Royale?
While Fortnite does have a single player/co-op mode, called "Save the World", it's currently only available as what's known as an "early access" paid add on, where players can choose to pay to unlock the mode, knowing they're essentially buying into a pre-release version. Only the multiplayer battle royale mode is available to play for free.
Essentially a third person shooter, only on a much larger scale, the Battle Royale mode is basically a question of survival, as you take on a hundred players to try and make sure you're the last one left. Although the map itself may be huge, the game triggers a giant storm only a few minutes in, which gradually closes in on the island, shutting the outer limits off. With the play space available shrinking every few minutes, the game forces you to stay in the eye of the storm, in turn ensuring that as the numbers dwindle, players are never too far apart.
While the Battle Royale mode may be the only game in town here, it does come in four different flavours. "Solo" lets you go it on your own, hoping to outlast 99 other players, "Duos" sees you facing off against other pairs of players as each team tries to be the last one standing, "Squad" is the same, but with up to four players, while 50 vs 50 sees the 100 players splitting off into two huge 50 man teams, encouraging a style of play that's much more co-operative.
How easy is Fortnite: Battle Royale to pick up and play?
In a word, not very. As an online only game, with nothing in the way of a tutorial, and nothing to explain what you're actually supposed to be doing - yet alone what you can do in terms of base building - finding your footing in Fortnite is tricky to say the least. With the game making no effort to pit you against players of a similar level of experience, getting good at Fortnite is a question of sheer persistence, and gritting your teeth through many an early death.
Though Fortnite may be a game about killing people, there's actually less in the way of violence here than you may think. Players use all manner of weapons, from shotguns and sniper rifles, to axes and plastic flamingos to attack each other, with nothing in the way of blood, guts or gore being shown. Instead, hitting an enemy with your weapon simply causes a number to pop up on screen to show the damage they've taken. Cause them to run out of health, and they'll drop down on the floor - if they're on their own, this is "game over" for them, but if they're in a team, they'll be given a few seconds to try and crawl towards a friendly player for revival. However, without the ability to fight back, players who are knocked down essentially become a sitting duck for the other players, who sometimes like to toy with you.
Putting you into games with 99 other real life players, Fortnite is a game that comes with plenty of potential for contact with strangers. The game's default "Squad" mode automatically tries to group you together with three other players to form a four man team, with the game then letting you chat freely to each other as you play. Voice chat can, however, be disabled in game. To do this, press either Options (PS4) or Start (Xbox One), select the gear wheel icon, then scroll across to audio to find the voice chat option. Set this to off to stop other players from hearing you, and stop you hearing other players.
If you'd like to keep party chat on, but still want to mute abusive/talkative players on an individual basis, you can do this too. To mute a player, press Options (PS4) or Start (Xbox One) while in game, and then scroll across to the player you want to mute, before pressing X (PS4) or A (Xbox One).
Though the game defaults to filling any available slots in your squad with random players, there are two slightly different ways of ensuring only those on your friends list can join your team. In the game's lobby, setting Squad Fill to "No Fill" by clicking the left analogue stick will prevent randomers being added to your squad, essentially making your group "friends only". To go a step further, and only allow friends you've explicitly invited to join your squad, you can press Options (PS4) or Start (Xbox One), and scroll down to Privacy, before setting it to private.
As an online only game, Fortnite requires an online connection, and a Playstation Plus or Xbox Live Gold Account.