Fortnite Battle Royale just got a 50 vs. 50 mode that's everything I ever wanted a neighbourhood game of Cops and Robbers to be. It encourages a hive-mind approach to a battle royale game that works surprisingly well.
Fortnite is a game about building forts, shooting zombies and battling the apocalypse. In September, developer Epic Games released a battle royale mode for the game that's a whole lot like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. As a storm closes in, 100 players collect weapons and duke it out to be the last one standing.
Fortnite Battle Royale's variation on the theme is its awesome fort-building mechanics. As bullets rain down, players can construct shelters out of materials they have collected.
Millions of players have flocked to Fortnite Battle Royale in part because it's free -- and in part because it's a smoother battle royale experience than, uh, that other game.
The game's new 50 vs. 50 mode changes the dynamics of a battle royale. Instead of moving in clusters of two or three players, the new mode inspires a swarming playstyle. Players descend on towns like termites, scraping buildings for wood and trucks for metal. Small groups of seven or 10 meet up with other pods of teammates as the playable area closes in, eventually consolidating into larger and more intimidating masses.
It's easy to get caught up in what other players are doing. There are no leaders. Although barely anyone communicates on voice chat, it feels very hive-mind.
I played a half dozen rounds this morning. Each time, it took a while for us to encounter a large army of enemy players. By that point, we'd be fully armed. Teammates tossed guns and bandages to each other. After we were stocked up, we'd find some good highground. Moments after seeing two or three enemies trickle into our territory ahead of the pack, we'd set to work constructing a castle-like fort, splitting duties between sniping and designing our shelter.
Then, we'd shower them with bullets. When the roles were reversed -- and we were the ones infiltrating -- some teammates would hastily draw up some cover while others would attempt to surprise the opponents' backline.
The new 50 vs. 50 mode made me more comfortable switching between roles I didn't normally take up in a Fortnite Battle Royale game. With so many friendlies nearby, I felt better about testing new fort-building strategies or trying my hand at a sneak attack. I knew I'd have cover. And I wasn't always paranoid about one good shot knocking me out because enemies weren't stupid enough to fire into my swarm of teammates solo. That gave me an opportunity to follow around friendlies and get into helping them with whatever they were doing.
If playing Fortnite Battle Royale in four-person squads mode made you feel like a part of a small machine, 50 vs. 50 is like being part of a pack of mercenaries rather than a scrappy coalition of soldiers . There's power in numbers.
As good as this mode is, Epic isn't promising to keep it around forever. The company says it will only be around until December 17. But as we've seen in other online multiplayer games -- Overwatch, for example -- these "limited time" modes have a way of coming back.