Fortnite Chapter 5 brings fresh energy to ever-evolving game

Jan. 31, 2024

By Jude McElroy

There is always something changing with Fortnite, with some updates being way bigger than others. On Dec 3, Fortnite released Chapter 5: Season 1, Underground, a huge update that gave Battle Royale a completely new map, weapon loadout and mechanics, while also dropping three new game modes to play alongside it. These new modes are Fortnite Festival, LEGO Fortnite and Rocket Racing. These new additions are great and give the game so much more life than it had before. 

First up is Battle Royale. As with any new Chapter launch, Battle Royale was changed drastically from the last Chapter. A brand new map was added with completely new areas to explore. In the past, Fortnite maps have relied on reusing old Points of Interests for the sake of nostalgia, like Chapter 3: Season 1 hyping the return of Tilted Tower and Chapter 4 having some small landmarks return from earlier seasons, but Chapter 5’s map has no POIs or landmarks from previous seasons. This allows the map to stand out without having to rely on what worked in the past. While having legacy POIs was cool, I much prefer it when Fortnite comes up with original ideas. 

Some standouts for me are Classy Courts, Grand Glacier and Ruined Reels. While I don’t like to land at Grand Glacier, it is one the most unique POIs Fortnite has ever added, with it being a huge hotel that has many floors to explore. Classy Courts is a super simple POI that holds quite a bit of loot. It’s my personal favorite POI because of how quick it is to clear out, and its proximity to important POIs like Reckless and Lavish.

The player looks out over the landscape in front of them in search of other players to fight.

There are five POIs dedicated to housing bosses. These bosses drop a Medallion and their own Mythic rarity weapon when defeated. Oscar is located at Lavish Lair with his Frenzy Auto Shotgun, Nisha at Fencing Fields with her Striker Assault Rifle, Valeria at Reckless Railways with her Hyper SMG, Montague at Grand Glacier with his Nemesis Assault Rifle and finally Peter Griffin, of all characters, at Snooty Steppes with his Hammer Pump Shotgun. These boss POIs offer a unique challenge of conquering the boss and their henchmen, while also fighting the higher number of enemy players that will almost definitely land alongside the player. Winning the POI means players walk away with some fantastic loot that puts them in a prime spot to win the game.

The bosses also drop Medallions that players can pick up. They recover shield passively while also revealing the location of its holder. There are five, one for every boss. The more a player holds, the more accurate the circle revealing where the player holding them is. The player also recovers more shields. Holding one recovers up to 50 shields, two recovers up to 60 shields, three recovers up to 70, four up to 85 and five is up to max shields.

The most important aspect to get right with a new Fortnite chapter is the gameplay, which unfortunately Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 failed to deliver on initially, most notably with their loot pool. Chapter 3 had some notorious stinkers like the Ranger Assault Rifle, and both the Auto and Striker Pump Shotguns from the initial launch of that chapter are extremely weak, with guns like the MK-7 Assault Rifle and Stinger SMG being super strong. Thankfully, Chapter 5 has an almost perfect loot pool.

The player runs on top of a building in Ruined Reels.

The gunplay this season is fantastic as almost all of the weapons feel great. The Striker AR is one of the most satisfying weapons the developers have ever added, with some other standouts like the Reaper Sniper Rifle and Thunder Burst SMG also feeling great to use. 

The shotguns both feel great. The Hammer Pump is a little slow, but a well-placed shot can do a lot of damage, while the Frenzy Auto can melt through the health of enemy players if players can catch them off guard. 

This is exemplified even more with the new weapon attachment system. Every weapon can have four aspects modified. They can be given an Optic, consisting of the Red Eye 1.15x, Holo 1.3x, P2x and Sniper Scope 4x. A magazine consisting of the Drum Mag and Speed Mag. Underbarrel consists of the Angled Foregrip, Vertical Foregrip and Laser. Barrel consists of the Suppressor and Muzzle Break. 

However, not every weapon can access every mod. For example, shotguns can only get the 1.15x and the 1.3x optics, not the 2x and 4x scopes. The attachments add some serious variety with how weapons operate from game-to-game, and it keeps the gunplay super fresh. I love that the player is encouraged to try out with different attachments, and I cannot wait to see what the developers add to the current loadout of attachments.

The most notable change in Chapter 5 is the movement at the beginning of the season. The developers gave running and crouching new animations, but as a side effect, it slowed running speed by roughly 8% and crouch walk speed by a whopping 40%. The animations looked really good, but they were a little jarring at first. The community was very unhappy with these changes to the point where a developer at Epic Games that had nothing to do with the speed changes and simply worked on the animations was harassed online. Epic made some changes to the movement after that, although I feel it was unnecessary as the new movement simply required some time to get used to. It was absolutely a downgrade, but the changes were not nearly as bad as some made it out to be, and many blew the changes way out of proportion.

The first release of the new modes was LEGO Fortnite. It is often compared to Minecraft, and for good reason. The player spawns into their world with nothing, and they are tasked with gathering resources to upgrade their gear and build a community with non-player characters that move in. You can play with up to eight people at once, allowing for some crazy multiplayer experiences. 

The player looks over a mountain in LEGO Fortnite.

Unfortunately, LEGO Fortnite lacks an end goal. Most goals appear to be completely player-driven, which is fine, but having a sense of progression and a way for a player to tell when they “beat” a world would be really nice. 

The lack of mobility is a major problem. It takes forever to get anywhere in the world, and adding the ability to tame horses to ride or more sophisticated ways to make vehicles reminiscent of Tears of the Kingdom would be great ways to make it a bit easier to traverse the world. Overall, LEGO Fortnite is fun, but it needs some improvements, which will likely come over time.

The gunplay this season is fantastic as almost all of the weapons feel great. The Striker AR is one of the most satisfying weapons the developers have ever added, with some other standouts like the Reaper Sniper Rifle and Thunder Burst SMG also feeling great to use.

Next to be released was Rocket Racing. This mode is a fairly straightforward racing game. The player can build up turbo by driving. Turbo can be used to easily overtake other players. The player can also drift around sharp turns. The longer the drift is held, the better the boost when it ends. 

Rocket Racing is easily the weakest of the new modes. The fact that there is collision with other players can ruin some great plays. Sometimes players can get reset to the last checkpoint for no reason. It’s just a buggy and frustrating experience. The low level maps are also extremely boring. Once players hit Gold rank, the map selection gets a little better, but every rank below Gold holds extremely boring tracks that a lot of the time just ask players to drive a straight line. I personally played until I hit Gold rank for the free cosmetic players get for doing so and have not touched the game since, even though it gives pretty good Battle Pass XP. 

The player picks out modifications for their weapons at a mod bench.

Last of the new modes is Fortnite Festival. Festival is split into two sections: the Jam Stage and the Main Stage. The Jam Stage is similar to Party Royale, meaning it is almost entirely worthless. It is a place where you can meet up with friends or other random players and play Jam Tracks you can buy from the Item Shop or earn from the new Festival Pass. 

The main attraction is the Main Stage though. The Main Stage is a very simple, yet extremely addicting rhythm game made by the same developers behind the legendary Guitar Hero games. Players can queue up in a party of four and enter the Main Stage. Each player can add one song to the track list. They can select what instrument they want to play out of Bass, Drums, Lead and Vocals and then select their difficulty. Difficulty increases the density of the chart from Easy to Hard, and then Expert mode adds an entire extra lane to allow for the best of the best to play. 

The song list is extremely varied, and Epic plans to continue adding new songs every week. This current season of Festival is showcasing the Weeknd, who has five songs in the game, while also featuring songs from artists like Kendrick Lamar and Lady Gaga and bands like Queens of the Stone Age, The Killers and Weezer.

The player preforms on Fortnite Festival’s main stage.

Festival is by far the best of the new modes. My one complaint is that players have to buy the licensed songs from the Item Shop for 500 VBucks (which is just over $5) a pop, but thankfully a handful of songs are rotated that players can play for free every day. Besides that, it’s a blast to play solo and with friends. It’s definitely a learning experience if you don’t dabble in rhythm games, but it’s super accessible to newcomers and veterans alike.

Overall, Fortnite’s Chapter 5 update was a huge hit. Many expected the game to lose a lot of players after the conclusion of Season: OG, but the game smashed player count records and continues to boast hundreds of thousands of players playing at once. Despite problems like flat out bad user interface changes and lack of moderation on Creative playlists, Chapter 5 is a fantastic update that earns it a 9/10.


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