Battle royale video games are not really power fantasies, especially if you’re one of the majority of players on the losing end of a match. Being dropped onto an island with fellow scavengers and scrounging around for what little firearms and ammo you can get your hands on creates a tense, anything-can-happen atmosphere. You’re supposed to feel vulnerable all the time. That’s not the case in Fortnite’s big Avengers: Endgame crossover event. The limited-time game mode is all about feeling overly powerful — like a superhero — to spectacular effect.
Whether you’re on the side of humanity, wielding one of the many heroic weapons taken from the Marvel universe, or whether you’re part of Thanos’ army — with its jetpacks and energy weapons with unlimited ammo — the mode elevates the entire Fortnite experience to a level of almost absurd chaos. The mode builds off the Infinity War limited-time event from last year, tweaking the formula in smart ways and making sure everyone can have a little bit of fun, even when they lose.
Last year’s Avengers event, an unprecedented crossover for Hollywood and the game industry, was purposefully imbalanced. You were one of dozens of other players trying to take down, but mostly avoid, the one player that assumed the role of Thanos, with his destructive purple beam, massive health bar, and inhuman movement. It was often very tough to get the Infinity Gauntlet that would let you transform into the villain, and even if you did, it meant that every other player on the map had their sights set on you.
In the Endgame variant, everyone is a superhero or an ultra-powerful villain, to an extent. The teams are split into two sides of up to 20, although in my experience, quite a few people dropped out, making each contest roughly 15-on-15 in most cases. One side is humanity, dropped into the standard Fortnite map with an assault rifle, a shotgun, and a treasure map leading you to one of a number of Avenger-specific weapons, like Iron Man’s gloves, Hawkeye’s explosive bow, and Captain America’s shield. You’re also given triple the amount of normal health for the entire match.
The other side is Thanos’ army of alien Chitauri, which are equipped with a blaster, a more powerful charge-up attack, and a jetpack with unlimited fuel. (The jetpack has a cool-down mode to keep you from flying in the air at all times.) The first Chitauri player to touch one of the six Infinity Stones that lands on the map transforms into Thanos, and every time the villain dies he is randomly assigned to a player that happens to perish at roughly the same time.
From there, the battle escalates in satisfying fashion. The humanity side has unlimited lives, but most make ample use of the heroic weapons to take down the Chitauri and Thanos. The villain side has 100 total lives, but it can initiate an endgame situation by collecting all six Infinity Stones that drop incrementally on the map, taking away humanity’s respawn capability. By the end of a match, there are typically about 50 or more Chitauri and Thanos pressing down on the 15 to 20 heroes as they defend the final Infinity Stone.
Naturally, the combat is ridiculous and overwhelmingly, with energy blasts flying in all directions, heroes and villains soaring through the air, and Thanos expectedly laying waste to any structure he comes into contact with. But it’s exhilarating, in ways few superhero games have been able to accomplish. (Last year’s Spider-Man on PS4 was a rare exception.) Just being able to soar across the terrain using the Hawkeye bow’s grapple ability, or hovering in the air with Iron Man’s gloves and sending out destructive blasts of energy, is enough to make you wish this were a full-fledged game all on its own.
At one point, in my only experience as Thanos, I sent out my most powerful attack — a giant beam of purple energy — at a human player, only for them to deflect it in entirety with Captain America’s shield. Meanwhile, the other heroes were shooting me from all sides and I was downed almost immediately. In another game, a group of other Chitauri found Thanos on the battlefield and hailed our leader the only way we knew how… by dancing.
The matches feel slightly skewed in favor of Thanos, which may or may not have been an intentional touch on behalf of Epic Games and Marvel. It’s simply much easier to overpower the heroes and snag the Infinity Stones than it is to fend off the Chitauri, at least in the mode’s current iteration. To that end, Epic has already announced some tweaks to make certain heroic items more powerful (but reduced the strength of Iron Man’s gloves), just as it altered some aspects of the Infinity War event last year.
Balance will be restored in the Endgame LTM:
Thor’s ground pound, bash, and throw damage increased from 200/150/95 to 225/200/100
Iron Man gauntlet’s blast damage lowered from 45 to 35
Health gained per infinity stone lowered from 25 to 20
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) April 25, 2019
Still, the world’s biggest video game and Hollywood’s most epic climactic event of the decade have successfully come together in a way that doesn’t feel cheesy or like a silly marketing gimmick. Instead, it’s an incredible experience and a true testament to the cultural magnitude of both Fortnite and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. My only wish is that it would stick around.