Invites for the iPhone edition of Fortnite started rolling out Thursday and Glixel was lucky enough to grab one. We checked out the over the course of an hour and were pretty happy with what we found.
The iPhone version of the game, which you need to both download and have your Epic account enabled to play currently, is a full-blown version of Fortnite's battle royale mode. It shares progress with all your account across all other versions of the game and even includes cross-play, in some instances.
The crossplay can only occur when a smartphone player teams up with a friend who is on a PC or a console, otherwise mobile players will always be playing with other mobile players. And that's a good thing, because while the game is beautiful, runs mostly smoothly and has fairly good touch controls, it's still no match for taking someone on who us using a mouse and keyboard or a controller.
Launching the game drops you into the same familiar home screen that shows off your character and a number of tabs that allows you to check out the items for sale, your own inventory, challenges and other elements of the game.
Once you're all set tinkering, you select any of the modes available - it's the same seen in other versions of the game - and click on play. Once you matchmake, you're dropped into the same location awaiting your bus trip to the island. And once aboard, you drop out of the bus and into the game just as you normally would.
Really, the only difference appears to be the controls and some small, smart adjustments to the user interface. The most noticeable, and welcome, change is the addition of visual references to sound that appear on the center of your screen. While the audio still works just fine, the game now also shows a small icons to connote nearby sounds. That means you'll see teeny tiny footprints flashing to show you what direction you can hear someone walking, or small explosions to show gunfire or a throbbing gold icon to show a chest is nearby. The icons appear in a sort of translucent circle, so you can tell which direction that noise is coming from. It's a small but very welcome addition to the game.
Controls, of course, are also changed quite a bit. The default opens doors and picks up items automatically. Once your inventory is full, you have to double tap on a weapon to swap it out. Movement is controlled with the typical virtual twin thumbsticks on the screen, though there is only an icon for the left one. Double tapping on that left icon will also make your character autorun. There's an icon for crouching and another for jumping. To fire you can either tap an icon on the left or essentially anywhere on the right and you can either tap to fire a single shot or hold you finger on the screen to continue firing. There's also a little icon on the right to go into a site mode that either zooms in slightly if you're using something like a shotgun or turns on your scope view if you're using a sniper rifle. A few familiar displays, like health and shield, have been moved to different places, but overall the game's controls feel fairly intuitive. There's also the ability to tweak some controls in settings.
Switching from weapons to building is done by tapping another icon on the screen which changes all of your displays into something suited for building. While this is fairly straight forward, I can't imagine a player ever being able to quickly build and shoot at enemies while jumping, like most players do on console and PC.
And ultimately, that's the issue. I'm sure I and most players will adjust over time to this new way of controlling the game, but it's never going to feel as smoothly and reactive as the PC and console versions. Of course, Epic could always introduce support for bluetooth controllers designed for the smartphone and that could certainly deal with a lot of these issues. Currently, the game only supports touch.
You can watch about an hour of me playing the game on iPhone in the video above to get a sense of how the game plays, what it looks like and just how often I die while playing it.