If you play Fortnite, chances are extremely good that by the end of any given match, you will have at least two items in your inventory: a long-ranged weapon and a shotgun. Maybe you’ve even suffered a totally bullshit shotgun death at some point, or landed a kill that wasn’t entirely fair.
While Fortnite has a variety of different weapons, the go-to for close-quarters combat is definitely the shotgun. Not only is the shotgun effective, it’s also pretty common: I find one in almost every match. The result is that whenever a fight breaks out a close range, things tend to devolve into a hopping match of flying shotgun shells. Fortnite might have a variety of different weapons, but if someone isn’t across the map, the shotgun is likely your best choice. Part of the issue, then, is a fairly limited meta.
The more pressing part of the issue comes down to how shotguns work. Thanks to the ubiquity of the shotgun, players have developed curious exploits that maximize their power. First, players equip multiple shotguns. They line shotguns up in their inventory, they take a shot with the first one, quickly change to another, shoot, and then swap again. This technique can be done multiple times, depending on how many shotguns you have, and it allows you to shoot faster than you could if you just kept pressing the trigger on a single shotgun. Videos showcasing the technique have millions of views on YouTube, like this one from Muselk. The technique was nerfed earlier in the year when it comes to double pump shotguns, but since then, players have resorted to using other types of shotgun swaps instead.
Earlier this year, Fortnite developer Epic Games added a very rare heavy shotgun that can be incorporated into the trick. At the time, players were baffled over its inclusion—players already run around with shotguns, why add yet another one that’s even stronger, as well as effective at mid-range? Since then, players have combined the swap shotgun strategy with other things, like rocket riding, for even more hijinks.
Beyond the raw power, part of the problem is that shotguns are often not consistent. I’ve been in multiple matches where I shoot someone point blank in the face or torso, only to do minimal damage—and to get shotgunned to death right back. More frustratingly, people can destroy you with a heavy shotgun despite appearing to miss or being behind cover, leading to a bevy of WTF moments and cries of “this weapon is overpowered.” Arguably, the weapon legendary rarity of the heavy shotgun balances things out, but it’s still infuriating to be killed in situations that should seem safe, or to whiff a shot that seems like a sure-fire heavy hit.
Earlier this week, a crude clip of top Fortnite streamer Ninja raging over a pump shotgun death even went viral, with the Twitch personality stressing that “the double pump shotgun can lick the nastiest, most disgusting asshole ever.” The kicker is that he uses it too, of course. You’ve got to, if you want to survive.
Epic Games did not offer a comment to Kotaku about shotguns, but earlier today, an update for the game went out that readjusted the color rarity of the weapon type. Now instead of appearing as common weapons, pump shotguns appear as uncommon and rare drops (but otherwise still function the same).
The funny thing is, for any Gears of War veteran, these issues are extremely familiar. Also developed by Epic Games, the cover-based shooter was notorious for being a game that entirely revolved around shotguns. Just like Fortnite, shotguns in Gears of War were extremely powerful, notoriously inconsistent, and prone to exploits. I’ve probably shaved off years of my life being angry at shotgun deaths in Gears of War. Until Epic Games tweaks the shotguns in Fortnite, it seems that a new generation of gamers will suffer similar woes as before.
Correction 4:09 PM: Readers rightfully noted that the pump shotgun technique has been nerfed, but the strategy can still be used with heavy shotguns.