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Avenged Sevenfold’s “Free For All” in Fortnite, and a story about modern crossovers.

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You know, for a few years I had no interest in Fortnite. I played it a bit here and there, but mostly thought of it as a thing that wasn’t really for me, that whole building-while-shooting being the biggest barrier to entry for me. Shoot a guy and suddenly they’ve built a whole castle for defense just feels old. Then developer Epic Games introduced Zero Build, which got rid of that. That, combined with Chapter 4: Season 1 introducing the Doom Slayer from Doom and Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher, were the moments whereme and my friends got hooked on Fortnite.

With Chapter 5: Season 1 currently going as I write this, where they introduced LEGO Fortnite (their rival to Mojang’s Minecraft), Rocket Racing (a racing mode by Psyonix, the makers of Rocket League) and Fortnite Festival (Harmonix bringing the Rock Band formula to Fortnite), I’ve basically abandoned my nature of being a gaming hipster and not following the current gaming trends to go for what amounts to the new hotness. Granted, Fortnite is 7 years old as of this writing, but I still think it’s the “in-thing”.

While Epic (and the myriad of studios they own) have been creating their own unique games within the system, I’d been curious what the Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN) worlds are like, where people can make their own creations within the Fortnite universe. Most of the time it’s ripoffs of existing games like Deathrun and Gun Game, but other times it’s filled with promotions by notable brands. Honda had a driving experience for one of their cars, for example. I remember playing an experience based on hip hop musician THE KID LAROI that was mostly forgettable. In this case, we get to talk about another notable musician who capitalizes on the hottest trends.

Avenged Sevenfold’s “We Love You” is what it says on the tin: A map featuring an arena from the music video of the titular song, released by the band back around summer 2023. This was hyped up through the band’s social media pages, with it being announced on January 12, 2024.

Now, Avenged Sevenfold is a band that I’m really only familiar with because of their ubiquitous appearances in rhythm games. I swear, every Guitar Hero and Rock Band game came with an Avenged Sevenfold song on the set list, which means I got to hear songs like “Almost Easy” and “Beast and the Harlot” a billion times. They’re a perfectly fine metal band otherwise, probably the modern day equivalent to what Metallica was back in the ‘90s: A metal band that’s just mainstream enough that even people not into the genre can enjoy them, but otherwise very shallow for anyone really well versed in the metal genre.

“Free For All” is a small arena map that’s your bog standard, run-of-the-mill deathmatch. Up to six players can play, you pick up guns, you shoot them at enemies, if you get hurt too much you can step away and heal, that sort of thing. There are some amusing quirks: Occasionally I’d hear utterances of some guy (M. Shadows?) saying “headshot!”, while occasional riffs would play, which might be from “We Love You” or other songs off the same album, but unfortunately I’m not a big aficionado of the band, so feel free to correct me if I made a mistake somewhere.

The band’s logo and some of the art featured on their work is plastered all around the arena, urging you to go buy Life is But a Dream…, their newest album. Matches last a few minutes, and outside of a small section where you capture a ship featured in the music video, there isn’t a whole lot else to talk about, besides how dark it is and sometimes hard to really take in the sights and sounds.

“Free For All” is… fine. There’s dozens upon dozens of similar instances in the UEFN that I could play right now that are similar to it. But if you’re a fan of the band, I guess it’s pretty darn cool to do a Fortnite deathmatch featuring your favorite artist. This kinda brings me to a point that I’d been thinking about crossover content like this lately.

I’ve been writing about entertainment/game crossover content like this for years. One of the earliest posts on this very blog was about Chronic, a Quake III Arena map made to tie in with Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP, complete with Dr. Dre and Eminem player skins. In another piece, I wrote about a Quake and Quake II map pack made to promote Soldier of Fortune, Inc., a short-lived 90s action show nobody really remembers. So this Avenged Sevenfold thing should be the same old, same old, right? Not… really. This feels a little different.

Maybe this is my nostalgia talking, but those older creations they felt like a labor of love. Something a designer would do as a good way to not only promote their work but also happened to also be a free promotion for a TV show or album. Something interesting and fun to mess around with for a little bit. Hell, some of the people who made this stuff got into the actual games industry as a result, which is pretty damn cool.

However, I don’t feel that with this Avenged Sevenfold promotion. It feels more like a cash grab. Latching onto what’s popular. When I did some research for this article, it made me find out how really wired into online culture Avenged Sevenfold is. For example, their website is split between two versions: A standard site (dubbed “The Web 2.0 Experience”) that covers their music, tour dates, social media links, the typical kind of band website these days. But then they have The Web 3.0 Experience, which is typical web3 internet jargon filled with cryptocurrency, NFTs, and whatever The New Hotness is in terms of tech tomfoolery.

Thus, Avenged Sevenfold making a Fortnite creation seems not too far of a stretch. But this seems to be an in-house kind of thing rather than even the biggest creations for Fortnite. It doesn’t even have credits for creators making the content, unless I’m missing something.

For example, here’s credits for a Fortnite instance made to promote 2023’s The Game Awards, complete with hologram Geoff Keighley! Here I can see who made what.

Some of these works were made for a limited time promotion, but you could still play them years later. I don’t feel that with Avenged Sevenfold’s “Free For All.” This will have its time in the sun, then go away once that promotion period’s over, with the only memories people have of them being whatever screenshots or video they captured of the experience.

There’s a lot of these promotions on games like Fortnite and Roblox that are strictly available for a limited time, and adding the FOMO (fear of missing out) factor into play, leads into something they can no longer experience, especially if they find out about it months after it came out. This is very apparent when you look at Fortnite and their battle pass system: Nowadays you cannot get iconic Fortnite characters like Peely or Meowscles, or even licensed characters like Rick from Rick & Morty, Spider-Man or Optimus Prime from Transformers; as these were all locked behind a battle pass you can no longer get. A lot of modern gaming preys on that FOMO factor, the sense of having to keep up with the pace, lest one gets left behind, never able to experience that ever again. MMOs used to do this a lot, but it seems to have bled into the mainstream gaming ecosystem, and it sucks.

All of this for me to say that this experience is something I’m already talking about retrospectively, despite it being playable right now as of this writing. You might not be able to play this in a few months time, and even though this isn’t some absolute masterpiece, it still bums me out that it’s a limited time thing and not something that’s just permanently available. Especially when I have conversations with folks where they go “Hey, remember this thing,” and being able to look it up and still play it years after the fact. It’s what I like doing when I write about this stuff.

hell yeah I’ll join the awoo cycle

Despite my pessimism about the state of gaming, this isn’t the norm. For instance, as I was writing this, Bethesda announced a new custom level pack for the Quake remaster that’s a set of levels tied into the upcoming Slave Zero X, a beat-em-up game that’s a prequel to 1999’s Slave Zero that’s actually nice and fun to play. In hindsight, maybe I should’ve wrote about that article instead, but hey, I’m not gonna toss out 1,500+ words about an issue that I feel is gonna be more common in the gaming landscape in the next few years, what with an executive for Ubisoft proclaiming in an Gamesindustry.biz article that people should get used to not owning their games.

Avenged Sevenfold’s “Free For All” is an interesting experience worth at least playing for about five minutes before moving back to LEGO Fortnite or one of the thousands of Deathrun clones currently playable on the service. The band has teased other promotions in Fortnite in the near future, which might be interesting. I wouldn’t be surprised if Avenged Sevenfold’s music makes it to Fortnite Festival. Hell, I bet a future Festival Pass will feature M. Shadows himself and the chance to play “Afterlife” and “Bat Country” in the game for 1850 Vbucks. I’m certainly not champing at the bit for something like that, but this is a good way for Avenged Sevenfold to dip their toes into this digital landscape. Certainly better than NFT garbage.

If you wanna check it out yourself, all you need is a copy of Fortnite (free* on all major platforms) and input the code 8766-6365-6885 to play. Then you can experience it for yourself and have fun on a lark. Especially if you choose the most ill-fitting character skin to play it with. (I went with Alan Wake from Alan Wake II, which I got for buying the aforementioned game on the Epic Store.)What with Eminem now being in Fortnite as a playable skin, I guess this gives you the chance to recreate the Chronic Quake III Arena experience in a more modern game. A shame you gotta pay for most of that, but that’s just how gaming is nowadays.

…Okay, I’ll try to be a little more on the positive side on the next article, I promise.

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