Look, every new Chapter and Season of Fortnite always adds or changes up the same things. We get a fresh new Battle Pass, some weapons are vaulted to make way for unvaulted weapons or entirely new guns, and the map gets an overhaul with entirely new POIs or Named Locations. All of this helps keep Fortnite feeling fresh while keeping its core Battle Royale gameplay in-tact, but with Chapter 4 Season 1, Epic Games is upping the ante with an overhaul of Fortnite’s visuals, and it certainly makes a difference.
Just from some of the promotional images for Chapter 4 Season 1, it’s clear that Fortnite’s getting a fresh look. I mean, just look at how vibrantly-colorful the world is. The improved detail in grass and dirt is evident, and tree branches look more densely covered in leaves. Shadows look sharper, reflections on the surface of water look more true-to-life, too, and I can make out the individual bricks making up the castle on the hill in the screenshot below.
All of this is possible, as Epic Games has noted in this official blog post, thanks to the power of Unreal Engine 5.1 This includes next-gen features such as Nanite, Lumen, Virtual Shadow Maps and Temporal Super Resolution. All of these features are now enabled in Fortnite on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC and cloud gaming.
Nanite allows for highly-detailed architectural geometry, as shown in the castle on the hill in the screenshot above. Buildings can be rendered from millions of polygons in real time, and each brick, stone, wooden plank and wall trim can be individually modeled to make for a more visually striking look.
Nanite is also the feature responsible for the detailed landscapes, allowing each tree to be made up of 300,000 polygons and each stone, flower and blade of grass can be individually modeled too. That explains why everything looks so lush and full of on the island.
Lumen, on the other hand provides high-quality ray-traced reflections on glossy materials and water, as well as real-time global illumination at 60fps. What does this mean? You’ll see building interiors and character realistically and accurately react to lighting of their surroundings.
Virtual Shadow Maps, as their name suggests, doubles down on shadows, allowing each brick, leaf, and modeled detail to cast a shadow. Characters don’t get left out here, either, with character self-shadowing getting a bump up in its accuracy. This allows hats and other smaller details and clothing items to cast shadows.
Finally, you’ve got Temporal Super Resolution, which allows for high-quality visuals at a high framerate. This acts as an upgrade to Temporal Over-Aliasing, which has been present in the past.
But all of the technical jargon aside, Fortnite Chapter 4 Season 1 simply looks stunning. It feels like a true ‘sequel’ of sorts to the popular Battle Royale title, with attention clearly spent improving other things like the animation for chopping down trees, as shown in the tweet from popular leaker Twea-BR below.
My personal favorite, thought? The new clouds in Fortnite! Given the enabling of Nanite and Lumen technologies, it’s now possible to see clouds reacting to the light of the sun in a realistic way, with their edges illuminating and their centers remaining suitably dark and moody.
But wait, there’s more! Thanks to another tweet from TweaBR, we get to see how clouds react to a change in the time of day. As the sun sets, we get a beautifully moody sky with the edges of clouds glowing a pale red while the bulk of their mass remains a deep, blue and purple color.
What all of this makes for is a truly stunning island to explore. One that feels more alive than its predecessors. Are you going to notice the clouds reflecting off the surface of a body of water when you’re in the heat of battle? Probably not. But it’s certainly a much-welcomed improvement all the same.
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