The first season of Fortnite’s fifth chapter, dubbed “Underground,” sticks close to the playbook of previous updates: new map locations, fresh gear, and additional skins unlocked through a season pass. At some point between now and the season’s conclusion on March 8, Metal Gear Solid’s Solid Snake will also debut in the battle royale as its latest “gaming legends” skin, falling in with a prestigious group of guest stars that includes the likes of Alan Wake, Resident Evil’s Jill Valentine, and Halo’s Master Chief.
Fortnite fans have clamored for Mr. Griffin to join the world of Victory Royales and sentient bananas ever since hackers discovered Family Guy screencaps in the game’s assets back in 2021, and now their prayers are finally being answered. Upon watching the above announcement video, however, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. Why is Peter Griffin, a lovably pudgy New England dad, suddenly a beefcake?
An official Fortnite video has tried to provide an in-universe explanation for Peter’s transformation. After failing a physical exam, Peter is given a get-fit-quick scheme by Meowscles in the form of an expired Slurp Juice (an in-game item that restores health and shields). Peter eagerly chugs the mystery liquid and immediately gets transformed from a plump, schlubby dork to a muscular Adonis (who, let’s be honest, is probably still a big dork). His once-loose clothes shrink to a tight fit, and he also gets fingerless gloves, for some reason.
I’m not a huge Family Guy fan, but I’ve seen enough to know that the Muscular Peter gag has been used more than once over its 22-season run. It’s certainly fitting with what amounts to Family Guy canon that Peter is capable of bulking up, both in the ostensible reality of the show and cutaway jokes. But his appearance in Fortnite does highlight a long-standing issue with the game itself: Everyone looks the same.
I’ll admit, Fortnite has its fair share of inhuman monstrosities — I’m looking at you, Peely — but when it comes to the humanoid characters, there only seem to be a couple of body types, and the models for every character in the multiverse-spanning roster must adhere to those strict specifications. This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if Fortnite stuck to original characters, but it can become distracting when you start adding in notable guests from video games, television shows, and movies that have their own art styles and distinct-looking characters.
As much as I love the image of Street Fighter’s Blanka wearing a suit and sunglasses, for example, something just feels off about seeing him standing upright like a normal human being rather than in his trademark crouch. The Nightmare Before Christmas hero Jack Skellington, while slightly skeletal, is still an uncharacteristically normal dude in Fortnite. Transformers’ Optimus Prime looks like Rick and Morty’s Rick Sanchez, and Star Wars’ Ahsoka Tano looks like pop star Ariana Grande. Fortnite does a decent job of differentiating characters via aesthetic flourishes, but it’s hard to ignore these overwhelming similarities after spending any amount of time in the game.
A lot of this can probably be laid at the feet of gameplay consistency, which also means it probably won’t be improved any time soon. Unlike fighting games, where characters can be differentiated through distinct hit and hurt boxes, a competitive shooter like Fortnite needs every model to fit into a specific mold so that, say, a headshot on X-Men’s Gambit is a headshot on League of Legends’ Jinx.
in every universe, they loved each other pic.twitter.com/N7yNaZNANW— em ❄️ (@cooIboobs) December 4, 2023
In this context, Peter’s traditional size poses a problem. Do you make his hitbox larger to account for his chubbiness, thus making him easier to hit, or do you ignore it and risk players reacting angrily over footage of bullets whizzing harmlessly through his stomach? A big part of me wishes something like that wouldn’t be taken so seriously — do younger players using their parents’ money to buy emotes really care if Peter Griffin is competitively viable? — but I get that nowadays, even free games face the pressure to be meticulously balanced for all levels of play.
In Fortnite, all art gets homogenized into a pop culture slurry — and the results can often be disappointing. At this point, I just want to see how far it’ll go. Let folks play as an inexplicably roided-out model of Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwoʻole and use an AK-47 with a Starry Night paint job to gun down Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. Why the fuck not? It’s still just weird that Epic Games will seemingly go all out in service of a shitpost, but a fat person — someone known for being fat, at that — is a bridge too far, even in a world as colorful and outrageous as Fortnite.