One of the reasons I couldn’t get into Fortnite was the sound. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has an excellent and accurate sound model, and that made it difficult to move to another game that doesn’t. In Fortnite, it was difficult to tell where attacks were coming from. That is changing in the battle royale shooter, because developer Epic Games is introducing a new option called “3D Headphones” that gives Fortnite spatial audio.
To activate this mode, you’ll just need to toggle “3D Headphones” in the audio settings. But don’t worry, you won’t need any special hardware to take advantage of that. This just processes audio to create the illusion of space and direction for standard, stereo headphones. The 3D audio is not compatible with the “visualize sound effects” accessibility option, though.
“With the release of Chapter 2, we’re excited to share that we’ve added a setting to improve audio,” reads Epic’s blog post about the update. “Tested by members of the competitive community, by toggling on the ‘3D Headphones’ mode in the audio options menu, the mode will improve spatialization of tactically important sounds, you’ll have a better sense of sounds above, below, and behind you.”
How Fortnite’s spatial audio can help players
What are “tactically important sounds”? Epic gave some examples in a quick video clip, which you can watch above. You can now tell if footsteps are above you or below you. Humming chests will also give you a much better sense of where they are hiding.
All of this is crucial to ensuring that players have the information they need to survive. Many people overlook (overhear?) the importance of audio in games. But it makes a huge difference. PUBG has refined its audio model multiple times since its days as an Early Access release on Steam. It even added 3D voice communications.
After a few hours, PUBG players begin learning what a gun sounds like when it’s firing at you from a distance and from a certain direction. And, as Epic notes, that is important tactical info. Having that in Fortnite makes me want to go back in and give that game another chance. I wonder if it’ll make a difference.