Radical Heights feels like the end result of two things; the explosion of the battle royale genre, with the likes of Fortnite amassing a huge player base not afraid to spend some cash on the free-to-play experience, and the speedy demise of Boss Key Productions’ last title, Lawbreakers. What you’re left with is a battle royale game with a ton of interesting features crammed into it, but without the execution or polish in its current early access state to even touch the likes of Fortnite Battle Royale and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
Radical Heights pure and simple is another instance of 100 people dropping onto a map and having to acquire weapons, gear, and gadgets in order to defeat their opponents and be the last one standing. In an attempt to differentiate itself from the rest of the crowd, though, Radical Heights has a couple of cool ideas, most of it revolving around accruing cash.
Cash is your in-game currency. When you land on the map, you’re going to want cash so you can buy weapons or gear from little booths on the wall. The more cash you have, the better the weapons you can buy. There are also special little game show mini-games that can give you rewards if you complete them in time. So, in essence, just like the real-world, it’s cash that makes Radical Heights’ world go round.
Your cash doesn’t have to just last for one game if you’re clever, though. If you’ve managed to amass a small fortune, or just want to keep a few spare dollars safe, you can. There’s an offshore bank account system that allows you to deposit spare cash in one game, and then withdraw it via the ATMs in future games. Though, if you die, you’ll always have a small amount of the cash left on you deposited in your account. It’s a neat mechanic to have people diving in more, though, I do have my concerns about how this could affect game balance when newcomers are dropped in with those who have spent countless hours playing.
Rather than just having a shrinking circle, Radical Heights blocks off certain grid squares of its map randomly throughout the match. It makes for a more unpredictable experience. Campers will likely find it difficult to do what they love, and everyone is likely to run into more encounters as everyone’s constantly on the move from dodging the locked out grid squares. Neat idea!
That’s the thing, though. Right now, Radical Heights is just a combination of neat ideas in a game that’s just not ready yet. Particularly in a genre so fiercely dominated. Untextured buildings, horrendous pop-in, jittery framerates. It’s all the kind of stuff that, considering the game is in early access, is, I guess, forgivable. Especially when the game is free-to-play. However, having played Radical Heights for a few games, it didn’t grab me. Its combat and movement feel clunky and unnatural. Its weapons, despite the rest of the world having this ’80s game show theme, are the same generic weapon types we’ve seen elsewhere, with few different characteristics to make them feel unique.
What did leave a slightly bitter taste in my mouth having played Radical Heights was just how the entire cosmetics and microtransactions system is in from the very get-go, before the core experience itself even feels half complete. I get that it’s all funding that can go on to help develop the game, but it just feels a bit desperate.
Considering this was a “passion project,” it seems strange to me that Boss Key didn’t hold back on releasing Radical Heights until it was ready to make the polished, complete impression it needed to make if it wants to compete with the likes of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite Battle Royale. Spend some more time making the game world look less like a mish-mash of assets from years ago and give it more of that ’80s flourish you can see splattered every so often throughout the otherwise drab environment. Make sure the combat – y’know, the fundamental part of a battle royale game – feels as tight and smooth as the competition.
Having come off the back of Lawbreakers’ failure, Boss Key clearly didn’t want to miss out on the next big trend. However, by rushing Radical Heights out in this ‘X-Treme Early Access’ form, it’s not done it any favors. It’s quite literally the exact same situation PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds found itself in when it released in early access in a fairly rough state on Xbox One in December last year. And it’s also the reason many are drawn to the vibrant, fun world of Fortnite. The polish is there.
Radical Heights isn’t a complete write-off just yet. After all, the early access tag means it can change and come along a heck of a long way from where it is now. However, the problem it faces is whether it can keep a substantial player base around long enough to get to that level of polish needed to appeal to the larger, casual demographic. Otherwise, Boss Key could have another Lawbreakers on its hands.