Radical Heights is Cliff Bleszinski’s answer to battle royale
format: PC | publisher: Boss Key Productions developer: in-house | release: 2019 players: 1 (local), 100 (online) With Lawbreakers officially in Limbo, boss key turns its head towards another popular multiplayer trend
On 5 April 2018, Boss Key Productions officially acknowledged that Lawbreakers
- its competitive online shooter - had been a commercial failure, announcing that work on the game was to be suspended while the team shifted its focus to other projects in the pipeline. Only four days later, it announced Radical Heights; a battle royale game that was to be released on PC within 24 hours as a free-toplay, Early Access title.
Naturally, people were sceptical. With Fortnite and Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds comfortably dominating the already crowded battle royale market, the announcement came across as Boss Key desperately jumping on the bandwagon, not least with a game that looked far less developed than either of those titles. What’s more, the low-grade visuals presented in Radical Heights’ reveal trailer were worryingly reminiscent of the kind of asset-flipped shovelware that sneaks its way onto the Steam Store everyday, lending further credence to the argument that this was a game hastily thrown together at the last minute, rather than thoughtfully conjured up over time.
Launch day woes failed to allay these concerns, as several widely reported bugs and game-breaking issues prevented players from enjoying a smooth experience online, or even getting into a match altogether. Despite the rocky release, though, Radical Heights achieved a higher concurrent player count in its first day than Lawbreakers ever had in nearly a year, and the game even broke into the top tier of the Twitch charts during the same week.
That level of interest isn’t surprising. While Radical Heights’ janky production value can’t hold a candle to battle royale’s biggest hitters, its faster, funkier style of gameplay and handful of novel ideas suggests there’s potential for greatness nestled within its underdeveloped infrastructure.
Those novel ideas are a welcome by product of Boss Key’s commitment to its
1980’s aesthetic, which bleeds into every strand of Radical Heights’ digital DNA. The tacky tone can come across as grating in parts, such as when the player is greeted to the bad jokes of an obnoxious sports commentator every time the game boots up, but the decade of decadence proves its value as a muse for Boss Key to come up with fresh ingredients for the standard battle royale recipe.
Instead of finding weapons in chests scattered around the map, for instance, contestants can win them in game show machines like a Spin-to-win wheel. The rewards for taking part in these mini-games, however, is cleverly offset by the risks of having their gaudy theme music overwhelm your audio, significantly hampering your ability to hear any encroaching enemy footsteps.
That tension between risk and reward translates into Radical Heights’ currency system too, as your cash doesn’t completely disappear whenever you die, but partly carries over into a permanent stockpile that can either be withdrawn from ATMS in subsequent matches or used to buy new customisation items for your character. Since weapons and gear can be bought from vending machines located throughout the game world with these funds, money thus becomes a hugely
“THERE’S ABSOLUTELY POTENTIAL FOR GREATNESS NESTLED SOMEWHERE WITHIN ITS THOROUGHLY UNDERDEVELOPED INFRASTRUCTURE”
important resource for securing the advantage during those early match scuffles.
Of course, the more cash you’re carrying on your person, the more vulnerable you feel, since you’ll always drop a percentage of it upon being killed, which other players can then pick up for themselves. It’s here,
with this dichotomy, where Radical Heights successfully captures the kind of competitive edge that you really want from a battle royale experience.
Even so, it’s difficult to wholeheartedly recommend Radical Heights in its current state, as Boss Key isn’t exaggerating when it describes the game as “X-TREME Early Access”. But to disregard it as a shallow Fortnite facsimile or throwaway PUBG parody would be to gloss over the game’s potential as a viable alternative for battle royale fans in the future, assuming what’s already there gets optimised to an acceptable standard by the time of a full release.
The threshold for Radical Heights’ prospects ultimately depends on whether Boss Key can succeed with this game where it previously failed with Lawbreakers, namely in cultivating a lasting product that keeps players coming back for more. Achieve that, and reaching those Radical Heights of the title might just become a reality for Bleszinski’s fledgling studio.
there’s no fall damage in Radical Heights, so instead of deploying a parachute after skydiving into the arena, players will simply perform a casual action roll upon hitting the ground. nice.