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

Games TM - - CONTENTS -

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


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.

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