There’s no end to the growth of the Battle Royale genre, and with the success of both Fortnite and PUBG, we’re seeing the emergence of more and more games—both good and bad. Boss Key, the developers behind the arena shooter Lawbreakers, have decided to jump into this world of competitive shooters with a new entry by the name of Radical Heights.
Make no mistake, this is (at the time of this writing), an early access game. “Embrace the Jank” greets you when you enter the game, along with “XTREME ALPHA” being proudly displayed at the top right of your menu. Boss Key knows that this game, being only 5 months into development, is very early in its life but have decided to release as early as possible and work with their community to make the game better.
With plenty of bugs, graphical glitches, and large portions of the world still being built up with the UDK's basic modeling structures, XTREME ALPHA is fitting. For an early access game that's trying to figure out what its players want and how to improve, I'm 100% cool with it. They're going to polish the game world over time, so right now I don't mind. To be honest, this is THE model for Battle Royale: releasing a playable version of the game and working with the community to improve it. It’s really the best way to go, provided you can maintain communication and continue bringing consistent improvements.
The design of this game is pretty rad, focusing on an 80s game show aesthetic throughout your experience, including how the game handles the number of players remaining, and especially the final showdown, which just screams game show as a round arena drops from the sky.
In Radical Heights, the way the map works is different from other Battle Royales like Fortnite or PUBG, instead employing a method that utilizes the squares of the map. Rather than having a shrinking circle, the number of squares you can be inside changes, and in many cases it’s in a shape that isn’t ideal, such as an S or an L, which completely changes the way you move around the map. Especially when you don’t jump out of a plane, you just start falling out of the sky and must quickly pick somewhere to land; not being able to perfectly plan each drop ahead of time makes the initial drop that much more frantic and exciting.
Gameplay-wise, shooting has recoil, which is nice, because it merges the ridiculousness of an 80s game show with the tactics and gun mechanics of a more serious shooter. Gunplay feels great, and the colored tier system works well for assigning higher damages and scopes to certain guns. Even lower tier guns don’t feel completely useless, allowing skill to play a defining factor if you’re good enough to land solid shots.
I'm also a fan of the fact that you get one weapon slot and one gadget slot until you find holsters/backpacks, forcing players to explore a bit instead of just instantly stockpiling guns, which in turn will instigate more combat. Additionally, since you get one of each with every opponent killed, it heavily incentivizes early engagements.
While most Battle Royales include just a loot drop or chest system for finding better loot, Radical Heights takes its 80s game show mantra to a whole new level, offering a myriad of ways for players to “win” and get more loot. Littered through the map, contestants will find Mystery Doors and Prize Boxes, which offer the chance at extra loot and cash, as well as the typical gift boxes that supply you with more ammo. On top of that, there’s even limited events like Bike Runs, which have players riding a special bike to the finish line for a special prize, and money rains from the sky at Cash Drops, which are indicated on the map as well.
Of course there’s still a loot drop system too, called Spin to Win, and it’ll have you chanting “Spin to Win!” right alongside the audience in-game!
When the game released, I thought that the cash aspect would be an issue, but after playing I no longer feel that way.
Players are able to pick up prizes and money around the game world to grow their in-game cash, then that cash can be used to buy items at vending machines or deposit at the ATM. However, if you save up throughout the game and manage to win, you’ll get to double your earnings as opposed to losing a slight amount if you don’t. In the end, this part of the game turns out to be incredibly solid, as the randomness applied to the vending machines for guns and gear combined with the dollar amounts assigned at times keeps it from feeling like a broken system.
Boss Key has done a good job balancing the purchase of in-game items between real world money and the cash you’ll pick up around the game. With every game you complete or win, you’ll leave with some amount of money that you keep. This cash can then be used in the Prize Room to purchase cosmetics, but only after you’ve found them inside the game itself—a pretty neat concept for a Battle Royale. You can also purchase items with real money if you wish, but the majority of items are available via in-game means, so exploring is well worth your time if you want to look radical.
I must say this, though. The action roll is awesome.
Seriously, the addition of the action roll allows for a ton of totally cool moves around the dome of Radical Heights, most of them probably intended. Jump towards, then action roll through a window to quickly make your way into a building, or just action roll to the right to avoid some incoming fire. Or, my personal favorite, perform an action roll to jump across buildings. I can’t help but chuckle every time I do it; it’s just too much fun.
Now, as an early access game on Steam, there’s bugs—and plenty of them. There’s not much of a point to get into many of them just a week after release, because they’ll be patched quickly. However, I should note that sometimes optimization can be tough, and there have been plenty of patches of lag or disconnections from time to time. Thankfully, it’s infrequent, and I have yet to step into a firefight that was affected by anything other than tactics or aim.
Overall, I'm interested to see where Radical Heights proceeds from here. Boss Key has put together a formula that has some great stopping power in the Battle Royale world, and with players responding well and playing in large numbers, they’re seeing some great success. The question is: how well will they interact over time with the community and focus on implementing features and ideas that continually improve upon the sold base that’s been built?
If you’re a fan of the Battle Royale genre and have played or enjoy PUBG and Fortnite’s offerings, then Radical Heights at the very low cost of free is worth your time. Just “embrace the jank," as the developer puts it, and you’re sure to have a great time alone or with friends.
Radical Heights was previewed on Steam for Free while in Early Access, shortly after Patch 1.