Radical Heights PC Preview

Rough and tumble shooting might get you to reach those Radical Heights.

By Daavpuke, Posted 13 Apr 2018

Man, there’s so much to say from a game like Radical Heights that labels itself “extreme early access.” Back in the day, terrible PC projects would slap on a “pre-alpha” label and call it a day. What company would try to chase that concept, let alone a studio of veterans like Cliff Bleszinski’s Boss Key Production? To squeeze out a nugget like that, in the thoroughly contested battle royale genre of last-person-standing shooters, no less; that requires brass. To be fair, there is no lack of said “cojones” in the free multiplayer title, but its ridiculously premature state will need to be tightened hard and fast, if it wants a piece of that big boy pie.

Radical Heights is the most obvious of battle royale imageries. What if the 80s had bad hair, neon clothes and gaudy game shows, except this contest is the Running Man, exactly: A bunch of people drop onto a city area and scavenge for gear and weapons. The winner is the one who survives last, by any means necessary. Cue synth solos; we’ve got a concept on our hands.


Radical Heights,Battle Royale,Preview


With some cartoonish, cel-shaded visuals, the shooter can easily get away with looking colorful and saturated, while also keeping the architecture in tune with 80s bohemia. Brutalist square buildings and plaid, brown house interiors are the backdrop for this US of A with burgers, BMX bikes and guns. Campiness is high within the game show aesthetic, as contestants can don booty shorts cosmetics and find rad cassette players as cash drops. Every single interaction has some corny guitar riff or chorus attached to it, from buying gear in vending machines to the ear-bleeding loud jingles of special events. Participants are here to have fun, first and foremost, as they fight to the death.

Once dropped inside the kill-dome, participants flop onto the pavement, without a parachute, to tuck and roll into action. Aside from just finding guns and helpful items in random houses, the environment is also littered with machines that hold stuff for cold, hard cash. If Radical Heights tries to differ from its peers in some way, it’s the cash system. Everything is tied to money. Need a gun? Buy it. Need some armor? Buy that thing, yo. Don’t have enough money? There’s a buy-back machine that trades guns for cash. This concept is very “The Culling,” but given the third person action is also very “H1Z1,” the game is wearing most of its influences on its tracksuit sleeves.

Players who feel more cautious can bank their currency into offshore accounts, which can be accessed and even extracted for later matches. Skillfully smoking someone drops a third of their cash, so there’s also an incentive to go out and murder. More so, slayed victims drop their weapon and gear slots, expanding the amount of items that can be carried, from one slot each up to three slots. More stuff means more means to get that sweet dosh. Should one be so lucky to be the best, then the amount of money they are holding in the end gets doubled and stored in the offshore account. It’s all about the almighty dollar. And yes, it plays the “You’re the Best” song from Karate Kid upon victory, because of course.


Radical Heights,Battle Royale,Preview


Gun mechanisms are not extraordinary, but serviceable. Weapons of different rarities hold specific attachments, from extended magazines to added scopes. Balance is currently all over the place, so smaller machine guns will require a ton of hits, but the huge recoil of bigger rifles offsets that a little. And, again, if that gun isn’t working out, then just sell it! Throwing items like grenades are equally fickle, often not exploding or not making any impact. Every system works similar to the game’s battle royale peers, but they are inconsistent at best.

That’s where the big hurdle in Radical Heights stands as of now; not in the skill gap of being able to aim, dodge or track, but to be able to deal with the extreme early state of a massive multiplayer project with no mulligans. Perspectives are completely out of whack, making some players invisible as they can shoot from behind walls. There’s a huge disparity between aiming down sights or scopes. Hitboxes don’t track, linger for ages or get completely nullified. Players will regularly get caught in the placeholder fixtures on the map, get sucked into rocks, kick open doors involuntarily, freeze constantly, crash completely and so on. It would be easier to highlight what the game gets right. No amount of sick bike tricks or game show quips can stand up to frustrating deaths of server lag, lack of custom controls or even the safe zone getting fully cut off from players, leaving them doomed to die in a red zone that chunks away health indiscriminately. Yes, there are safe zone. Hell, solo games have a teaming problem, where multiple players gang up to force a victory, since there is no report function to punish them. Radical Heights is in a rough state, which is putting it lightly. It is not ready for 100-player matches, not even with the dumb-as-bricks artificial opponents that charge players without a care.

There is, however, just enough difference in the cash system and slot machine antics to differentiate this battle royale from the next one. Rushing to a cash fountain to get showered in funds or hitting a big Spin To Win wheel for some sick loot just uses that game show trope perfectly. Contestants can wait in front of a prize door, while it chirps a little tune that is audible for nearby opponents. Risk and reward is just a little more engaging when there is cash involved that players can carry over to other games.

To sweeten the pot more, Radical Heights even ties those stored dollars into its otherwise paid-for cosmetic items. Finding clothing items in-game will unlock their free dollar equivalent to the premium gem currency alternatively required. To top it off, and this is the most important part: Radical Heights is by far the most lenient in both currencies to unlock its sick attire. The smallest contribution is just €4 and offers enough gems for multiple items, if not a complete look. There is also a founder’s pack that comes with several outfits for €14. Barring that, grinding money for a day can quickly unlock one or two items. That’s a tubular crop top, buddy; have some sneakers with that. No other free-to-play title of its kin is even close to that comparison. Radical Heights is real easy on the money squeeze, with plenty of alternatives, which is perhaps the most enticing thing about the rough but whimsical shooter.


Radical Heights,Battle Royale,Preview


Lawbreakers, the previous promising shooter from Boss Key, died for the sins of Radical Heights’ attempt at clasping the battle royale teat. The colorful, campy multiplayer game is currently in its most skeletal form, but it does have some very important differences, particularly in how it handles currency and player rewards. That said, let’s be clear: The project needs a ton of work and it needs to get it done very quickly, because the giants looming over it will be quick to welcome back whatever audience they can entice, after the honeymoon phase wanes to its many crippling issues.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed (@Daavpuke)

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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Boss Key Productions
Developer(s): Boss Key Productions
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Free to Play, Massively Multiplayer
Release Date: 2018-04-10

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