Lawbreakers developer Boss Key Productions released Radical Heights today as a free-to-play early access game on Steam. The “x-treme early access” battle royale game comes too late to cash in on the genre’s popularity. While it might have a few good ideas, it is one messy game.
Battle royale games drop players onto a map, where they scavenge weapons and fight until one one survives. Last year’s PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds popularized the genre, while the free-to-play Fortnite Battle Royale turned it into a worldwide phenomenon. Radical Heights strictly follows the format of dumping 100 players into a world where they need to fight to the death, but it adds a glitzy 1980s aesthetic and game show flare. There are BMX bikes, blaring neon lights, and even an announcer. Besides this, though, matches play out just like any other battle royale game.
We played it earlier today. It was, uh... okay. Maybe?
Radical Heights does have a couple of interesting ideas that vary the experience slightly from other battle royale games. Zones where players take damage pop up randomly in grids on the game’s map, instead of the reliable circle zones of PUBG or Fornite Battle Royale. Large, flashy prize vans only give you supplies if you stay in a certain area for a set amount of time. Players can ride bikes and slide down ziplines to move quickly around the map. These design choices feel like attempts to create more chaos but need to be a bit more plentiful on the map before that happens. As it stands, the game’s real chaos comes from its barely incomplete state, where framerate dips and you can walk on water like some kind of glam rock Jesus.
The largest difference between Radical Heights and other battle royale games is that player can find money around the map by smashing cash registers or collecting prizes. Money can then be used at various vendors to buy powerful guns or other supplies. In theory, a player could bide their time and cash until the end of the game and outplay the competition with the ability to purchase new supplies when things get dire. It’s a cost/benefit analysis that fits in nicely to battle royale: do I spend cash now to survive the early game or do I horde on the off chance the final zone comes down in a location with a lot of sales kiosks? You can also deposit money into ATMs and use it in later matches, which is an interesting idea that might change matches as the game goes on and some kind of community builds. For the moment, it hardly seems to matter, since there’s not much discernible difference between a legendary rifle that you bought or garbage loot you scrounged. Cool in theory, dull in execution.
From the obnoxiously bright game-show aesthetic to the decision to sell a “Founders Pack” of $14.99 that already had to be tweaked for fears of pay to win, the entire affair feels like it is trying way too hard. The game’s pace and tone is too energetic to attract PUBG fans, and the lack of a core mechanic as strong as fort building won’t pull Fortnite Battle Royale players over. It might be fun to play on a lark, but it offers nothing players haven’t seen before.