As I’m sure anyone reading my content has worked out by now, I like this ‘new’ genre of battle royale games, and I like free shit (but who doesn’t?). So it should come as no surprise that I’ve jumped into Radical Heights for a gander at what it’s like and if it tickles my fancy any more than big brothers PUBG and Fortnite. Being ‘Extreme’ early access (the game is currently in alpha) and under 3Gb total size I didn’t have any wild expectations, especially seeing I had never played Boss Keys only other game Lawbreakers which failed to make a blip on the gaming radar post-launch.
After the initial new game confusion of figuring out how things worked in this whacky new world, I started to really enjoy the Radical Heights experience. It’s faster than both PUBG and Fortnite (in my opinion..), and serves up another new way of doing things in a genre that’s now becoming more mainstream than Quake and Counter-Strike circa Y2K.
Radical Heights is a gameshow / dome where contestants are thrown into (there’s no plane, or parachute! You just kind of drop in and hit the ground at full speed to roll onto your feet…) a so-cal’esque city from the glorious days of 80’s glam rock, complete with a mimic HOLLYWOOD sign in the hillside. The premise isn’t just to survive, but to compete for cash and prizes as a contestant, with the view that you will play again and can continually build up wealth and wardrobe for use in future forays in downtown los radicalas.
Once on the ground you need to find weapons primarily and go into looting mode like the tradition battle royal, but there are also weapons (some good, some awesome) inside vending machines that you need to collect cash to buy (See below). Once you’ve got your gear it’s a matter of killing and surviving per the genre, with a few extra’s and bonuses thrown in along the way. One of the most noticeable differences with Radical Heights is how the map shrinks to funnel players towards the final showdown, much more random than the old storm/blue zone which often throws repeatable location-based strategy out the window, forcing players to think and their feet and skill-up to survive.
Let’s talk about the nuts and bolts:
Cash can be found laying around on the ground, it can be taken off dead opponents, you can get it from smashing cash registers, and other ways. Once you’ve got it you can spend it on guns and armour from the aforementioned vending machines, or bank it in the ATM for another game. This means that people with lots of banked cash can drop straight in onto an ATM, withdraw fat stacks, buy a slick bullet-slinger, and start popping randoms in the street like it’s Saturday night in Compton; but ultimately it doesn’t seem to unbalance the game too much as you can find excellent guns laying around quite easily anyway. This earnt cash is also the free in-game currency to purchase aesthetic upgrades to your character. You can also spend real money on buying fresh sneakers… but why bother.
Movement and Travel
Movement in Radical Heights really isn’t all that bad considering how alpha the game is, it’s a bit jerky and missing animations, and sure you MIGHT levitate in the air for no reason when opening a surprise package… but so what? The only real difference in running around between other royale titles is the diving mechanic. A fun and really quite useful way of getting out of harms way or diving through plate glass windows (now that they’ve patched that in…).
As far as moving fast around the map (other than hacking, which is already rife), your only option so far is take a rad (see what I did there?) BMX, which may or may not throw you off and ride off into the sunset without you if you look at the curb the wrong way. Patch 1 made big changes to the bike to make them ‘more stable’ and less prone to randomly running away, but they’ve still a long way to go before you’re not screaming at your monitor for a bit of Dave Mirra (may he RIP).
There’s things I like about the weapons that some kind producer has left scattered around the Radical Heights gameshow set, and there’s things I don’t. For ‘power’ levels, they’ve ripped the colouring system clean off of Fortnite with different coloured info blocks for common, uncommon, rare, etc (also known as level 1, 2, 3 when it references armour). Changing fire mode is ripped straight out of PUBG (though I’m not sure if a guns firing mechanic can be ripped off, but they use the same key), but they do endeavor to spice things up with some original thoughts.
When you first crash to the earth you can only hold one single solitary gun, and you only have one gear slot (grenades, heals, etc). To get more you need to find belts and bags laying around or on dead bodies in order to unlock more to a maximum of 3 guns and 3 gear slots. Not a bad mechanic. Guns are standard fair (pistols, shotguns, AR’s, rifles), but gear is a little more exotic. Grenades (frag and CONFETTI) are fairly awful, but there are interesting little devices called noisemakers and when you throw them down they make 10-15 seconds of gun fighting sounds, making for a fantastic distraction for you to leg it.
I mentioned that corralling ‘contestants’ in Radical Heights is a bit different to other games in the genre, and that is entirely due to the safe zone mechanics. Per norm the map is divided into a grid, but when you drop in there is already no-go zone in place, usually a randomised pattern over the grid. You need to look at the map mid-flight to ensure you land somewhere safe. After an initial looting periond the map will open up to being completely safe, before the next timer finishes and randomises a bulk area that will become a no-go zone in the next few minutes.
From here that zone gets smaller and smaller, but through randomised no-go zones getting dropped over the available safe areas. This culminates in the ‘final shootout’, a flashy circle of scaffolding that floats down from the sky, and sort of marks the area that everyone has to get to, but not really because there’s flares on the ground outside of that… and then the ‘final’ circle actually start further back from those flares as well…. It’s a refreshing change to other blue zones and means that you can’t always play to a location based strategy. Sometimes you’ve just got to get on your bike (literally) and make an open trek across the map.
Really. Freaking. Alpha.
Like I mentioned there are missing movement animations and the BMX bikes are almost sentient, but one of the more telling signs is the mass of structures with no textures. Not every building is furnished with rad posters adorning the walls and skateboards on the floor, lampshades on the table… you often come across 5-story complexes that are literally white walled and grided on every surface. It doesn’t really interfere with the gameplay, but it sure as hell makes it hard to hide from an opponent! The games is extreme early access for a reason, but definitely shows a bit of promise and is another solidly fun alternative to PUBG and Fortnite.
Oh, it’s also so alpha that it’s “not optimised to all systems” and has this fun graphics bug that if you don’t have two options set to ‘the right settings for your system’ you get a ballistic green blinking that may or may not cause you to have a fit if you happen to be epileptic… not kidding.
Before finishing I’ll just shoehorn in that there’s a few extra bits and bobs to find around the Radical Heights city.
- You will often find gift boxes around the place, sometimes in alleyways or on roofs etc. They take about 2 seconds to open and give you 3 or 4 bits of gear/ammo at once. These come in a small and large variety currently.
- Larger gift boxes get dropped in throughout the later stages of the match on large ski-lift like cables. You can see them coming on the minimap and when they drop you want to get there!
- You can find mobile phones (bricks.. This is the 80’s after all) around the place that you can use to call for a supply package. You can’t use the inside (bad reception) and everyone can hear them go off, but you get your own gift pop up in front of you in a few seconds.
- BMX races happen throughout the gameplay… it’s pretty random but in a Courier Crisis style minigame, you get rewards if you’re the first person to go form start line to finish on a bike. Of course if anyone else is going for the same boon there’s likely to be a shootout, so be careful.
- Hidden gameshows are also a thing. Flashy booths of blinking lights and a big stage door can randomly be found around the world (they spawn randomly at game start) and hold a small room full of goodies. To get inside you need to stand on the entrance for about 5 seconds while gameshow music blares out, alerting everyone nearby to your location.
All in all I think Radical Heights shows a lot of promise and has a ton of interesting and unique features, including the strategy of playing to loot (and therefore making yourself stronger in later games) rather than specifically playing to win. I’m interested to see how the game evolves over time and whether or not they can obtain a solid piece of the market share and keep on growing. Being only a few weeks old at best it can sometimes take a little while to fill a lobby and there is already a notable issue with hackers (who possess super speed and aimbot). Here’s hoping that Boss Key have some sort of strategy to fix the hacking prior to skinning the buildings, otherwise they could be on the pointy end of an(other) commercial swan dive.