Radical Heights, the slightly ironically named sophomore title from developer Boss Key headed by the “legendary” Cliff Bleszinski, has had a slightly rough start, to say the least. Developer Boss Key have decided to take a step in to the already flooded Battle Royale genre, so it seems they’re keen on being the developers gunning for the “We totally missed the mark, but fuck it we’re gonna try and ride the coat tails anyway” award.
Boss Key’s initial release, LawBreakers, was a late stab at creating their own space in the hero shooter genre that’s predominantly dominated by Blizzard’s Overwatch. The game launched a year too late to even begin to compete with Overwatch. It was visually uninspired and far too expensive for what it was. I, apparently, am one of the few people who actually enjoyed the game, despite it being flawed. The movement options were a welcome change in an FPS setting, especially with me mostly playing as a character that could whip around the map, and I found the Blitzball mode to actually be the most fun. If it had released as a £15 game with just the Blitzball mode and Team Death Match, I feel the game would’ve done better. Probably doesn’t help when you start taking shots at other games and blaming them for your failures, but seeing as Cliff Bleszinski had announced that he wanted to come out of retirement to create another “billion dollar franchise” and this was the result we got, you can kinda see why he’d try and move blame around.
So, with Radical Heights being a brand new game for the company, have they learned from their mistakes? Will this be Bleszinskis new “billion dollar franchise”?
To be brief, no. In an attempt to strike while the iron is lukewarm at best, and frozen at worst, (which seems to be their patented game creation ploy) Boss Key have managed to create a new Battle Royale game that actually makes PUBG look polished, well rounded and unique. Posed as an “XTREME early access” game, it truly displays how early it is. Pre game lobbies function poorly that it’s just easier to stand still and pray that you load into a game. The biggest “features” that Radical Heights brings to the table is the inclusion of Ziplines and BMX bikes. The former shows how bad of a state the netcode is currently in, with you constantly jumping about as you slide down them. The latter I’ve found to randomly turn you in different directions and have seemingly no use, barring events that tempt the players to ride across the map to complete deliveries.
The 80’s game show setting is one that I actually like, as I’m a massive SmashTV fan and it’s actually what enticed me to give the game a go when it was announced. This still manages to fall just as flat as everything else in the game. The occasional crowd chants are nice, but they’re lacking in flavour. The player is treated to some preamble when loading into the pregame lobby, before you’re basically given silence as you wait. As you load into the game and get to play, you’re not treated to a lovely plane ride or a trip on the battle bus, you instead get a black screen and a crowd countdown before you’re airdropping into the game show. There’s no tactical thought in where you want to drop, as you begin the game plummeting towards the earth.
Dotted around most of the locations are things the player can pick up to earn money, which is also earned by killing other players. The child in me is still disappointed with the lack of “Big money, Big prizes, I love it!” chants when you actually pick up the cash. The player can use this to buy weapons or armour to help them with future battles. Interestingly you can cash out at any ATM dotted around the map to preserve money for future matches, or you can withdraw your cash so you can make a game changing purchase. A neat little feature, but it does appear to be slightly redundant. I’ve never felt a compulsion to buy any of the items and it seems way more useful to just keep your money in the bank so that if you’re killed, your foe doesn’t get a large payout.
The character creation is limited at best, with there being controversy over the fact that you can’t currently play as a female character. Due to the lack of unique models as it is, surely adding a female character type wouldn’t have been difficult, and naturally it just adds to the list of things Boss Key need to fix in Radical Heights before they could even consider it being done. Naturally, with any free to play “early access” game, you can choose to buy a founders pack, which provides you with some extra clothing and some premium currency, but it’s deplorable to actually include this in a game that’s so bare bones and in it’s infancy. It makes the game come across as a desperate cash grab from a potentially dying studio. All clothing can be bought with the currency you get from playing the game, but the price of everything is astronomical. I was cashing out as much as I could and was killing a fair few people, but I was still tens of thousands off of actually being able to afford some fresh sneakers.
I think the most disappointing thing about Radical Heights is the fact that, once you’re playing it and it’s in a working condition, the game is actually pretty fun. Shotguns seem to fire across the map, which I actually find massively entertaining and thankfully the games, from what I’ve played, don’t seem to end with a random snipe from across the map that you had virtually no way of seeing. Maybe time will tell and Radical Heights will blossom into something unique and fun, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Boss Key need to focus on making something actually unique, but I fear that if Radical Heights doesn’t kill the company, their next release will probably be a MOBA. God knows we need more of those.