Radical Heights has got a lot of baggage. It’s the next game from the makers of the notoriously defunct LawBreakers, it bears a questionable resemblance to the largest free-to-play battle royale game in the world, and it’s already wrestled with a now quelled pay-to-win scare. The deck is stacked against it, and it certainly has its problems, but Radical heights also has something genuine to offer the battle royale genre.
Developer Boss Key Productions is clearly capitalizing on the massive trend that is battle royale games, and rushing the game to an early access launch after five months of development might not have been the best plan, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’s a Fortnite clone. It’s undoubtedly a buggy mess, with unfinished textures and lots of issues (more on all that here), but it’s got a core that shows potential.
Right as you’re falling from the sky, Radical Heights does some interesting stuff with zone restriction. It has a circular map broken into a grid of squares, and instead of a slowly shrinking circle, squares will “lock down” in a number of unpredictable patterns. That could be the sides of the map closing in, or random squares locking down and causing the arena to become fragmented. Sometimes the grid will end up as a long, snaking path of squares that transforms the playing field into something entirely different from PUBG or Fortnite.
Its cash banking system is also unique and interesting, but potentially problematic in the long run. It lets you go to ATMs to (slowly) withdraw cash you grabbed in previous rounds, then spend it at vending machines for quick loot. I like the risk-reward of deciding between taking out money for weapons or saving it for unlocking cosmetics, but good loot is currently very scarce on the map. It’s not hard to imagine the meta quickly devolving into everyone diving straight toward predictable spots that have both ATMs and vending machines nearby instead of hunting naturally.
The ‘80s game show theme is used well, too. It’s colorful in a way that draws comparisons to Fortnite, but the over the top attitude is all its own — and a welcome change of pace from LawBreakers’ way too serious tough guy persona. Silly game show events cleverly offer risky looting opportunities around the map, blaring lights and sounds for the promise of cash and guns, and the amount of neon clothing could make your eyes bleed.
Radical Heights is a fun mess, but I want it to be a lot better than it is right now.
Also, good gravy the BMX biking can be fun. I desperately want a ‘BMX and pistols only’ mode that leans into that madness. The controls for it are a bit unwieldy, but it’s novel to have a battle royale game that lets you bike around a suburb instead of just hike through hillsides. All the map locations do feel fairly similar right now though, so I’m hoping they are differentiated in interesting ways down the line.
The guns feel a bit like a mix of Fortnite and PUBG, and our battle royale master Steven Ryu says Radical Heights likely feels closer to H1Z1 than anything else. They are definitely on the arcade-y side, with minimal recoil and surprising accuracy. This is a place I want to see Radical Heights improve drastically. It does some interesting stuff with movement and positioning during a firefight (I particularly like the ability to do a long dodge roll) but right now the shooting feels a bit too easy for how sparse good loot can be.
Critically, as of launch day, Radical Heights appears to be free-to-play done right. There is currently no pay-to-win, no way to buy cash, and the only things you can spend real money on are cosmetics — most of which can also be acquired without spending a dime. This isn’t a cash grab at launch, in fact it’s barely asking anything of you at all right now.
That said, I want Radical Heights to be a lot better than it is right now. It’s a fun mess, an ugly pile geometry that offers a glimpse of a pretty cool battle royale game. If it can survive its buggy and poorly pitched launch, find an audience, and start getting consistent and meaningful updates, then Radical Heights could eventually grow into something worth your time. Right now, it’s at least worth a try.
Tom Marks is IGN’s PC Editor and pie maker. You can follow him on Twitter.