Radical Heights has seen a sudden release as an "Xtreme Early Access" game, and Boss Key Productions' latest attempt to break into the multiplayer shooter market definitely lives up to that description. It arrives hot on the heels of the developer's announcement that LawBreakers was being shelved, and came as a major surprise in spite of Boss Key's hints that a new project was in the works.
Indeed, the launch of Radical Heights came just one day after the title was officially announced, albeit not in a fully finished state. Instead, Radical Heights jumped into the world of Steam's Early Access programme, which allows in-development games to cut their teeth with actual players while the intricacies of the development cycle are resolved.
That said, it's a bit of a surprise to see a game made by such veterans of the industry as Cliff Bleszinski take to a platform mainly used by much smaller indie studios. To be fair to Boss Key, though, it hasn't lied when it stated that Radical Heights is at the extreme end of the early access market, as the game is very rough around the edges at the moment - and perhaps more than is to be expected from the early access tag. The game may have been made over five months, but nonetheless it's clear that there's still plenty of development needed on Radical Heights, and the studio will want to make the most of its newfound Steam player base for earnest feedback.
Boss Key promised a "janky" Battle Royale title when the game was announced, and that's exactly what has been delivered here. Simply put, there's questions to be asked as to whether Radical Heights was ready to be seen by the public just yet, early access or not. The game's launch was plagued with connectivity issues as seen by the title's overall Steam Review score, but it's not just those connectivity problems that cause issues for the game.
All round, there are further problems in terms of performance here, and some of the game's critics have suggested that the game seriously requires optimization. Once again, this likely comes down to the fact that the game is so raw, but again questions may need to be asked about whether it needed to be rushed out of the door this early. That said, based on early previews this writer has not witnessed any seriously problematic performance problems in comparison to other early access games, as shown by some of the issues PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds has seen. Radical Heights feels a little worse than PUBG did on PC in its early access days, though, and that's something that Boss Key will need to address sooner rather than later.
Once again on a surface level, there's also a serious lack of quality to be found with Radical Heights. Players will notice a lack of textures and it overall leads to a pretty sparse landscape to look at. There are still lots of pockets of vibrancy here, in-keeping with the games 80's gameshow vibes and nostalgic nods to other media, but overall things look rather bland. Grey blurs of buildings and flat splashes of color for cars went out of fashion early in the millennium, and it doesn't fly here. It's early access, but (again) there has to be a limit, particularly given the lack of default customization options and large swathes of nothing.
What makes is frustrating is that there is still something good to be found, deep within. Boss Key clearly found something fun with Radical Heights, and its easy to tell that there's a team behind this game with a good idea of what makes a shooter work. If it wasn't for the problems based on launching the game oh so early, there could be something enjoyable to be had here.
Even stylistically, there's something to the 80s design choices and eye-popping color. It's hardly going to win any awards (particularly in its current state), but at the very least it has a potential for that same refreshing vibrancy seen by Saints Row and Sunset Overdrive - it's very much more Fortnite than H1Z1. There's a long way to go in this regard, perhaps more than any aspect of the game, but there's a sliver of what could become something good.
On top of that, there are a few neat choices from Boss Key. The game allows players to carry over funds to cash in for items, should they find an ATM, which certainly adds an aspect of much-needed flexibility - albeit one that could lead to some serious loot box problems down the line should the title not work on its in-game economy a little more. Meanwhile, its map system - where grids of the game world disappear rather than the circle system seen by other Battle Royale games - is at least a little different, even if it isn't groundbreaking. In short, there's enough here for fans of multiplayer shooters to want to keep an eye on Radical Heights, even if they just watch from afar to see if its many kinks are ironed out.
Whether players will stick around or not is another matter entirely. First impressions are big in gaming, and unfortunately Radical Heights doesn't exactly leave a good one. Although it's free to play, it doesn't currently hold up in comparison to Fortnite, and at the moment it doesn't feel like there's quite enough there to keep players occupied while Boss Key sorts things out - unless they can offer up a very swift turnaround for issues.
If Radical Heights offered up something completely new, it would be another matter entirely. However, there's not a lot here that hasn't been done before. The fun and upbeat Battle Royale place has already been filled by Fortnite, and even its place as an ultra-violent 80s gameshow is a retread. After all, Smash TV did that way back in 1990 with aplomb, and between the two games the Williams arcade classic still has the edge for that kind of tone.
Instead, players might be left with concerns as to where Radical Heights is going to go. It's jumped into a market already dominated by two powerhouses, with its closest rival apparently in the middle of taking over the world. There's definitely some potential hidden among the grunge, but that needs to turn into something genuinely impressive before Radical Heights can really be considered at the same tier.