This article is part of our Personal Playthrough series.
Okay, just hear me out! I know that you’re probably tired of battle royales at this point. But what if I told you that you should try another one? I realize that Radical Heights hasn’t gotten the best press in the last few days, with many seemingly firing from the hip at yet another entrant into this bloated genre. Even I didn’t care for it the first time I played it, but I decided to give it another shot and you know what? It’s not half bad. Is it rough around the edges? Yes. DId it come out too early? Possibly. Is it fun despite all of this? Hell yes.
Looking past the fact that this game looks like it belongs on the Playstation 2 circa 2000 rather than a PC in 2018, there is plenty to like about Radical Heights.
The thing that strikes me the most about this game is that it seems to have been made without esports in mind. The fact that a major portion of the game centers around finding cash around the map and using it to buy weapons creates a dynamic that doesn’t really seem feasible to uphold in a competitive setting. That’s especially true when you consider that you can deposit and withdraw money from ATMs to get a leg up on the competition in the early game. It creates situations where people can stockpile money between multiple matches, head straight to an ATM to withdraw money, and buy a guy worth over a thousand dollars 10 seconds into a match. That just doesn’t work if you’re trying to play this game competitively.
But that’s okay! Too many games these days are made with esports in mind and it sometimes comes off as a bit heavy-handed. I mean, Darwin Project was literally debuted with a dude “commentating” (he was really just yelling obnoxiously) on stage at E3 last year. The need for every multiplayer game to become an esport these days is actually exhausting. The fact that Radical Heights doesn’t seem to be going that route (at least right now) is incredibly refreshing.
Further setting this game apart is the whole game show aspect of Radical Heights. Instead of just being 100 people dropped onto an island to fight to the death for no apparent reason, Radical Heights has you participating in a game show, complete with prizes and a very annoying announcer. Terribly cliched announcer aside, the game show setting works pretty well. Instead of supply drops, giant spins wheels, presents, and bags of money are dropped throughout the map randomly. You can even use a “brick” style cell phone to call in a supply drop of your own.
Perhaps my favorite game show element is the The Price is Right secret prize doors that are scattered around the map. If you come upon one, you have to stand on a pad for a few seconds to grab some pretty nice goodies. It has a trade-off of having to stand there in the open for a few seconds too that makes it balanced to me.
Game show business aside, Radical Heights is a BR after all, which means it has a zone that you have to stay in or risk dying. Rather than adopting the circle mechanic that other games do, though, Radical Heights opts for a grid based system with even more randomization.
The minute you land on the map (which doesn’t involve a parachute, by the way, you just fall down and then do a little tuck and roll when you hit the ground), certain portions are already blocked out, which forces you to adjust your descent on the fly (no pun intended). This ensures that you won’t be able to land in the same exact spot every single game, forcing you to learn the entire map in order to succeed. It’s another refreshing element that allows the game to breath on its own rather than being forced into the same generic buckets of most battle royale games.
Finally, we have the aesthetics. I feel like it’s pretty much a “you love it or hate it” kind of deal. Some people love the 80s feel. Some people don’t. While I was a bit on the fence coming in, that all changed once I booted up the game, made a character, and was presented with this.
While I can dress my character up like a pink teddy bear and dinosaur in Fortnite, I am unable to give him a damn Jheri Curl! It was something that I didn’t really know I needed but now can’t live without. Never again can I play a BR without being able to live out my fantasies of being an extra in a Rick James video.
All in all, Radical Heights seems like a worthy entrant into the battle royale sphere. It may not be as clean or polished as the titans of the genre, which makes sense given it has only been in development for five months. Once the game has some time to grow and become an actual game rather than just an alpha, there could be some hope here. For now, you can catch me in game rocking that awesome Jheri Curl to my heart’s content.