Radical Heights: A SuperParent Guide

This battle royale newcomer is gaining in popularity despite the fact that it's not finished yet. Recommended only for tween-agers and up.

Radical Heights is the latest entry into the hugely popular “battle royale” game genre, hoping to earn a place alongside titles such as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (or PUBG) and Fortnite in gamer’s affections. It also seems to be pitching itself at a younger audience, but is it suitable for kids – and is it any good?

What is Radical Heights?

Radical Heights is set in a dystopian future where mankind’s only entertainment comes from a TV show – also called Radical Heights. This 1980s-styled show sees 100 contestants skydive into an arena, encompassing parks, shopping malls and residential areas, and then hunt for useful items, weapons and – inevitably – each other. Once you’re killed, you’re out of the game and the last player left alive is the winner.

What makes it different from similar games?

The 1980s setting, for one thing. Not only is the game full of garish costumes and haircuts, with neon pink and electric blue color schemes everywhere, it also allows you to use BMX bikes to get around faster. In terms of gameplay, the selling point at the heart of Radical Heights is cash. Whatever money you find in the game, either from defeated enemies or smashed store registers, can either be spent at vending machines on new weapons, or banked for later. You can then draw money out of your account in subsequent matches, although this involves standing at an ATM, and risks drawing the attention of other players. It’s a clever addition to the battle royale formula, and encourages a level of tactical planning not seen in rival games.

Is Radical Heights suitable for kids?

As with other battle royale games, the ruthlessness of the gameplay alone makes it inappropriate for younger children. For older pre-teen kids, there’s not much in terms of content that would cause concern beyond some splashes of blood when a player is killed. Despite the colorful visual style, it still skews closer to the more realistic graphics of PUBG rather than the overtly cartoonish Fortnite, so if the sight of human characters shooting each other with realistic firearms bothers you, this may not be the game to choose. The bombastic 1980s presentation sometimes feels like it might sail close to the knuckle, but in our time with the game it never featured cursing or innuendo. It even uses the more sanitized “backside” instead of “butt.”

Who makes Radical Heights?

This is the new game from a developer called Boss Key. The studio was formed several years ago by designer Cliff Bleszinski, also known as Cliffy B, who made his name with the ultra-violent Gears of War franchise for Microsoft. Boss Key’s debut title was another multiplayer game, called LawBreakers, but after failing to attract an audience for that game, it has rather hurriedly launched Radical Heights after just a few months of development.

How much does it cost?

Radical Heights is free to download and play, via digital PC games store Steam. There are, however, in-game purchases for “Rad Gems,” which can be used to buy cosmetic costume items. At present, there isn’t much to choose from, but players can still spend over $110 on one bundle of Rad Gems. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t offer any settings to disable these purchases, and Steam’s “Family View” option only blocks entire games, not the option to buy additional content. Put simply, a child left alone with this game could, in theory, spend a lot of money via your Steam account if not properly protected. That’s not a criticism for Radical Heights specifically, more a weakness with Steam’s limited parental controls in general.

Is Radical Heights a good game?

Here’s the tricky part: Radical Heights is an “Early Access” game, which means the developer is allowing people to play it before it’s finished. Developers do this to get feedback from these early players, then use that to shape and improve the game.

Radical Heights has been released unusually early, however, and is in fact described as being in “Xtreme” Early Access. That means, at present, it is really a skeleton of what the finished game might look like, and every aspect from control to appearance is unfinished. Put simply, it’s not just rough around the edges, but rough right through the center as well. That’s not so much of an issue given that the game is free to play, but it can mean that bugs and glitches can break the game at any time, and this will cause frustration if your child is expecting something with Fortnite’s level of polish.

There is, of course, also a danger that the game may never leave its Early Access state – the game has clearly been rushed into release because of the failure of Boss Key’s previous project – and if the developer goes bust, or abandons development on Radical Heights for something else, any money that has been spent on in-game items will be lost. As such, you may wish to encourage your children to wait for it to become a more stable and popular product before allowing them to spend any money on it.

Conclusion

Radical Heights sits somewhere between the cartoon action of Fortnite and the more realistic stalk-and-kill action of PUBG, and its bright 1980s presentation will certainly appeal to youngsters who have been turned on to the retro aesthetic by Ready Player One and Stranger Things. It also has a few good ideas of its own that make it stand out. There’s nothing much in terms of content that should give you pause, outside of the usual PG-13-style shooting gameplay, but parents and kids should be aware that the game has been released in a very raw state, and won’t offer the sort of slick experience you’d expect for quite some time – if ever. As we said in the '80s, Radical Heights isn’t awesome yet, but it’s not completely bogus either. Dude.