When I saw that the Steam page for new free-to-play battle royale game Radical Heights said it was releasing in “X-Treme Early Access,” I took it as a silly play on its over-the-top ‘80s theme. It’s not. This game is extremely early, with the ‘e’ firmly present at the beginning of that word. The core shows a lot of potential, but with only five months of development, there are still tons of issues and even more work to be done.
Its launch has been plagued with reports of connection and performance issues that have largely tanked its Steam review average to under 50% positive with over 1,600 submitted at the time of this writing. I haven’t experienced any game breaking bugs (though I did get stuck in a door once) but Radical Heights is far from a polished experience. Simply put, it’s not done — but it’s also not pretending to be.
Entire buildings and areas remain untextured, their rough grey-boxes showing instead — a fact that’s also made clear on its Steam page. Many of the buildings that are textured can feel empty, waiting for furniture and other objects to populate them at a later date, and the textures themselves can sometimes seem particularly low-res. Each area of Radical Heights’ suburban battlefield can feel pretty similar, too, lacking distinct personalities.
The performance could definitely be better, but I’ve also definitely seen worse.
There have also been reports of glitches and poor performance galore, though I haven’t experienced anything notably bad on the three different PCs I have run it on. A lot of people are saying it’s unoptimized, but my experience still puts it far above how terribly PUBG ran at its early access launch. It could definitely be better, but I’ve also definitely seen worse.
Developer Boss Key Productions has been vocal about what issues they are tracking and how to submit problems you find. They’ve asked players on Twitter to “embrace the jank” with them as they fix issues and add to the game, and have already released their first hotfix. That’s sort of the whole point of releasing a game in early access, but it’s also left people with an understandably bad taste in their mouth on launch day.
Fundamentally, I think it was a mistake to release Radical Heights in its current state. It’s actually pretty fun and shows a lot of potential to be something more than the hot mess it is now. The $0 price tag means no one is getting taken advantage of by trying it out, but you only get one shot at making a good first impression. Even just waiting until they at least had placeholder textures on every building would have likely made a huge difference in the perception of its quality.
Frankly, it’s pretty brash for Boss Key to release such an unfinished game just to ride the wave of the current battle royale craze before it passes, but at least they are being upfront about how early on this is. If it weren’t free-to-play, Radical Heights would go down as a cautionary tale — but since it appears to be doing free-to-play right (for now), I’m actually looking forward to seeing how it grows.
Tom Marks is IGN’s PC Editor and pie maker. You can follow him on Twitter.