LawBreakers devs take battle royale back to the 80s in Radical Heights

Like, totally bogus

’80s nostalgia is a rich vein of material, but few games have dug as close to bedrock as Radical Heights, the next game from LawBreakers studio Boss Key Productions. Tapping into a second source of zeitgeist, it’s a free-to-play battle royale shooter, but with a hyper-capitalist twist and more luridly neon-painted BMX bikes than ever actually existed. It’s also out tomorrow.

So, it’s the ’80s by way of Robocop and Smash TV, where clashing colours were the mark of high style, lycra shorts were totally fashionable and mullets were the coolest, manliest thing around. In short, it’s a world that never existed, fabricated entirely in the past decade or so to tap into nostalgic and irony-driven crowds. Doesn’t stop it being fun, though, and a hell of a lot better than the grim, grey-brown and desaturated style that used to rule the roost.

Just from watching the trailer, I have two concerns. First is the proliferation of scoped or otherwise very deadly assault or sniper rifles. All the pseudo-cartoon aesthetics in the world can’t hide this being another high-lethality shooter, no matter how many trampolines and BMX bikes you stuff it with. My second issue is with the central mechanical twist of the game: You have a persistent bank account that carries between matches.

The recent addition of vending machines to Fortnite may have seemed initially strange, but it provided a logical sink for you to pour excess materials into. Radical Heights’ implementation feels like a potential balancing nightmare. Rich players can cash in from an ATM and grab a powerful weapon from the first shop terminal they see, while less fortunate folk are going to have to grab their guns the old fashioned way.

I appreciate that they’re shooting for a very ’80s ‘Greed is Good’ message, but if it ends up undermining the balance of the game and driving a wedge between players, Radical Heights might end up being remembered as an inadvertent critique of unchecked capitalism. At the very least, I can see players intentionally going into matches not to win, but to grind money and cash it out as quickly as possible in order to give them an edge in future rounds.

Radical Heights launches as free-to-play tomorrow via Steam Early Access.

25 Comments

  1. int says:

    Looks like that Sunset Turnover or whatever that was called.

  2. Nolenthar says:

    Such a surprising move. So this “passion” project was a Battle Royale after all. Pa$$ion I guess.
    Well, to be entirely fair, Law Breakers is a great game which failed misreably. We can’t really blame them for not doing something good, so if making a Flavour Of The Year clone keeps this studio afloat, it’s a good thing.

  3. Ejia says:

    So it’s Plunkbreakers: Blood Dragon?

  4. Chromatose says:

    No.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      May I ask why?

      Here’s my “no”, as an example. I won’t assume it’s related to your reasons, but you’re being about as informative as the folks who reveled in the commercial failure of Lawbreakers, and I do address a couple of their points.

      Boss Key has already made one game with good base gameplay which was poorly published and memed to death for a number of reasons. The developers have listened to loads of criticism and made a new game without the likely-troublesome publisher, shoved their oft-derided CEO* into the back seat in terms of publicity, made a game which is colorful and quite possibly enjoyable for some, and made it free to try on for size. But battle royale and the apparently large emphasis on money as a theme is very much not my jam, so I’ll pass unless I find out it’s other than it appears with regard to those objections.

      *These days I understand and agree with some of the reasons Cliff gets bashed, but that doesn’t change the fact that he has some good game dev chops and has gathered together a good group of devs who have already made a fun (for some) game with decent reviews.

      • Chromatose says:

        Absolutely nothing to do with Cliff or any Boss Key drama / internet memes.

        “F2P Early Access Faux-80s Battle Royale” is such an obnoxious, craven, almost outwardly cynical attempt at mass-market appeal via an already overserved and virulently toxic section of videogaming demographic, that I can’t help but wonder if whoever is helming the creative direction here is just trying to make dudebro gamers sick by feeding them a super-concentrated dose of their own subcultural runoff.

        Or, to put it more politely, no, this really does not interest me.

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          particlese says:

          Aha, thanks! I actually really like that notion of overloading the dudebros. And I’m on board with most aspects of the rest, but the lighthearted 80s nostalgia doesn’t bug me in the slightest, personally. Just (hopefully) makes it more colorful and less serious/military, which manshoots in general need more of. The American Psycho aspects of the 80s, meanwhile, are more or less battle royale with drugs, I guess…but fluorescent bicycles and ski jackets and videogames are all I actually remember. I’ll be curious to see what actually ends up emphasized. (I might give it a try since it’s Boss Key and free, since some details of my misgivings were wrong or have already changed due to feedback, and since I’ve never actually played a BR game, but I’m still not expecting to enjoy it…especially if the community of the genre at large is as bad as you make it sound…)

  5. Camos1995 says:

    Lawbreakers 2: One flop wasn’t enough

  6. abstrarie says:

    This game looks like goofy fun (my least favorite kind of fun honestly, but still fun) until the guns come out. The shooting is the absolute least interesting thing about this. I don’t know what kind of main gameplay you can put in there in its place (setting up traps? Wrestling based melee silliness? Flags or something you have to grab off of contestants to eliminate them?) but shooting people is the absolute most boring shit in the world to me now and I would love for some kind of game in this genre to come out that doesn’t involve murdering everyone. Or at least lets me murder them in creative ways.

  7. PepperTitan says:

    I really have concerns with the money carrying over thing, it feels like its gonna be the rich get richer. It doesn’t help that if you buy the founders pack you get $10,000 ingame cash and a permanent 10% increase on all cash gained, sounds like you can buy your way to success…

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      Thankfully they’ve already gotten rid of the Founder’s Pack before release. Not sure why they thought it was a good idea in the first place (works for MMOs, but pvp?), but at least they’re listening to feedback and can respond quickly now that they have control over their game.

      The unfairness with the money in general has been a hot topic with some of the LB community, but I haven’t really been paying attention due to lack of interest. However, I suspect Boss Key will try to balance it as quickly and effectively as possible since their internet reputation needs some bolstering if they’re to survive…

  8. mike69 says:

    Brilliant; these guys don’t jump on the bandwagon, they chase it on a bycicle.

  9. ByrdWhyrm says:

    The idea of a running man-esque battle Royale game is not a bad one, especially if they lean hard into the over the top game-show vibe, but that said… it’s hard not to feel super super cynical about this. Given that this has had so little time in development, I’m concerned they’re releasing it half-baked and it’ll get killed by bad press before it gets turned into anything interesting. Also, although Plunkbat and Fortnite BR are super popular, I feel like that should be discouraging to prospective devs. It’s like trying to go up against DOTA 2 and LoL, or going up against WOW back in the mid-2000s.

    Also… the art style just looks like an even less visually distinct Fortnite. I just don’t see this going anywhere good.

    • psychrage says:

      The idea of a running man-esque battle Royale game is not a bad one, especially if they lean hard into the over the top game-show vibe, but that said…

      Wasn’t that The Culling?

    • grimgi says:

      They talked so much about Lawbreakers disrupting the industry and being this big, new, creative thing. If they’re that passionate about changing the industry, I feel like they must be really phoning it in on this one. It feels like a surrender, like a “fine, this is what you fuckers want, we’ll make what you want.” But what are the chances of a game being made with that sort of mindset being any fun?

  10. gabrielonuris says:

    To be honest, I thought Lawbreakers was a much more creative and original idea than this travesty.

    Trend winning over creativity again, I guess…

  11. grimgi says:

    I’m sure it’s very early development and all that, but this is one of the very ugliest looking games I have EVER seen. What an awful, awful aesthetic.

  12. DashRiot says:

    I honestly feel like this might be fun. Granted I’m just gonna bike around til late game

  13. Xelos says:

    One of the reasons Lawbreakers did so poorly was it’s lackluster marketing.

    This was an absolutely dreadful gameplay trailer.

    Come on, Bosskey, it’s like you learned NOTHING.

  14. MrSaxon says:

    I hope their cosmetics are better than different colored t-shirts. One of the things that keep people playing Fortnite is all of the cool cosmetic stuff you can obtain by playing, and most of that includes different weekly costumes that are of pretty high quality.

  15. skyturnedred says:

    While I do think the 80s was the pinnacle of human evolution and was initially curious, everything about this game just looks so, so cheap. I’ll give it a whirl, but it’s going to be purely because of my love for the 80s.

    • Hoot says:

      If you lived through the 80’s (and weren’t a toddler) then fair cop, you can make that statement. It might have been the time of your life.

      But if you’re a millennial then I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the 80’s wasn’t Stranger Things and it sounded fuck all like retro-wave.

  16. emotionengine says:

    Having read the article and viewing the trailer afterward, your description sounds a million times better than the end result. Christ, this thing looks absolutely hideous.

  17. Hoot says:

    This is the far too late, far too garbage knee jerk bandwagon jump that was always gonna come after the absolute disaster that was LawBreakers.

    CliffyB. One man that bought into his own ego far too much.

  18. Ham Solo says:

    Let me guess, “Another billion dollar franchise”… Just stop it. It’s sad and pathetic.