Since their acquisition by Xbox Game Studios, Ninja Theory seems to have gone into overdrive. Not only are they working on the next game in the Hellblade series, but they also had time to work outside of their comfort zone. Thanks to an idea and a love of multiplayer combat games, Bleeding Edge was born. While it’s technically not their first multiplayer focused game, it’s been nearly 17 years since their last one. With most of their experience on single-player action titles, do they hit the mark with this one?
The idea of Bleeding Edge involves misfits from all around the world forming a group to rebel against society. Making a fight club known as the Bleeding Edge, they attempt to draw attention to create a data breach with big corporations. The members of this group all have various augmentations, and those augments make them perfect candidates for battle. While there is a background to the game, the most you’ll get out of the story is an opening cutscene and biographies on each character. At least the concept here involves all the characters being friends rather than apply opposing groups like Overwatch.
Featuring eleven characters and five maps at launch, the game does feel like it’s still in the early stages. We already know that a twelfth character, Mekko, is in the pipeline, but just how often content will drop is unknown. There are two game modes in Bleeding Edge. Objective Control has players gaining control of three changing control points throughout the match. Power Collection tasks players with gathering power cells around the map and depositing them at the same control points. At first glance, the content will look a bit light, and admittedly, it is. That being said, the game doesn’t sell itself as a full price title, which helps to justify the amount of content.
Gameplay will involve a battle between two teams of four, players choosing between damage, support and tank. There’s a mix of ranged and melee characters, as well as hybrids that can do both types of attacks. Most characters have the ability to mount up to move faster across the map, with a couple exceptions. Sometimes this will be using a custom hoverboard while others might use their own augments. While it’s cool to utilize the character design, there is a certain inconsistency with the characters without a board to customize. These characters are essentially denied a custom option in the workshop, making them feel less personalized.
Customization does at least extend to other options for all characters. Everyone will have emotes to choose from, as well as skins. Sadly, there aren’t many skins to choose from, and only a handful of characters have skins that aren’t just a palette swap. On top of that, these custom options cost a lot of credits, and it takes a lot of time to earn that much. It seems the game has taken an effort to avoid the idea of loot boxes and microtransactions, but honestly, progress feels rather slow. At least there is one custom option that moves a bit more reasonably: mods.
Mods help to differentiate your play style with your character. With the ability to equip up to three mods, players can customize their character of choice. This can be with various alterations to a special move, like increased range, damage, and more. These mods can also give your character more health, attack damage and various other effects. With mods, a player can truly make a character their own, and turn the tides slightly in their favor. While mods unlock a bit quicker with leveling up, progression only feels slightly faster here. At least the characters themselves have a lot of variety.
Each character will feel pretty different from one another. Daemon, the leader of Bleeding Edge, is a melee attacker with stealth abilities and a wall jump. ZeroCool is a ranged support character that rides in a hovering gaming chair, able to create sentry bots and obstructing walls. Makutu is a melee tank that has two stances to increase speed or heal himself and allies. The list goes on and on, and it’s really quite impressive how unique each character really is. Not only is their gameplay unique, but their designs are rather spectacular too. They all fit this dystopian world and fill the role of augmented misfits perfectly.
It will be hard not to find a favorite character to play, I myself enjoying Gizmo’s gameplay. Her turrets and fast firing rate helps her dish out a ton of damage, not to mention her powerful super attacks. Bleeding Edge offers a choice between two super attacks for each character, truly helping to add some variety in a match. With one super, Gizmo is able to transform into a giant teddy bear mech, donning extra armor and wielding scorching flames. On the other hand, her Rock-it missile moves fast and deals a ton of damage, able to stun opponents, especially in large groups. Mods were already a big part of customizing your characters. Adding the choice of supers is just icing on the cake.
One thing that Bleeding Edge really deserves credit for is the map design. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing with the style choice, but the maps are surprisingly creative too. Each map feels pretty distinct, offering different obstacles, as well as some cool design choices. For example, the Aqueducts level has two of its control points rotating on a circular lazy river, making them constantly moving. They’ll pass through dangerous electric gates eventually, making timing and positioning crucial to utilizing them. The rest of the sewer based map has fenced off segments and makes use of its tight corridor settings well. There are only five maps, but each one offers an exhilarating and unique stage for battle.
With online multiplayer being the focus, there are some upsides and downsides here. This is the first time in a long time Ninja Theory has had to work with this kind of game, so there’s definitely room for improvement. On one hand, matchmaking is incredibly quick and takes only seconds. On the other, there are issues with lag and stability in matches. For the most part, the game is playable, but there have been several moments where people teleport around. There are occasional sound bugs too, though they fix themselves on their own. It’s a work in progress, so patience will likely lead to a lot of these issues ironing out. Even so, it’s still playable, and that’s what matters.
When all is said and done, Bleeding Edge does feel like a side project for the developer. While it does feel that way, there are some extremely redeeming qualities of it. The aesthetically pleasing style and the unique personality of the characters shine through the gameplay. Even though content is a little light, the game is half the price of a usual game, and it’s free on Xbox Game Pass. For what is available, the game is a lot of fun, and despite the slow progression, there’s always that feeling of “one more game” lingering. With more content on the way, the game could easily build into a much bigger augmented beast. Hopefully the team supports it for a long time, because this could be the start of a fantastic multiplayer IP.