Bleeding Edge Has Colorful and Compelling Characters and Combat
We only had a few minutes to play Bleeding Edge, but the concepts alone were enough to leave a strong impression from the Xbox exclusive.
“Attention Xbox fans: the event is closing in fifteen minutes,” echoed the harrowing intercom at the Microsoft Theater. It was a day before the show floor proper opened up, and Microsoft was giving press and influencers the chance to try out some marquee Xbox titles on their stage. While my time with Gears 5’s Escape Mode and especially Doom Eternal was satisfying, I couldn’t help but keep glancing at the long line for Bleeding Edge.
It’s the newest title from Ninja Theory, fresh off the studio’s acquisition by Xbox Game Studios. Bleeding Edge boasts a bold color palette and a diverse array of character designs. As a team-focused objective-based game, it is a title that could have easily been lost to the numerous E3 montage sizzle reels, but the pedigree behind the title alone (and the Microsoft money undoubtedly behind it) certainly helped to stick out.
This game was certainly the “newest” looking title on the stage, surrounded by numbered sequels, remakes, and expansions. There were four set-ups for four players each, for two separate 4v4 matches. I tried to play the long game of waiting for the line to die out, perhaps a bit too long. By the time I finally sat down to play, a subsequent intercom message informed “Xbox fans” that we only had ten minutes left until we were booted off. What followed was brief, but was enough to make me want to stay even longer.
So-called “hero shooters” are making up a pretty saturated market at this point, with too much competition to keep track of. Ninja Theory, the folks behind Enslaved and Hellblade promises to bring their own sensibilities to the genre—what the product looks like is more DmC: Devil May Cry than Heavenly Sword. The studio is back to that style of brash character-action games—it so happens that this is a multiplayer one too.
I’d be hard-pressed to call the art style “derivative,” but it is certainly archetypical. It’s a bit punk rock, like something out of Sunset Overdrive mixed in with Brutal Legend, certainly degrees away from the darker and weightier Hellblade. With little time to play, the developers urged us to finish the tutorial as fast as possible. This tutorial took us through the basics using the character Nighoggr, who looked like a malnourished cyborg member of Kiss with a guitar ax (or just an “ax,” I suppose).
The bread and butter mechanics of Bleeding Edge were quite comfortable to get ahold of—regular attacks, combos, and dodges, along with some character-unique special moves and supers to take advantage of, not unlike Overwatch. There’s also an extra mobility option, allowing characters to move around faster with say, a hoverboard or a set of wheels—think of the mounts in High Rez Studios games, allowing players to get to objectives faster.
With that, it is quite easy to think of the objective-based game types that one would conceive for such a game. With time being an urgent matter in this play session, we had to quickly choose a character to play as only from fast glances at their abilities. The character named Buttercup stood out to me from the trailer, a large woman with freaking hand sawblades and a giant tire to move around. As it appeared as though our squad’s need for Support and “Assassin” characters were filled, I took it upon myself to take a Heavy role, and chose one of two different Super moves.
The camera allows for a wide field of view, more so like a character action game than a Gears-type third-person shooter. Players were thrown into a MOBA-like map, with different lanes and control points for a momentum-style game type. Moving as a unit, the four of us, one being one of the game’s developers, rushed to beat the match clock, which was manually shortened due to the Xbox event’s impending end.
I quickly found much utility from Buttercup’s specials—one was a chain yank, not unlike Roadhog’s from Overwatch. With it, I was able to pull ranged-focused opponents and deliver big hits from my entirely melee-based moveset. When the control point got too crowded, a “Whip Lash” attack allowed my character to unleash all hell with a pair of chained blades. Buttercup also had some options for area denial, with my Super being a burnout attack that cleared out enemies, and an oil slick that slowed opponents down; this proved quite useful for preventing the opposing team from reaching our recently-captured control point.
I couldn’t tell if it was because of the camera perspective giving some psychosomatic feelings or if it was with the game’s physics, but my one big qualm was that the fighting and combat felt a bit weightless at times. Eating away at those health bars still provided satisfaction, but the way character models would interact with each other seemed to lack a bit of physicality and momentum. Couple that with some confusion when an opposing Buttercup player was right next to me, and you have the potential for busy visuals.
Perhaps it just takes a bit to get used to—after all, from that perspective, we’re used to pummeling weightless computer-controlled cannon fodder, not real avatars controlled by flesh-and-blood humans with their own agency. It will take some more time with each character to really feel the gravity of the combat, but with such a focus on melee attacks and big hits, I want to see some dudes flying about.
In the end, my team won by the skin of our teeth, and we were rewarded with a goodie bag and a swift ejection from the premises. I should get a chance to play more of Bleeding Edge in a technical alpha later this month, and I hope to share some more thoughts on the Ninja Theory Xbox title by then. It was both the “newest” playable title on the Microsoft Theater stage, while also not feeling that new—but even big phenomenons like Apex Legends, Fortnite, and even Overwatch before it all found inspiration in other titles while still building its own unique following.
Color me curious.