While there's certainly no shortage of video games to play right now (and, for many, time to play them), Ninja Theory is hoping to add something new to the field with Bleeding Edge. The multiplayer team brawler arrived on Xbox One and Windows 10 last week, after months of comparisons to beloved franchises like Overwatch and Apex Legends. At times, Bleeding Edge does feel too concerned with cobbling together elements from other games, making the gameplay feel like a smoothie that could use a few more seconds in a blender. But, at times, the game has the ability to establish something new and fun, once fans get used to its world. Bleeding Edge has the potential to be the next zany, over-the-top multiplayer game — once the handful of gameplay issues stop standing in its way.
As a brief intro video explains when you first boot up the game, Bleeding Edge is set in a slightly-post-apocalyptic 2057 where people have grown accustomed to adding cybernetic enhancements to their bodies. If you're looking for more worldbuilding and plot beyond that, you probably aren't going to find it, outside of reading characters' backstories through lengthy blocks of text in the "Workshop" section. The characters and their origin stories, which span multiple continents, range from fascinating (Cass, a former Russian ballerina star whose father's experiments led to her having robot bird legs, and Buttercup, a Louisianan woman whose love for motorcycles led to her leaving her conservative church) to a little stereotypical (Zero Cool, a pro-gamer from Brazil who rides around in a glorified gaming chair, and a sombrero-wearing Mexican mercenary who is literally named "El Bastardo").
To an extent, the game could benefit from better introducing its cast of characters to players, whether through animated shorts or otherwise, as opposed to just blocks of texts and a cycle of catchphrases. It is worth applauding the diversity of body types, ages, and life stories amongst Bleeding Edge's characters, but they're introduced in a way that feels a little too hollow for fans to really root for the character they're playing as.
This brings us to the gameplay itself, which is an interesting mix of frustrating and entertaining. Each game spawns one of two modes: Objective Control and Power Cell Control, which are both variations on the typical "point-capture" gameplay, and one of five different maps. Once you're thrown into one, you and three teammates choose characters from Damage, Support, and Tank classes, and are tasked with getting the upper hand on the other team — and staying alive in the process.
The latter aspect of that task is particularly tricky, as there's almost a guarantee that you will die an almost-comical number of times in your first few matches. Bleeding Edge does not currently have ranked play (although Ninja Theory has apparently hinted that it's coming soon), which means that anyone who has even an hour more of experience in the game will realistically kick your butt. And while certain characters are ranked as more advanced than others, their gameplay might not necessarily reflect that — shooting a gun as Gizmo, the pint-sized Australian robotics whiz, feels much more powerful than the tiny zap of electricity as Maeve, the Irish witch held up by a robotic balloon. There definitely is a learning curve to the game — both in terms of combat and actually fulfilling the objective of the game mode. Both the tutorial and the "Dojo" — which allows you to try out each character's individual moves — do help make that process slightly easier, but you should still be fully prepared to die and respawn several times in one match, even as you get more and more comfortable with the game.
Another key element of winning Bleeding Edge is teamwork, so much so that the game recommends you use voice chat while playing. That doesn't necessarily mean that your other teammates will do the same, which can lead to a flurry of confusion once you make your way onto the maps. It's also worth mentioning that, although the maps are well-designed, they're way too big, and you need to spend several matches in them to really get your bearings. You also have the ability to switch characters when you respawn, which is great for getting a feel of the entire roster of characters, but can lead to frustrating moments where you're forced to play as a certain character class. If you're playing with a group of friends or a collaborative group of strangers, you definitely have the ability to get the upper hand in a game of Bleeding Edge, but that certainly isn't a guarantee for every match you enter.
In its current state, Bleeding Edge isn't nearly enough to set the multiplayer world on fire, but there is absolutely room for things to grow. The character designs are largely delightful, and the gameplay becomes more promising once you get the hang of it. Sure, the game almost feels like a parody of similar titles, but after you put more time into it, you begin to gradually see its own potential. There's definitely a good foundation in place with Bleeding Edge, but it might be worth waiting for a few updates to see if it really finds its footing.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Bleeding Edge is now available on Xbox One and Windows 10. An Xbox One code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.