Ninja Theory's Bleeding Edge has the potential to be a huge multiplayer hit

By Sean Carey,
When Ninja Theory announced that its next game would be a team-based multiplayer title, many were left confused. After the sweeping success of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice — with its dark themes and the even darker game world — Bleeding Edge is quite the contrast.

Bleeding Edge gameplay

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Bleeding Edge is similar to Overwatch. The game features a cast of colourful characters each sporting unique and exciting abilities. They’re split up into three classes, Damage Dealers, Tanks and Support. On paper, it sounds exactly like Overwatch, and if you were to watch some gameplay inattentively, you could quickly draw that comparison.

However, there is so much more to the game; it’s managed to carve itself a small niche in the already crowded team-multiplayer genre. Creative director, Rahni Tucker — responsible for the hack and slash combat on DmC: Devil May Cry — says that the idea for Bleeding Edge came from a gap she noticed in the gaming market. “I love making third-person action combat, but I like playing competitive multiplayer games, and I was like where is this game? Where is third-person action combat and team multiplayer? It doesn’t exist.”

If you’re unfamiliar with Bleeding Edge, it’s a 4v4 team-based brawler played from a third-person perspective. At times, however, it almost feels like a fighter — with combos varying in their complexity and parries waiting to be pulled off. It feels like it borrows several elements from different genres. Senior designer Gerald Poon, said, “I don’t think there is a game like it that requires the sort of different dexterity and strategy all at the same time. It kind of combines the requirements of different genres together.”

Bleeding Edge gameplay

Players can pick from twelve currently available fighters each with their own unique characteristics and abilities. These abilities are broken up into Basic Attacks, Specials and Supers. While Bleeding Edge does focus on melee combat, several fighters are more ranged orientated. However, you don’t aim; you lock on instead like many other third-person titles. Some characters, such as the melee assassin, Daemon have extra moves like the ability to wall jump and to evade (at the cost of stamina). There’s a huge amount of variety on offer here with a character to suit everyone’s individual playstyle.

Characters can be taken one step further with the introduction of Mods. Mods allow the player to customise their favourite fighter’s abilities and really make that character their own. They’re only small tweaks that either adds more base health, slightly increase damage or the duration of an attack – but they do make a difference.

“The mods are quite meaningful, you can actually do some pretty interesting stuff with them,” says Tucker. “We always wanted to make the game competitive, but we didn’t want to have something in the game where you get more powerful over time, and I wanted the players to be able to tweak the way their character played to fit their playstyle.” A maximum of three Mods can be applied in any configuration at a time and can be unlocked alongside a considerable number of cosmetics through gameplay.

Bleeding Edge gameplay

Although there is a focus on individual playstyles, Bleeding Edge is all about teamwork. You really are going to need to work together to win matches — a lone wolf will not cut it here and can easily be picked off. If you have a group of friends that can communicate and plays to their strengths, you can easily mess around with the game’s complex character meta and build a team that not only suits the way you play but the way your team does too.

In our hands-on with the game, I played several rounds across two maps and two different game modes. The first of these was Control — a standard point capture scenario. Three objectives are dotted around the map and become active in phases. The second and much more exciting game mode was Power Cell Control. Here players have to pick up Power Cells from around the map and bank them at differing locations. The mode is split up into a collection phase and a deposit phase.

It’s in Power Cell Control where our team really came into its own. Our lineup included the metal rocker, Nidhoggr who breathes fire and can stun enemies. Also in the team was Zero Cool, a Support character that heals others and builds walls and two tanks. Rounding out the squad was a new previously unannounced ranged Tank called Mekko and the hulking Makutu — a more passive Tank. Most of my time was spent with Makutu. We were told by the developers that he is a bit of a troll and is all about disruption — perfect for denying the enemy team time to drop off their collected Power Cells. Makutu’s specials allow for him to bounce other enemies from objectives or to literally pick them up and run them out of the way.

After a while, we realised that using Makutu to run into a point to grab an enemy not only stops them from capturing an objective, but it also isolates them for the rest of the team to pounce on and eliminate. For maximum effect, Nidhoggr would drop his Special — an electrified pentagram that stuns any enemy caught in it — and Makutu would pick up as many players as possible and run them into the stun area. It’s teamwork and plays like this that really make Bleeding Edge stand out, and it gives you a great sense of accomplishment when a plan is pulled off.

Bleeding Edge release date closed beta

When the action is kicking off around certain points, it’s frantic, but there’s a tactical element to it. You need to think about what the team is doing and how best you can support it. “In the moment to moment gameplay you are dodging, fighting people, doing parries and getting combos in; it’s really fast-paced,” says Poon. “Outside of that, you have positioning, which is really important. If you’re playing a ranged character, you’re going to want to be on a ledge and managing your cooldowns.”

The two maps I played were quite large, and there were a few dull periods of travelling from point A to point B. You also can’t sprint. Instead, each character has a customisable hoverboard. To use it, you need to be standing still, and it takes a couple of seconds to mount — this makes it hard to get out of the action or away from enemy damage dealers. Instead, you have to rely on a limited number of evades and the Parry, which is hard to pull off.

The Parry became a crucial mechanic in our time with the game. Mastering the move is tough, especially with the sheer number of different attacks from varying characters. The defensive move can really turn around a fight and adds that extra layer of combat to a one on one situation. According to Tucker, the Parry was a requested feature from the Bleeding Edge community, and it almost didn’t make it into the game, “We were on the fence about it. We tried it, and then we took it out and put it back in again, but it was something that kind of came from the community.”

“We initially had an active block. We tried it so every character could block, but it was just not fun; it made time to kill take forever, and everyone complained about it. I was sad we lost the Parry because I really liked it. But we got some requests and suggestions from the community, and we put it back in.”

Bleeding Edge release date closed beta

On the surface, Bleeding Edge might struggle to distinguish itself from similar existing games. It’s easy to draw the comparison to Overwatch and Tucker is aware of this. It’s not until you get hands-on with it that you realise it’s vastly different. “It’s kind of natural, I guess to try and find comparisons as a way of talking to people about what stuff is, but I personally feel in the playing of the game you understand what it is that makes [Bleeding Edge] different to everything else.“

Bleeding Edge is a game that you’ll need to invest some time into. There’s a complex meta hiding underneath the vibrant and charismatic fighters that can only be discovered with some dedication and effort. The team at Ninja Theory has poured a lot of creativity and soul into its first multiplayer outing and its deserving of your attention. Bleeding Edge has potential and could be one of the biggest games in the competitive multiplayer scene. With it’s cast of charismatic characters you’ll soon fall in love with, to its brutal yet satisfying combat and tactical team play, Ninja Theory’s next game is not one to be missed.

If you’re curious about Bleeding Edge, check out the next beta test that starts on March 13th. You can gain access to the beta by pre-ordering the game or by being an Xbox Game Pass subscriber.

Bleeding Edge launches on Xbox One, Windows 10 and Steam on March 24th and is available to play through Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass for PC.

Bleeding Edge

Bleeding Edge

Team Up. Cause Chaos. Grab your team and tear it up in Bleeding Edge, an electrifying online brawler where every fighter comes mechanically enhanced for mayhem!

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Sean Carey
Written by Sean Carey
Sean graduated from Southampton Solent University with a first-class honours degree in Journalism, which he uses to keep TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies topped up with gaming and industry news. When not scouring the web for the latest big story, you’ll find him tearing up the streets in Forza Horizon 5, or failing miserably in Call of Duty: Warzone 2.0.