DEMO REVIEW: ‘Bleeding Edge,’ – Landing Between the Lines

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Bleeding Edge
Bleeding Edge is an upcoming third-person view brawler developed by Ninja Theory and published by Xbox Game Studios. Players group up in teams of four to vie for control mission objectives while pummeling each other with loads of attacks and cool abilities. The Bleeding Edge demo is currently available to anyone with Xbox Gamepass.

Online competitive multiplayer games have been hot for a long time now. The potential to keep players coming back month after month is understandably appealing to developers. Of course, this desirability means lots of games have charged into the market. This saturation forces newcomers to find their own niche. Whether it’s in gameplay, level/character design, or compelling leveling systems that allow the player to customize their experience, the game has to stand out. From what I saw in the Bleeding Edge demo, the game has enough of these aspects going for it that it might just manage to find a home. And if you subscribe to Xbox Game Pass, it’s price can’t be beaten.

Right as the start-up screen comes on I am instantly pleased to see an accessibility options menu appear. Within it, I found a bevy of options ranging from color blind to text-to-voice and vice versa available. The list looked fairly substantial. I appreciated that Ninja Theory clearly made a concerted effort to include gamers with disabilities.

As each four vs four match begins, players are required to choose their character. These choices are broken into the standard damage, support, and tank options that have become common. Recommended selections for new players are highlighted as a little helping hand to get you going. While this choice is important, don’t worry, you won’t be locked into that character for the whole game. Upon dying, players can always opt to swap out for a new character.

The other piece of pregame information is which of the two game modes the match will be running. The first option is your fairly standard control point match. Points will unlock and whichever team controls the points will accrue points. The first team to a set number of points wins.

The second mode is a little more unique. It is played in two repeating parts. The first has the team scrambling to find power cores that are scattered around the map. Once all the cores are collected, deposit points go active. A player carrying cores must stand motionless on the point for several seconds. If they take damage the deposit will be interrupted. If a player is killed before they can deposit their cores the cores will scatter to the ground and are up for grabs. As with the first mode, the first team to a set point total wins. Also, with both of the aforementioned modes, killing enemies adds to your score total. In case players needed more reason to dole out some pain.

Bleeding Edge

The only true weakness I feel the Bleeding Edge demo has is its maps. While they offer lots of paths to maneuver through, they aren’t very interesting. Even though I have spent several hours playing the game, as I think back on them, I can barely describe the maps or their themes. They just come across as generic. This is a noticeable hit to me. Levels can have as much character as the cast themselves when implemented properly.

While the stages faded from my mind fairly quickly the cast certainly stays with you. Loads of personality went into these designs. Each character is easily distinguishable on the field from the others. There is a heavy punk rock vibe to a lot of the characters. While some of the looks did nothing for me, I wouldn’t call any of them bad. When going for uniqueness, some things are just not going to work for everyone. I appreciate Ninja Theory’s willingness to go for it.

As unique as the look of each character is, their skills stand out just as much. With every character sporting a basic attack, along with three specials and an ultimate ability, everyone brings something different to the table. From healing beams to stealth modes and mind control abilities, every character brings a twist to the combat in Bleeding Edge. Even the focus on melee over range sets the combat apart from most other games. The team-based competitive scene tends to eschew heavily toward shooters.

While the charters in general are unique, the player gets the opportunity to make them even more so. With every match played the player accrues points that can go toward either cosmetic options for their characters or enhancements that alter the way they play. Characters can have three augmentations equipped at any given time. While no single augment is particularly game-breaking, combing various ones together can greatly alter the approach a player will take. The augmentation modify abilities so they last longer or provide a bit of healing when they damage enemies, for example.

While customization is always fun, it also can create a bit of a hurdle in a competitive game. Not knowing exactly what a player is up against can be frustrating to a casual crowd. Even with that in mind, there are certainly a lot of players out there who love a deeper challenge. While this augmentation system puts the learning curve up to a higher level than say Overwatch in the competitive scene, it’s not an insurmountable obstacle. Players will just need to be ready for some surprises at the start of each match.

And the last point to mention: there are no microtransactions in Bleeding Edge. All upgrades are earned by playing the game. I assume this is enabled by it’s being linked to Game Pass and Xbox hoping that having it exclusively on their platform might help keep people signed up. If so, it only serves to make a great deal for players even better.

My time with the Bleeding Edge demo has been fun. It sets itself apart enough to make me want to explore more. Even if it didn’t hit the highs of some other competitive offerings for me, it’s uniqueness, and lack of microtransactions have certainly gotten my attention. And as I plan to have Game Pass for the foreseeable future, I will certainly make a point of checking the full version out when it drops.

Bleeding Edge is scheduled for release on March 24th for Xbox One, PC and will be available as part of Xbox Game Pass.