Bleeding Edge is a unique 4v4 competitive experience that shows a little flash in its third-person approach, but doesn’t deliver much of a punch in combat or enough variation in its match types and maps. Developer Ninja Theory draws clear inspiration from Blizzard’s Overwatch, delivering similar hero-focused play, with each teammate playing a critical role as a tank, support, or damage dealer. While some of the Overwatch nods are a little too obvious, like a hip, headphone-wearing healer who just happens to be from Rio De Janeiro, or a tank who can take off in a sprint to slam an opponent into a wall, Ninja Theory brings its own brand of creativity to the heroes. However, that style only goes so far, and the fun they generate flatlines after just a few hours.
Bleeding Edge is a self-described competitive multiplayer "brawler," but what does that actually mean? Depending on your point of reference, you could call it a "boots on the ground-style MOBA" or a "third-person hero shooter." It's an action game where two teams of four fight within the narrative framework of competing in one of two team sports--a King of the Hill-style "Objective Control" scenario and "Power Collection," a resource-hoarding mode where players need to break energy canisters and return their contents to designated points at specific times. Though the two variants have their quirks, both boil down to dynamic point control. Whether you're delivering energy or protecting your "hills," you need to defend a position. If you're trying to block your enemy from scoring in either mode, you need to take a position.
It's in that moment-to-moment combat where Bleeding Edge shines brightest. Ninja Theory's track record is clearly felt in the roster, as fighters like the masked swordsman Daemon and beefy tank Makutu are a blast to chain combos with. Different attacks can segue into different chains with varying results. On Makutu, I could vary up my hits to go for an uppercut, launching my opponent into the air, or briefly pause, potentially catching out a parry attempt before initiating my E. Honda-style robotic palm slap.
Longevity also isn’t found in the unlockable content for each fighter. Most of the skins are just color swaps, and the decals on the hoverboards can’t really be seen while playing. Additionally, the mods you earn for leveling up, while giving small bumps to abilities, are a lackluster reward overall. The best unlockables are taunts, which are humorous, yet you'll likely use them most in the pre-match lobby.
Still, for all that Bleeding Edge gets right, it really feels like the game's "early days." It’s missing crucial staples of competitive games, like ranked play, which allows you to invest the experience and keeps people playing, long-term. I'd like to believe Microsoft and Ninja Theory will keep tweaking and expanding the game so it can compete with other competitive multiplayer games, but right now it feels like a temporary multiplayer fix for players looking to break up the monotony, rather than the next esports obsession.
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