When you hear Ninja Theory, you don’t think online multiplayer.
If you’re like us, you think Heavenly Blade, DmC, and more recently, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. However, the studio’s latest release, Bleeding Edge, proves that it is capable of delivering a fun and imaginative online multiplayer experience. And as usual, it oozes style.
A 4-vs-4 online brawler, Bleeding Edge takes clear inspiration from games such as Overwatch. Each one of its initial 11 characters is colourful and larger-than-life, and has numerous skills that make them unique. Furthermore, they’re split into three classes: damage, support and tank. Damage and tank class characters are generally melee-focused, believe it or not, while support class characters can do damage at distance if needs be.
“Each one of its initial 11 characters is colourful and larger-than-life”
Who you play as, then, largely depends on the role you want to play. If you want to get into the thick of the action, a tank class character might be for you, able to take a serious beating yet also capable of dishing one out. Support characters are best operating on the fringe, powering up and healing their teammates. And damage characters are well suited for carrying out decisive strikes.
Either by taking part in matches or practising in Bleeding Edge‘s Dojo, you’ll soon find one or two characters that suit you. It could be Nidhoggr, the guitar-wielding rocker whose aggressive nature makes him great for taking on cumbersome tanks, or Zero Cool, whose constant healing beam can turn the tide of a fight. Be aware though, that each character effectively has their Kryptonite. None are entirely safe.
Each character has three special attacks for you to master on top of their basic attack, and as you level up you’re able to modify those three special abilities via mods, allowing you to capitalise on those you find most useful. At the start of each match, players must also choose one of two Supers available to each character. Once charged, these powerful abilities can become extremely useful in turning the tide of a battle.
Only two match types are available in Bleeding Edge. Power Collection sees players hunting for power cells and delivering them to drop-off points in phases. If a player carrying cells is taken out by the opposing team before they’re deposited, they’re dropped on the floor, ripe for the taking once more. It’s a simple premise, but one that often leads to teammates being scattered and falling out of sync, and that can be disastrous. As such, unless you have a good team that covers each others’ backs, Power Collection matches can end up being very frustrating.
“You can’t choose which match type you’d like to play; selecting Fight from the main menu throws you randomly into one of the two match types”
Control matches, on the other hand, are generally more enjoyable. As the name suggests, they’re all about taking hold of control points and defending them. Maps generally have three control points, though not all of them are forced to be active at any one time. Players are therefore kept on their toes, and also coerced to congregate and actively get involved in melees, whether to capture a control point or defend one.
Unfortunately you can’t choose which match type you’d like to play; selecting Fight from the main menu throws you randomly into one of the two match types. So, if you love Control but loathe Power Collection, be prepared to grit your teeth through matches you have no interest in. On that note, you should be aware that there’s no way to create your own private or public matches either.
Though available at a budget price, and included in Xbox Game Pass from launch, Bleeding Edge is let down by a lack of features and content. While there’s a decent range of characters, you soon get fed up of battling on the same maps time and again. Maps which unfortunately have a tendency to feel a bit empty and lifeless. For the game to flourish, it’s really going to need a consistent supply of new maps, customisation items and modes, and eventually even some new characters.
Balancing is also an issue. Zero Cool, for example, can heal a character faster than an opponent can sap their health. Then, if you turn your attention to them, only the fastest of characters can keep up, let alone close the distance, causing some frustration. For a melee-based brawler, it’s perhaps too easy for some characters to simply avoid taking damage. It’s not rewarding to batter an opponent down to their last bit of health only to watch it fill up again at an alarming rate.
“Right now, Bleeding Edge is an enjoyable but light multiplayer diversion”
For the majority of the time, however, Bleeding Edge is a joy to play. Its gameplay is fluid, its soundtrack rocks, and there’s a real emphasis on working as a team. End up in a team full of randoms who only look out for themselves and you’ll find yourself in a world of pain, but there’ll still be pockets of enjoyment to be had in the combat. Get a good team, however, and nearly every minute of a match will be a pleasure, whether you ultimately win or lose; a ballet of fast, frenetic action.
Right now, Bleeding Edge is an enjoyable but light multiplayer diversion. Needless to say, its ongoing success depends on Ninja Theory’s ability to keep the experience interesting and fresh. If it’s left too long without new content or modes, current players will probably move on, and an online multiplayer game with no players isn’t any fun at all. There’s a good base here on which to build, but if it’s left to stagnate it will quickly be forgotten.