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Reviews Xbox One

Bleeding Edge Review: Solid Brawler. Uncertain Future

Introduction

I’ve been quietly excited for Bleeding Edge. The intriguing cyberpunk setting combined with creative character designs, piqued my interest. I could see myself enjoying a 4v4 third person brawler on the Xbox One.

But right off the mark, the odds were against the game. Announced during a hectic E3 where Keanu Reeves stole the Xbox show, little marketing and a release with no fanfare doesn’t exactly scream success. It’s utterly baffling, especially when sandwiched in a release window between Animal Crossing, Doom Eternal, Half- Life: Alyx and Resident Evil 3. It’s safe to say developer Ninja Theory has a lot of work to do.


Bleeding Edge Review

  • Developer: Ninja Theory
  • Publisher: Xbox Game Studios 
  • Available: Xbox One/PC/Steam
  • Played on: Xbox One (Game Pass)

Bleeding Edge Combat

Bleeding Edge is developed by Ninja Theory of Devil May Cry fame, so it’s no surprise that the combat is excellent. Each swing of sword or fist is fluid and impactful with a hefty combo given to the X button. It feels great, especially when the final move is heavy hitting with a satisfying thwack. There’s also a parry system to break combos, but it’s far too simple. The whole system is flawed as faster enemies, like Daemon the Ninja, can attack straight after being parried. (A counter attack would help here.) Ranged combat is fine and involves holding X to fire with constant auto-aim. Ranged fighters focus more on positioning and triggering abilities than big damage, but it can get tiresome.

In fact, the abilities for each fighter give combat the most depth. Each ability is extremely well thought out, not only for your fighter, but how they link in with your team. For example professional gamer, Zero Cool, is a support class. He flies around the arena in a hovering gamer chair, healing allies and chipping away at enemy health bars. Because he sits back, one ability can attach an auto-sentry to a team-mate who then charges into battle. Mods add another layer of depth by improving ability damage, duration and cooldown. The buffs from mods are minor, but extending the auto-sentry for a few more seconds could be enough to secure your team another kill. I loved experimenting with different builds and I’m already chasing the next set of mods I need.

Bleeding Edge Review - Capturing an objective on Boneyard
Capturing an objective with Gizmo on the map, Boneyard.

The combat has depth to keep things interesting, but it’s the dynamic maps which stand out the most. Every map has an environmental hazard, such as high speed trains, electric fences and even a stealth bomber. One map in particular uses a moving capture point and a set of electric fences to inject chaos into the match. When the objective passes through the fence both teams must run around the other side to recapture it. Occasionally, someone is unaware the platform they’re standing on is about to be electrified and one time I punched an enemy into the fence turning the tide of a one on one duel. All in all, the randomness created by the hazards makes every match feels fresh. However, I’m unsure how long this will last as there are only five maps on launch.

A Mixed Bag

The fighters are a mixed bag. Half of them are extremely creative, while the other half are downright generic. El Bastardo looks like a stereotypical Mexican from a Spaghetti Western, which I’m 95% sure is offensive. The Australian gunner, Gizmo, loves to say “You little ripper” like she’s been plucked straight from a Fosters advert. (She’s also similar to Moze from Borderlands 3). And there’s big New Zealand bruiser, Makutu, who is basically a knock-off Korg from Thor Ragnarok. It’s bland, generic and suggests the developers were running out of creative steam when filling out the roster.

It couldn’t be more different for the other fighters. The immortal Cambridge Professor, Kulev, had his soul transplanted into a robotic snake. He uses voodoo magic to mind control enemies, for example to make them walk into the path of an incoming bomb. Buttercup is a biker, her body fused with a motorbike so she’s always riding. And the best of all Mekko, the telepathic dolphin in a crab mech-suit who’s fluent in Japanese. The outstanding creative flair in certain heroes is a perfect example of the greatness within Bleeding Edge. I mean, in what game could you play as a cyborg-dolphin? Not this one actually, as Mekko isn’t available on launch. Ninja Theory are adding him soon, but he should have been available straight away.

Tony Hawks Pro Skater meets Rocket League

My biggest issue with Bleeding Edge is the slow movement for each fighter. Moving anybody feels extremely sluggish and not enjoyable in the slightest. The issue is compounded if a slightly faster enemy is trying to escape. They of course get away in a slow, drawn out and frustrating chase. One way Ninja Theory has addressed the slow movement is through hoverboard mounts. By pressing right on the d-pad you can mount up and hover across the map at greater speed. Unfortunately it’s still too slow. A boost for the board would really help here.

On my hoverboard with metal frontman Nidhoggr (his guitar is literally an axe!)

I love one feature about the hoverboards though; the customisation. Paint jobs, stickers, the trail of the board and different styles including one shaped like a Manta Ray. It feels like the customisation from Tony Hawks Pro Skater crossed with Rocket League and I’m already chasing my perfect combo. In-game currency rather than micro-transactions unlocks all customisation, which is much appreciated too. Outside of hoverboards, there’s nothing else worthwhile to chase. Sure, there’s a few emotes and skins, but they all feel undercooked, especially when each skin is just a recolour. Once I’ve secured the hovereboard and mods I want, I’m not sure if I’d stick around with nothing else to look forward to.

Uncertain Future

A lot needs to change if Bleeding Edge is going to last. For a start, it needs more content. At the moment we have five maps, two game modes and eleven fighters (with Mekko on the way). The entire progression system also needs a re-think, as levelling up your fighter is currently pointless. Each level gives you currency and a new mod, but there’s no milestones to look forward to. Having certain levels tied to unlocking items like in Star Wars Battlefront 2 would encourage some much needed extended play. As would quests, as simple as get X kills with Y fighter. A quest system is already in the game which gives you a unique hoverboard, but oddly it disappears after the tutorial. These systems work in other online games so why not here? 

Bleeding Edge Review – Final Thoughts

Bleeding Edge is a solid brawler with satisfying hand to hand combat. The unique abilities for each fighter add significant depth to gameplay, especially when combined with the mod system to create different builds. I loved the creative characters like Kulev and using their unique powers to create memorable moments. And I was always happy flying around the map on my pimped out hoverboard, even if the movement speed needs some tweaking. To keep me engaged with Bleeding Edge long term more content is needed, including a revamped progression and reward system.

At the moment it’s unclear what features will make its way to Bleeding Edge making it’s future worringly uncertain. Even now the lackluster launch, odd marketing strategy and skepticism due to arguable similarities to Overwatch are hindering the game. There’s a lot more work needed to overcome these barriers, perhaps six months worth. When more is added, the greatness already within Bleeding Edge will surely rise to the surface. Sadly though, we’re not quite there yet.


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