Last week Ninja Theory and Xbox Game Studios launched Bleeding Edge, an Overwatch-style online hero brawler for PC and Xbox One. It has 11 unique playable characters and two competitive game modes. It’s going to take more than that to hold my interest.
In a world where Overwatch and Paladins exist and Battleborn has come and gone, I’m not sure where Ninja Theory’s Bleeding Edge fits. It’s another game with a colorful collection of characters, each with their own roles and abilities. Players form teams of four damage, support, and tank character types and engage in one of two game modes, objective control and power collection. The first involves teams controlling points on the game map. The second has them collecting power cores and turning them in for points.
It’s pretty basic online multiplayer fare, with a few exceptions. Though a couple of characters have ranged weapons, Bleeding Edge puts a strong emphasis on melee attacks, making it more of a brawler than a shooter. Characters who do shoot have auto-aim, which might sound unfair but it’s balanced out by piddling weapon damage. It’s pretty easy to play. Stick together in teams, stay on objective, and win. I got it on my first try.
Gameplay rounds are short, generally lasting only a couple of minutes. Bleeding Edge is enjoyable enough in the moment-to-moment playing, with plenty of opportunities for dramatic moments and last-minute turnarounds. Healing feels a bit overpowered, but that might just be my teams not targeting the opposing team’s healer. Movement feels sluggish, even when characters are mounted or in vehicle form, but the ferocious melee action is fast enough to keep me trudging back into battle.
It’s just that once a round is over, there’s very little to encourage me to hop back in for another go. I might win a mod, allowing me to enhance a character’s loadout with upgrades like extra damage or faster ability cooldowns. I might earn enough currency to purchase a new skin or emote. But if I’m just applying these enhancements and customizations to hop back into the same two basic game modes, what’s the point?
The best thing Bleeding Edge has got going for it is its characters. Its twisted cybernetic future setting has given birth to some truly original combatants. My go-to damage character is Nidhoggr, a Scandinavian black metal front-man who breathes fire and wields a guitar that doubles as a literal axe.
For tanking, I prefer to play as Buttercup, a wheeled warrior with the ability to grab enemies from afar with her chains and yank them in close. Okay, she’s Roadhog from Overwatch, but she makes me happy.
One of the damage dealers is an elderly woman held upright by balloons. One of the support characters is a mechanical snake with a human consciousness animating its mummified human corpse. There’s also a bird person, or possibly Celine Dion.
Bleeding Edge has a lot of character. It needs more substance. Post-release plans so far involve adding an additional character, the trash-talking dolphin Mekko. I’ll be back to give him a go, but beyond that I’m not sure. In its current state it feels like a game ready to be forgotten. The name has slipped my mind several times over the past week. It’s not a good sign when I have to press the Xbox home button to remember the name of the game I’m playing.