What do you do when the kind of game you want to play isn’t on the market? For Ninja Theory Creative Director Rahni Tucker, the answer was simple: make your own. Tucker is a self-professed huge fan of multiplayer games, particularly MOBAs like “DOTA” and team-based competitive titles like “Overwatch.” “Anything that’s kind of class-based and you’re working as a team,” she told Variety of her game preferences.
There’s no shortage of competitive multiplayer games in the modern era, but Tucker was looking for something different. “I just felt like there was no like third-person action combat version of that,” she said. The seed was planted for what would eventually become “Bleeding Edge,” which Microsoft announced earlier this week. Just the sight of the Ninja Theory logo onscreen at Microsoft’s E3 2019 media briefing raised cheers from many members of the audience. The developer, which was acquired by the Xbox manufacturer last year, is well known for games like last-gen cult classics “Heavenly Sword” and “Enslaved: Odyssey to the West,” as well as the more recent hit “Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.” Going from those single-player, story-driven titles to the multiplayer mayhem of “Bleeding Edge” is a surprising move for the Cambridge-based studio, but as Tucker pointed out, it’s actually well within Ninja Theory’s wheelhouse “as a studio that has a reputation for being able to do cool third-person combat.”
“Bleeding Edge” uses a futuristic setting where body modifications are all the rage. But even though “augments and cybernetics are becoming a more normal part of society,” the game’s characters “are kind of on the fringes… of what people are willing to do to their bodies” — hence, the bleeding edge. Every character’s modifications reflect their personality, and these mods go way beyond simple stat upgrades.
“So if you’re a biker chick in the future and you’re augmenting your body, what would you do?” Tucker asked herself while creating the character of the pink-haired powerhouse Buttercup. “Well, the bike is your body.” Then there’s Nidhoggr, the Norwegian black metal guitarist whose entire body is modified to allow for maximum headbanging and rocking out, from his metal neck to shins that allow for pain-free power sliding. The distinct details about the individual characters themselves could fill a page, but at first glance, it’s quite a varied line-up of over-modded weirdos.
What the characters have in common is that they all have basic and special combat moves tied to buttons with cooldowns attached. So the spunky redhead Gizmo can use her strongest move to ride around on a rocket until it explodes (ideally in proximity of the enemy team), but after that, it’ll be shut down for a bit. When eight characters on the board are all executing these moves, it can get kind of chaotic. Your team really has to communicate and work together to be successful, or else you’ll be easily mowed down by the opposing players.
Unlike some popular online games, “Bleeding Edge” is designed to be more accessible while still offering enough of a challenge to appease fans of team-based multiplayer like Tucker. You don’t have to have a flawless trigger finger to be successful; you just need to figure out how you want to play and whose skillset best matches your style. Lock-ons and a combination of offensive, defensive, and passive abilities let you play how you want. If you’re aggressive, you can choose a heavy and do some major damage, even though those characters move more slowly. If you’d rather be agile, you can choose Gizmo or mystical granny Maeve and move around the map with ease while laying down less direct attacks.
Tucker explained, “We’ve tried to make the combat feel nice in your hands… We’ve tried to keep the objective simple enough so that when you start a new game you can kind of work out what you need to do.” That means new players and those less experienced in competitive multiplayer can jump in with less apprehension than they would with, say, “Overwatch” or “Fortnite.” Our first match in “Bleeding Edge” ended in victory and cheers, and it was genuinely fun. Of course, it’s not hard to get that energy up in a crowd of excited gamers at E3; whether or not that experience can be recreated from your couch remains to be seen.
“Bleeding Edge” begins its invite-only technical alpha on June 27. There’s no release date, but it will eventually make its way to PC and Xbox One.