Hands-On With Ninja Theory’s ‘Bleeding Edge’

When “Bleeding Edge” was announced — or, rather, when it was leaked, last week, in an offscreen video — I was nonplussed.

I’ve enjoyed much of developer Ninja Theory’s other work — “Heavenly Sword” had some great ideas and excellent character work, “Enslaved’s” narrative elegantly supported and set up its two-character mechanics, “DmC: Devil May Cry” was an inspired revival of a series that had stalled, and “Hellblade” has found universal acclaim for its storytelling and characterization. All of these games have common threads: sophisticated mechanics, smart singleplayer design, and a heavy investment in story.

Bleeding Edge,” thus far, does not appear to be at least two of these things. It’s a competitive, team-based multiplayer game from a studio which hasn’t released a multiplayer game since 2003’s “Kung Fu Chaos,” a game I had forgotten even existed until I just now Googled Ninja Theory’s oeuvre to make sure I wasn’t leaving anything out, and I don’t know that even Ninja Theory would blame me for forgetting that one.

The point of all of this is that when Microsoft and Ninja Theory announced the latter’s acquisition and integration within Xbox Game Studios, I think there was an expectation that the games Ninja Theory has become known for — singleplayer, story-driven experiences — would be what we got. It’s what I thought we would get. I did not expect a competitive, 4v4, multiplayer action game, featuring a bizarre cast of sci-fi mutants and archetypes, battling around multi-level arenas with capture points.

But! This is what “Bleeding Edge” is. And … it’s fun. In the very brief amount of time I’ve had with it so far, it’s working.

The main reason “Bleeding Edge” is working so far actually shouldn’t be surprising, when you think for a moment about it, because the basic, mechanical and control fundamentals of the game most closely resemble Ninja Theory’s work on DmC, which, in my opinion, is still one of the best melee combat games of the last 15 years. “Bleeding Edge,” depending on the character you select — and more on that in a moment — can very much play the way you’d think a game from the developer of “DmC” should play, and that’s a very good thing. It is, simply put, fun to move around “Bleeding Edge,” to use its simplified melee combat system, and push its mobility options toward their apparent limits.

That’s the foundation that “Bleeding Edge” is built on, but it needs more, because, as mentioned just now, each character’s basic mechanics is very simple. There’s only one primary attack, and further depth per character is added with a trio of short-cooldown special abilities and a slowly charging ultimate ability whose utility is dependent on their class — assassin, tank, or healer.

If this sounds familiar to you, you’re probably someone whose spent some time playing MOBAs like “League of Legends” or “Dota 2,” because “Bleeding Edge’s” particulars feel very explicitly lifted from that genre and those types of games. In 2019, this feels almost quaint. After all, the great MOBA gold rush is over, and outside of “Smite’s” success, no one managed to replicate “League” or even “Dota 2’s” presence and momentum, despite dozens upon dozens of attempts to do so. “Bleeding Edge,” in this way, feels like a game with ideas from four or five years ago, but done very well, very cleanly.

This is all fine and good at a show like E3 — a game needs to be good right away here, but it doesn’t necessarily need to demonstrate a huge amount of depth on the show floor (or at a showcase). “Bleeding Edge” is that, but what I can’t tell is whether or not there’s a lot more beneath the surface to dig into. There aren’t that many characters in what Ninja Theory is showing now, and there’s just the one game mode available, a point capture exercise. A multiplayer game like this needs a lot of depth for a lot of strategies and, ideally, for a meta to form around the systems in play, which, hopefully, provides fertile ground for a community to spring up around it and sustain itself.

Xbox One owners will get a chance to try it for themselves soon enough, as Ninja Theory plans to release a technical alpha for “Bleeding Edge” on June 27.

More Gaming

  • The Lion King

    'Lion King' VFX Supervisor Rob Legato to Keynote at the 2019 View Conference

    Rob Legato, visual effects supervisor of “The Lion King,” “The Addams Family” co-director Conrad Vernon and Baobab Studios’ co-founder and chief creative officer Eric Darnell, director of the VR studio’s Emmy- and Annie-winning VR short “Crow: The Legend,” are rounding out the keynote speakers at this fall’s 20th edition of the View Conference in Turin, [...]

  • Nintendo Switch

    Nintendo Releases Updated Switch With Better Battery

    Nintendo just refreshed its wildly successful Switch game console, but the company isn’t giving existing Switch owners many reasons to upgrade: The renewed game console comes with a better battery that guarantees up to 9 hours of game play, while otherwise sticking with the same design and features of the original Switch. The new model [...]

  • Spotify logo is presented on a

    U.S. Consumers to Spend $26 Billion on Music, Video Subscriptions This Year

    U.S. consumers are expected to spend a combined $26 billion on music and video subscription services this year, according to new estimates from the Consumer Technology Association. That’s up from $20.4 billion in 2018, and nearly twice the amount spent on such services in 2017. Propelled by the continued success of Apple Music and Spotify, [...]

  • Gears 5 - Xbox Game Studios

    'Gears 5' Will Exclude Smoking Depictions After Concerns Raised by Youth Anti-Tobacco Org (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Gears 5,” the forthcoming installment in the “Gears of Wars” third-person shooter game franchise, will be a smoke-free establishment. The game, set for Sept. 10 release, comes from Xbox Game Studios and game developer The Coalition. The decision to remove all smoking references from “Gears 5” came after not-for-profit anti-smoking organization Truth Initiative approached Turner, [...]

  • Amazon Game Studios - Lord of

    Amazon Teams on 'Lord of the Rings'-Prequel Massively Multiplayer Game

    Amazon announced plans for a massively multiplayer online game set in J.R.R. Tokien’s Middle-earth — but in an era well before the events in “The Lord of the Rings.” Amazon Game Studios has teamed with Leyou Technologies, a Hong Kong-based games company. The companies will jointly develop the free-to-play game for PC and console platforms, [...]

  • Nintendo Switch Lite

    Nintendo Launches Switch Lite Handheld-Only Game System for $200

    Nintendo Switch is getting a cheaper, more colorful little sibling: Switch Lite, a device designed specifically to play Nintendo Switch games in handheld mode. The Switch Lite system is set to ship Sept. 20 at a suggested retail price of $199.99 — $100 less than the flagship Switch, which works in both handheld and TV-connected [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content