Bleeding Edge comes at an interesting time for the Xbox One. The console has been around for over six years now and the future of the Xbox family is in sight with Series X. 2020 has been a bit lean for major releases on the platform and Microsoft’s Game Pass service has changed the nature of first-party releases for the foreseeable future. Instead of having to plunk down $60 on something (or $30 in this case), you can just try out the service for $1 and see if you like it. It’s led to Microsoft branching out into different kinds of games — like Sea of Thieves — to help make it stand out.
Bleeding Edge may stand as the final major release on the original Xbox One line of systems and it acts as a nice bookend because its tone and overall feel of the world evokes an early Xbox One hit in Sunset Overdrive — only with a multiplayer-centric mentality. While Sunset combined third-person shooting with parkour platforming and a lot of rail grinding with a surprisingly in-depth RTS experience, Bleeding Edge blends third-person shooting with base capturing and something we don’t see in either genre much: power-ups.
Power-ups have been absent in gaming as a whole for a long time, but here, they act as fun short-term buffs. You can get damage increases, health pickups and the like, but need to be efficient. Wasting time means that you can easily miss your chance to really use something like a damage buff. Character class also plays a large part in things, as support isn’t going to be ideal for a weapon upgrade as their offense will just chip away, but they would benefit from health pickups. Your regular all-around and tank characters benefit a lot from damage upgrades — especially tanks, as they can take out enemy support in a few seconds with relative ease.
As a shooter, Bleeding Edge is streamlined which makes it user-friendly for casual players. You get three classes and have to weigh the pros and cons of each. Your pre-match setup will warn you if your team is unbalanced against your own success, and if it is, you can always just die and try a new character out for size. I opted to go with short-range attackers to start before finding that even in a support role, I preferred longer-range attacks as they allowed me more freedom on the map. That freedom can pay off or it can be your downfall as it’s easy for enemies to cluster up and when that happens, whichever team is lower in number in that area is doomed more often than not.
Bleeding Edge has a slightly higher learning curve than Sunset Overdrive in part because it’s both a melee game and a shooting game depending on your preference, and those are two completely different kinds of action to try and replicate. Fortunately, Ninja Theory’s past with games like DmC allowed them to do a good job replicating each while still coming up with a slightly new way to present capture points. Instead of just a straight-up timer on your HUD, you have the timer baked into the landmine-looking markers alongside a circular indicator that fills up when you know you’re close.
There’s a bit of risk/reward in going for a marker too because you’re more visible and will be approaching an area that enemies know to keep an eye on. If you’re a tank, however, you can endure some abuse and if you’re a tank with a healer nearby, you’re in good shape as you can probably pick off some enemies and health a solid amount of whatever damage you’re taking in real-time thanks to your ally. Each class fares better than others depending on their enemy. So if you’re a support character with a long-range weapon, you want to try and focus on short-range enemies with low-health as your weapon alone won’t do much damage — but pairing up with any ally can allow you to heal them up while they take larger chunks out of the enemy.
Much like Sunset Overdrive, there’s a fantastical sense of wonder to the world, only with characters that aren’t fleshed out beyond soundbytes. In that regard, this feels very much like the first Titanfall in that there’s a great concept here, but the world-building isn’t quite there and the player is left to fill in a lot of blanks with their own imagination. The overall look of things is very near-future with a bright twist, only it’s in a world that’s somewhat more battle-hardened. The core action is a lot of fun, but does require more trial and error than some may like. Thankfully, the tutorial is robust and allows you to try out each kind of character before ever getting into an online match, ensuring that you’ll be at least somewhat comfortable with every overall play style.
Bleeding Edge comes at an interesting time for the Xbox One console family as that nears its end, but on PC, the game’s lifespan could grow quite a bit. It’s too early to predict the game getting an eSports following, but it could happen and if it does, then Ninja Theory could wind up with their biggest hit ever out of nowhere. Much like how Apex Legends cemented Remedy for years to come thanks to it being a surprise gigantic hit, Bleeding Edge blends enough of the familiar FPS tropes with things that are somewhat outside the box in execution to create a game that is addictive in both short bursts and longer play sessions.