Ever Wanted ‘Overwatch’, But On Acid? Meet ‘Bleeding Edge’
We got hands on with this wild ride at E3.
Announced during the Xbox E3 2019 conference, Bleeding Edge is a fast-paced hero shooter from the studio behind Devil May Cry (DmC) and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, and it has, I kid you not, some of the wildest characters I’ve ever seen in the genre.
Bleeding Edge is a crass online hero shooter. According to creative director Rahni Tucker, developer Ninja Theory began work on it three years ago — around the time the world first fell in love with Blizzard’s iconic and lovable first-person shooter, Overwatch — but it was allegedly inspired by the gameplay and legends and myths of the playable heroes in multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games.
Within moments playing the game, it’s unimaginably clear that the team are fans of Overwatch. Parts of the environment are laid out similarly to the final control point of Hanamura and Volskaya Industries. Competing in 4v4 multiplayer rounds, you choose from a selection of offensive, defensive and support heroes and work in teams of four to capture and protect points from the other team. Each of the ten characters announced have basic abilities, passives, three specials, an ultimate and a custom mount they can summon at any time.
Rich origins stories devoid from the multiplayer experience contextualise the world of Bleeding Edge, much like they do Overwatch. The world is an alchemical concoction of dystopian sci-fi, apocalypse, witchcraft and mythology branching from cultural traditions and iconography from around the world. And Ninja Theory takes this in fun ways with its batshit insane cast of characters.
Add A Dash Of ‘Borderlands’
It’s hard not to see the influence of Overwatch’s charismatic heroes and Borderlands’ violently crass tone in Bleeding Edge’s DNA. Characters come from all across the globe and Ninja Theory Frankenmashes traditional cultural folklore and iconography with absurd origin stories, cybernetics and magic.
Characters either use melee or ranged weaponry and while I spent most of my time with ranged and support build heroes, Ninja Theory’s experience creating the fluid and stylish gameplay of DmC has carried over in the comically punchy and chaotic frenzy of melee fighters.
These Characters Though
the character designs of bleeding edge???? WHAT? HELL YEAH!! WHAT?! pic.twitter.com/kChX9nzuUV
— Chwistopher (@Loudwindow) June 9, 2019
I was Maeve, the tired Baba Yaga inspired witch. After a life spent in rural Ireland, Maeve seeks adventure and witnesses the world in all its colours from her shiny floating robot orb bauble, joining the Bleeding Edge to find what’s right. As a ranged assassin, she casts powerful spells including zapping her foes with lightning, trapping them in a metal cage, teleporting and fading away and channelling an energy beam that drains their health, cackling away as she fires a giant ball of chaotic energy.
— Dog-Teeth-Rah (@dogstoof) June 10, 2019
By contrast, Kulev was a scholar searching for immortality and dedicated his work to the study of voodoo theology and practices. But soon, he became frail and weak, his physical body decayed away at 126 years old and his subconsciousness was digitally implanted into the body of a cybernetic snake boy puppeteering the remains of his corpse. Mechanically, Kulev waddles about, spitting acid from his jaw, buffing and debuffing, and can take control of another player with mind control.
Nidhoggr is a lanky member of a death metal band, who wields a guitar-axe and breathes fire. As a thrashing speedy melee hero, he can throw his violent tools to slow down enemies, breathe cones of fire and leave behind charred trails, and blast deafening sounds from his screams and guitar that stun nearby foes. Oh and he’s an anti-authoritative, so Nidhoggr said: “fuck the police.”
Then we have the dirty junk-tech engineer from Broken Hill, Gizmo, who uses a bolt gun and scavenges parts from her small mining town to build explosives, jump pads and a turret. Very Junkrat meets Torbjorn.
Other characters include Daemon, the native New Yorker who changed his name to officially study the blade; Miko, a powerful witch doctor pumped with nanobots; El Bastardo, the enraged machete-wielding cowboy vigilante; Makutu, the genetically-enhanced big boy who charges into enemies like a bull and relies on knocking back enemies; and Buttercup, the rowdy rockabilly derby girl from Louisiana who uses her speed and circular saw blades to outmanoeuvre enemies, and has a four-wheel drive tyre for legs.
Buttercup from Bleeding Edge turns into a bike???? And slices people up with the wheels???? And can hook them towards her???????????? This is peak character design. 🚴♀️⚔️ pic.twitter.com/HBlB9KatV2
— Chwistopher (@Loudwindow) June 10, 2019
But Will My MOBA Edges Be Snatched, Finally?
With such an impressively wacky roster of characters, and inspired by Overwatch’s class-based heroes with a chaotic frenzied spin, it’s a shame I’m worried that Bleeding Edge might not succeed post-launch. The characters available are interesting and play differently enough from each other that there’s a sense of competitive strategy in mastering their skill sets and how they play off other heroes, but it feels too similar to Overwatch’s core design.
As creative director Rahni Tucker told me offhandedly, the game is currently being developed for Xbox One and PC, with a PS4 release currently up in the air after Microsoft’s acquisition of Ninja Theory. It will also star on Xbox’s Game Pass subscription service, with Xbox One players able to check out Miss Baba Yaga and the finely dressed snake boy when the beta begins on June 27.
Julian Rizzo-Smith is a freelance pop culture and games writer. He wants you to know he bled sweat and tears to write this. He tweets @GayWeebDisaster.