Bleeding Edge review: On the edge of greatness. Maybe. One day.

Bleeding Edge is a 4v4 brawler brimming with potential that may never be realized.

Bleeding Edge
(Image: © Windows Central)

Source: Xbox Game Studios / Ninja Theory (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios / Ninja Theory)

Bleeding Edge is a 4v4 competitive multiplayer game set in a cyberpunk world. Oozing with character and color, Bleeding Edge hit Xbox Game Pass for Xbox One and PC a little while ago, alongside Steam.

After a few weeks with the beta and now the full live game, I've had some time to collect my thoughts on the game's potential, although we're here to review today's product, which is a bit thin on content, to say the least. Beyond that, systemic issues with lag and general gameplay stop Bleeding Edge from sitting on the top shelf in a genre that is arguably well-catered for. That said, I find myself repeatedly coming back to it.

There's something really satisfying about Bleeding Edge, even in this protozoic state.

What I love about Bleeding Edge

There's a lot to love about Bleeding Edge, even if there are plenty of issues that hold it back. First and foremost, the character designs and animations are top-notch and represent Ninja Theory's unique creativity, dark humor, and inclusivity in one beautiful whole.

Set in a dystopic future where an evil authoritarian regime controls the population with advanced robotics and cybernetics, a group of hackers and engineers "liberate" the technology from the corporations, and spread them to the underground. Bleeding Edge, to that end, is effectively a fight club, where a group of bodymodders and martial artists test out their hacks in bloody combat.

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DeveloperNinja Theory
Genre4v4 competitive multiplayer brawler
Xbox Play AnywhereYes
xCloud Streaming (Beta)Yes
Xbox Game PassYes

The characters represent a broad range of playstyles with some great representation for different cultures and nationalities. The British occultist Kulev is a personal favorite, having uploaded his consciousness into a robotic snake, controlling his corpse like a grim marionette. Daemon is an archetypical ninja with a New York graffiti-style edge, and Nidhoggr is a Norwegian cyborg who wields the power of death metal in combat.

There should be something for everyone, both in terms of combat and visual style. There are healers, defensive support tanks, and pure damage dealers represented in the roster, with a range of cool and quirky abilities that allow everybody to carve out a niche. Kulev's utterly hilarious Bamboozle ultimate lets you mind control an enemy player for a few seconds, allowing you to force them into suicidal situations.

Bleeding Edge Gizmo 1080p (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Bleeding Edge (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Source: Xbox Game Studios

Some abilities work well in combination with others. Daemon's ultimate carves through all enemies trapped in an area of effect, and Nidhogger's area stun would keep them held in place if used in tandem. Players working together as teams, using the game's intuitive ping communication system can decimate less organized foes.

When Bleeding Edge isn't killing you with lag, the combat system works really well. Most character combos are a case of just spamming X, but knowing when to save your finite dodge rolls and how to react to any given situation makes up the basis of higher-level play. Some characters do have less obvious "hidden" combos they can string together, and there are some extra tools you'll discover as you play and experiment. Attacking an airborne enemy with a plunging attack, for example, will stun them, giving you a sizeable opening if you can bait an unsuspecting player. Also, using map hazards to your advantage can be incredibly rewarding to pull off, knocking enemies off the map, or dumping them into electrifying walls.

There's a strong basis for expansion here. And if the game is going to survive, expansion must come swiftly.

What I dislike about Bleeding Edge

Bleeding Edge

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Bleeding Edge suffers from a fairly dismal content spread, with only a small handful of maps and gameplay types to speak of. Playing on the same few maps gets dull very rapidly, especially since combat generally plays out the same way, time and time again, due to a general lack of depth in the meta.

It's a bit disappointing that there's not really much to reach for in the game.

You can change up to other characters to get some variety, but even they largely feel and handle the same way over time. It's not like a shooter, where you're improving your aim or feel for the physics. And it's not quite like a fully-fledged fighting game either, where you're learning combos and counters. Even similar games like World of Warcraft PvP Arena have far more abilities to track and learn, with class combos and synergies offering players a very complex meta to indulge in.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

I'm not suggesting Bleeding Edge has to overcomplicate itself, and honestly, the accessibility is actually quite refreshing. But for the game to enjoy longevity and a thriving player base, depth and variety need to come from either the characters or the maps and modes. Right now, the game isn't offering much on either front.

Perhaps the biggest source of frustration for me has been the lag. We are living in some crazy times right now, with Xbox Live struggling with some of the highest concurrent users in recent memory due to many places around the world having restrictions. Still, on my connection, the issues I've encountered seem unique to Bleeding Edge. It could be that the melee-oriented combat is more susceptible to issues on Xbox Live, but either way, it detracts from the product experience. When an enemy teleports to another position or out of view due to blatant connection issues, it makes landing ultimates and other cooldowns an incredibly frustrating experience.

Finally, it's a bit disappointing that there's not really much to reach for in the game. The skins are color swaps, and a far cry from the unique models you get in other similar games like Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm.

Should you buy Bleeding Edge?

Probably not, but not because it's terrible — it's actually rather fun. Despite its lack of content and relatively simplistic gameplay, I find myself coming back to it every couple of days to play a game or two. You shouldn't buy it because it's in Xbox Game Pass, which really changes the value proposition. As part of Xbox Game Pass, Bleeding Edge is an excellent addition to the lineup, adding what could eventually evolve into a strong competitive multiplayer game. Right now, however, it's sorely lacking in too many ways to recommend as an outright purchase.

All that being said, there's still something truly compelling about the game's characters and its world. We've been here before, though, talking about games with unrealized potential. Gigantic comes to mind. As does Battleborn. Of course, there's also the other side of the coin, in games that launched light on content but grew into something much greater, like Sea of Thieves and No Man's Sky. Which side will Bleeding Edge fall on? Only time will tell.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!