A Norwegian black metal star who has the equivalent of a flamethrower for a mouth. A British history professor whose soul was digitized and put into a robotic snake who now controls his own corpse. A Russian ballerina who was turned into a spy after getting cybernetic appendages—which are bird legs.  

All of these and more are characters that await to greet you within Ninja Theory’s newest game “Bleeding Edge,” a four vs. four melee battle arena game for Windows 10 and the Xbox One. The game just came off of its most recent beta weekend that started on Feb. 14.  

Yes, I am one of those who would rather spend the most romantic day of the year playing a multiplayer combat game that hasn’t officially launched yet. And for the most part? I enjoyed my time within it. It had been on my radar since I saw the trailer for it at 2019’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, one of the bigger gaming conventions of the year, and I preloaded it as soon as I saw it was available on the Xbox GamePass.  

The game has a very unique style that drew me in immediately. The characters bear a little more mention because their design is outstanding; each one feels very unique, like they couldn’t have come from another game. I wish their personality shined through a little more once actually in the game, though each character’s moveset and animations give a little bit more of a feel for their personality. I feel like there’s a lot of lore that I hope winds up being explored, whether through comics or video shorts like the kind-of-similar but not really team-based shooter Overwatch has done. As of now though, you can get character biographies on the game’s website, though it doesn’t really go in depth on what augmentations are or what their full capabilities are.  

In terms of actual gameplay, “Bleeding Edge” launched during the Beta with two game modes: Objective Control and Power Collection. Objection Control is a lot like a king of the hill game mode; you have a point, you have to capture it, then you keep the other team off of it. Power Collection was a little more complicated and games of this mode ran a lot longer for me than the other. The gist is you have to destroy groups of four power cells, then battle the enemy team for whatever cells they collected while waiting for a drop-off point to activate.  

I enjoyed Objective Control a lot more than Power Collection. I wasn’t as lost as I found myself being with Power Collection and it allowed both teams to be more centralized with their battles. There doesn’t currently seem to be a lot of depth to the combat; a lot of the time I found myself using a basic quadruple x-button combination to deal out damage and then alternate my other abilities when they came off cool-down. I didn’t have to worry about aim, generally speaking. If I was facing someone, I’d likely hit unless they evaded. This system’s fine, but it reminds me a lot more of Guild War 2’s combat – a Massively Multiplayer Online Game, where player versus player is not the focus of the game – than another more comparable competitive game. Finding the right team balance was also a challenge, but that was mostly because no one had their microphones on, and I was a single person playing alongside three other strangers. Coordination will be much better if you’re playing alongside some buddies.  

I think the biggest thing that got me was the sense of isolation if you died and had to re-find your team. The maps are fairly big, especially since there’s only eight people on the field, and if you wind up separated it can be hard to regroup, even though you can see where your teammates are on the minimap. This feeling of loneliness was added to by the lack of music when I was actually in the game. There’s some music when you’re loading into the match – and when it’s over too – but the only sound that plays on your journey back to your team is the low wobbling notes of your hoverboard. It gives the feeling akin to being in a Walmart when it is midnight and closing soon: ghost-like.  

That’s my biggest complaint and is something that will likely be remedied by the time the game is fully released on March 24. I will definitely be checking it out to see where Ninja Theory takes the game at launch and beyond. “Bleeding Edge” is available to pre-order on Xbox One, the Microsoft Store and Steam.