Bleeding Edge is the multiplayer hero slicer that was announced this week by Ninja Theory. It’s a 4v4 learn-abilities-em-up. Which feels like an odd direction for the gang who’ve made their name by creating atmospheric singleplayer games like the anti-viking propaganda action adventure of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. But it made more sense when I got to play it at E3 this week, because it also has the mild taste of a multiplayer spectacle fighter (if that makes any sense). Think DmC meets Overwatch meets Dota 2. Anyway listen, none of that matters. Let me tell you about Granny Maeve.
Maeve is a cackling pensioner who can shoot horrible chunks of purple witchhurt at people from a small distance. She can also trap folks briefly in a big gothic cage, and blast them with a beam of bruise-coloured energy. This is very annoying (for the trapped of course – for me it is sublime). When they get out of the cage, their first instinct is to go stomping after Maeve, who is so physically frail she has to be supported by a balloon tied around her waist. But then the witchy woman busts out another trick: she can turn herself invisible for a handful of seconds. As a disgusting lover of cheap shots and sneakery, I enjoyed playing as Maeve a lot.
She is just one of a roster of characters, many of whom fight in far closer quarters than my new paganistic pal. One man with the hat of a 17th century pilgrim has a long smashing jump that can help him escape incoming sword blows, or surprise his foes from afar, or chase down poor fleeing grannies with low health, the rotter. Another character, a mysteriously helmeted spear-wielder, can shoot a projectile that freezes you for just enough time for your opponents to start smashing you with the simplistic attack combos (some as basic as hitting X repeatedly on a game pad). Other creepers in this realm have buff bubbles, or poison pools, or a dash that lights the ground on fire. One guy throws his guitar at people.
It’s a capture-the-point game (at least, that was the mode I got to play) made only slightly more complicated by the periodic interruption of two massive trains that stormed through the brightly coloured arena killing everything in their path. I am sad to report that Maeve was splattered by one of these trains. But that’s okay, this is the usual game of respawning and trying to crowd together. Resurrection and teamwork and pushing back by launching a giant ultimate ability at the best possible moment.
Maeve’s big superpower move is a ball of dark wizzo energy, for example. But I never handled it with enough skill to murder anyone with it. What Maeve did well for me, though, was standing on top of a walkway and shooting downwards into the melee below. Sneakfighting is the best fighting. Every so often someone would spot me and try to break away, but the distraction was enough to give my team mates time to slash and hack. This kind of smoochy teamwork between ranged characters and face-to-face smashers makes it all feel like a third-person Dota.
It’s not exactly a fresh idea to anyone who has played other games of being heroic within an arena, like Battlerite. And that is maybe the one great worry while I play. I’m having a good time being a sneaky nan, definitely, but these games always live or die on their numbers, and I don’t know how I would sell this to my friends apart from emphasising the fun character design. “Yeah, it’s not bad!” I’d say. “You can be a pink-haired women whose entire lower body is one big wheel. You can be a ninja who dresses like a spraypainting skaterboy. You can ride around on a hoverboard.”
There is also some of that familiar colour confusion while spectating. If you look at Overwatch and wonder “what the bejesus is happening here?” you will understand the fear of getting into something like Bleeding Edge. The screen is overwhelmed with bubbles and flashes and beams and splats. But it gets much clearer once you play, just like Overwatch. You get a feel for the characters and their tricks. The man with the big robot belly can zoom at you. The wheel lady can slash all around her in a pink neon storm of knifeflashes. It works, you know, it works.
But I should reiterate: the granny is the best character.
See our E3 2019 tag for more news, previews, opinions, and increasingly surreal liveblogs.