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E3 2019

Bleeding Edge Is a Disappointing Departure for Ninja Theory

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As a leak from earlier this week suggested, Microsoft announced Ninja Theory’s newest game. That project is Bleeding Edge, and it could hardly be further from what the team’s die-hard fans are hoping to see.

Before excoriating the decision based on personal feeling, let one thing be clear: Ninja Theory, like any other creative team or individual, is free to produce whatever it desires. Fans may not appreciate that the studio is exploring the multiplayer realm with this 4-vs-4 brawler, but they need also to know that Bleeding Edge is not some quick cash grab mandated by Microsoft to attempt to turn an immediate profit.

The reports associated with the leak indicate that the game has been in production since 2014 as a passion project for a team within Ninja Theory headed by DmC: Devil may Cry’s senior designer Rahni Tucker. That suggestion is supported by a 2014 post from the studio discussing Razer, a long-cancelled Destiny-like. That post indicated that the team even before then was exploring “an online multiplayer melee game,” which certainly fits the model that Bleeding Edge is following:

The game probably deserves to exist, given that passion alone has kept it alive for more than five years. However, Ninja Theory’s fans may struggle to back the project.

Until now, all the studio’s flagship games have been single-player affairs with intriguing, complex narratives. That style came to a head with Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, an intense experience focused on a Norse warrior’s psychosis. Across more than 15 years, the studio has gotten better at creating this kind of game, making a name for itself as one of the bastions of mature storytelling in the industry.

Despite knowing that Bleeding Edge is not the result of the full company’s resources being brought to bear on a project, it still feels like capitulation.

When Microsoft announced its acquisition of Ninja Theory at E3 last year (and Obsidian Entertainment a few months later), single players hoped a change was on the horizon. Playground Games, Compulsion Games, The Initiative, and InXile Entertainment could all make fantastic new narrative-focused IPs, but our eyes were firmly on the studio that built Heavenly Sword and Enslaved. The highest likelihood is that Bleeding Edge just happened to be the fastest project to bring to completion and Tameem Antoniades is working on something else special to arrive in the next few years.

Nevertheless, for such a studio’s first post-acquisition announcement to be a multiplayer project is disappointing. Even more disappointing is the precedent it implies for Microsoft’s other studios. After last year’s spending spree, single players hoped that the platform holder was about to enter a new phase where its strong multiplayer stable would be complemented by a diverse array of single-player-first IPs. Bleeding Edge suggests otherwise.

Many of the remainder of Microsoft’s reveals only reinforced that impression. The new State of Decay 2 DLC ‘Heartland’ does focus on narrative, but the Gears 5 showing focused on a new co-operative mode, and Halo Infinite, while eye-catching, offered little of any real substance. However, the company unveiled a Holiday 2020 launch window for the next Xbox console, which means that it may be holding off new IPs and story-focused games until next year to better relaunch the Xbox brand with the new hardware.

Damien Lawardorn is an aspiring novelist, journalist, and essayist. His goal in writing is to inspire readers to engage and think, rather than simply consume and enjoy. With broad interests ranging from literature and video games to fringe science and social movements, his work tends to touch on the unexpected. Damien is the former Editor-in-Chief of OnlySP. More of his work can be found at https://open.abc.net.au/people/21767

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E3 2019

Biomutant is Vibrant, Unique, and a Hell of a Lot of Fun

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biomutant

THQ Nordic had a bevy of games available to play on the show floor at this year’s E3. While some attendees eagerly lined up to play Darksiders Genesis (as our own Michael Cripe did), others sought to finally get their hands on Experiment 101’s highly unique Biomutant for a hands-on, 30-minute demo. Thankfully, Biomutant’s E3 demo is more than enough proof that the will end up being something truly special.

After selecting their preferred language, players were given the option to recode their mutant’s DNA, serving as Biomutant’s version of a character customizer. The customization options were satisfying. A circle graph appears on the screen with five key skills the player must find their preferred balance between: strength, agility, intellect, charisma, and vitality. A sixth skill, luck, was also present, but it was not one that the player could influence from the circle graph. This graph not only influences the player’s mutant’s skills but it also directly changes the mutant’s appearance.

Other customization options included determining the mutant’s fur length and primary and secondary colors. Once these options were set, the demo thrusts the player into a mission that begins with riding a hot air balloon  while the narrator speaks of the excitement of an adventure. Enemies begin firing to bring down the hot air balloon and the player is dropped into the action.

Biomutant

The world of Biomutant immediately pops, as the colors were sharp and invoked thoughts of Ratchet &Clank with a slightly more comic-book style. The visuals reflected the conditions of the area, too, with vibrant reds representing intense heat being a memorable example. The first thing that stood out about this sequence was how great the combat felt. Similarly to Insomniac’s Spider-Man and Rocksteady’s Arkham series, sliding through an enemy’s legs while kicking, punching, and shooting felt tight and familiar. In some instances, the game slowed down when a knockout blow was dealt, which was a nice cinematic touch.

Progressing forward saw the player in an area with additional enemies with a larger, more intimidating foe acting as the main objective. This section introduced the Super Wushu attack, which varies depending on the equipped weapon. The most rewarding of these attacks was with the Klonk Fist which was obtained later in the demo. The Klonk Fist offered huge gauntlets that could pummel multiple enemies by mashing the action button.

The key to unlocking the Super Wushu attack involves stringing together combos which felt fairly easy to do. I do not recall ever losing my combo to an enemy attack, as I obtained the special attack fairly often. The combat allowed for those who wished to mash the melee or firing button but also rewards the players who are more tactical in their combos while mixing in shooting with melee attacks.

Biomutant

With the tutorial for the demo out the way, the game continues by having the player go to a different part of the planet. This new area showcased the vibrant greens and life that contrasted the overheated reds from the previous area. After some platforming, the demo descends the player down into the world where Gizmo the Greasemonkey resides.

Biomutant NPC dialogue is spoken by the narrator from the beginning of the demo while the player’s character makes vague sounds during the conversation. This exchange felt a bit underwhelming for the action-RPG as options did not hold any consequences for how the next section plays out and can be skipped without missing out on much of the story or mission objective.

After descending down and exiting an elevator shaft, the player enters a dark, oil-spilt area. The color palette here reflected the same pop to its visuals as the other sections. A mech suit, which was required to clean up the oil, controlled fine, though combat definitely felt better out of the mech suit than in it.

A final enemy awaited which served as the boss fight for the mission. This fight contained three phases with the enemy adding a new attack method from in the second. The third phase, however, took place inside the creature. After taking him down from the inside, the planet’s Tree of Life becomes more alive as indicating a reversal of destitute for the planet.

The demo confirmed the anticipation OnlySP had for Biomutant. The combat felt great and the visuals really popped. THQ Nordic and Experiment 101 may something special on their hands if the rest of the game plays as the demo did.

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