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Hellblade 2 Looks to Push Game Immersion to Its Limits


Hellblade 2—otherwise known as Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II—is shaping up to be quite the immersive sequel with Ninja Theory doubling down on its narrative, audio, and visual quality. Read on to learn more about Hellblade 2’s upcoming features.

Hellblade 2 Looks to Push Game Immersion to Its Limits


Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was an exceptional game and one of 2017’s most memorable titles. Although technically an indie game, it sported AAA-quality visuals and audio and was uniquely visceral with its storytelling.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II—its long-awaited sequel—is shaping up to be quite the torchbearer, with many of Ninja Theory’s resources reportedly poured into its immersive quality.


In addition to hiring dedicated teams for the game’s audio immersion, Ninja Theory has reportedly doubled down on the game’s motion capture and narrative beats. This was done all in the name of "doing everything we can to achieve immersion and keep it," as Studio Head Dom Matthews put it.

Performance Capture Brings Combat Realism to the Next Level


The most significant innovation contributing to Hellblade 2’s immersion is its renewed utilization of motion capture technology. While the first game used motion capture mostly for its cinematic sequences, Hellblade 2 will be scanning in almost all in-game movements, relying on real-world actors to ensure the most realistic, human experience possible.

This was achieved through Ninja Theory’s newly-acquired performance capture studio that’s nestled within the walls of its Cambridge HQ. Access to state-of-the-art technology allowed the studio to dig its heels into the game’s uniquely visceral combat, which saw a greater focus on narrative significance rather than raw action alone.

"Instead of taking what we’ve got and adding to it, we looked [at] how we could go deeper on the thing we really care about, which is making combat meaningful to the narrative," Matthews says.


Xbox Wire’s Danielle Partis was given a closer look at one of the sequel’s chapter-ending combat sequences and, indeed, there was a greater focus on conveying the emotional aspect of the conflict rather than having "a piece of superpowered pugilism," as Partis put it.

"The benefit of working with actors like [Juergens] or any of the other cast is that we can bring them in to try different ideas; a scared walk, for example," Matthews said. "We ask ourselves what you’d be feeling in that moment, and how do we convey that to the player? We can then capture it, and the end result in the game is based on a real performance."

Ninja Theory is Striving to Make Senua More Human


It isn’t all mocaps and weapon swings in Hellblade 2, however, as the sequel also represented a narrative evolution for both the game and the titular character, Senua. The first game was already incredibly human in its depiction of desperation and psychosis but the second game represented the next step in making Senua’s experience invariably human.

Professor Paul Fletcher, who served as the mental health consultant on the Hellblade series, outlined the tonal shift between the first and second games to be representative of real-life innovations on the concept of psychosis from a research perspective. No longer were the voices relegated to neural noise; they were thoughts constructed much in the same way as reality.


"What’s exciting to me about Hellblade II is the growing interest that people can entertain two levels of reality," Fletcher said. "Senua may have the darkness and the voices, but at the same time, she can recognize and be part of other people’s constructions too."

"Some people will react to her with harshness or horror, but some will see her differently, and she’ll find common ground and share positive experiences with them. It’s really exciting to watch Senua explore these interpersonal dynamics and relationships with other characters, and how she can help them."

Hellblade II’s Binaural Audio Represents a Technological Leap


Senua’s psychosis—and admittedly a lot of the first game’s dialogue and atmosphere—were carried by its incredible audio design. In Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, Ninja Theory is pulling out all the stops to re-establish the audio’s significance in the narrative and the game itself.

Where the first game used binaural audio for the musings of Senua’s inner monologue, the sequel sought to make audio trickery an integral part of the game.


Hellblade’s audio director Garcia Diaz separated the pillars of the game’s audio evolution into two aspects: technological and psychological. The technological aspect of this evolution came with a sizeable upgrade to the game’s audio-capture equipment and a dedicated team of seven to assist with Garcia’s efforts.

"The first game was a massive project with so many details, and I couldn’t do everything," Diaz said. "There’s a lot of places where you can’t hear foley or footsteps, I just focused on what felt the most important."


The psychological aspect of this evolution came with Senua’s newfound understanding of her inner monologue, echoing Ninja Theory’s ongoing efforts to evolve her as a character. "Hellblade 1 had very dark ‘colors’ – now we have other colors", Garcia Diaz explained.

"Senua has the ability to feel the Furies in a different way, they now have deeper, meaningful conversations which didn’t happen in the first game, which I think is very beautiful."

Headphones Required – Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II’s Binaural Audio Is Like Nothing You’ve Ever Heard
How Ninja Theory Strives to Make Senua the Most Human Character in Gaming
Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II – How Performance Capture and Stunts Created Next-Level Combat

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