hellblade 2

Hellblade 2 Previews Have Arrived And It Sounds Like The “Next-Gen” Spectacle We’ve Been Waiting For

Hell yeah.

It’s hard to believe, but Hellblade II: Senua’s Saga, a game that Microsoft has been promoting since well before the arrival of the Xbox Series X|S consoles, will finally be out in a bit over a month. It almost felt as though Ninja Theory had been strangely quiet this close to the finish line, but it turns out it was busy showing off the game in-person to games media overseas and so now we have a heap of fresh hands-on previews of the game to hold us over until its release.

Perhaps unsurprisingly to the NT-devout, but said previews are also hugely positive, with many calling this the “next-gen” (their words, not mine) cinematic gameplay experience that’s been promised by hardware vendors and the likes of Unreal Engine 5 for years now. Like the previous game, it’s a mostly-linear adventure with the path ahead dotted with puzzles and light exploration, while protagonist Senua’s main interactions come in the form of combat against a huge variety of foes. Many of the previews have praised the fluidity of fights and the massive number of different, contextual and fully motion-captured animations that bring it all to life.

While one outlet, GamePro, has highlighted the game’s 30FPS cap and dynamic resolution on both Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S with no “performance” option available, I don’t think it’s something players are going to be overly disappointed with when the presentation is this filmic. There’s even an anamorphic lens over the whole thing to really drive home that idea.

The only real concerns levelled at the game so far in some of these previews have been from a narrative point-of-view, with the shift from Senua’s very introspective story in the first game to something bigger and more outward in the sequel, but with hands-on demos reportedly going for less than an hour there’ll clearly be a lot more to unpack in the full game.

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“Its ambitious narrative and accomplished cinematic framing far outweigh whatever shortcomings may be hidden underneath, and the incredible technology powering its beautifully ugly world is a sight to behold,” IGN concluded in its preview. “It’s all shaping up to be another riveting, haunting, and uncompromisingly immersive nightmare of both Senua’s and Ninja Theory’s creation, and one I can’t wait to both enter, and escape, later this year.”

Speaking to the game’s place in Xbox’s library, Games Radar said, “From what I’ve played of Hellblade 2, it’s clearly on track to be one of the most important exclusives that the platform has hosted this generation. Not only is it a fluid and responsive action-adventure game, boasting best-in-class visual fidelity, but it’s also an experience with something meaningful to convey.”

GameSpot’s preview is nicely summarised in its closing line, with writer Jordan Ramée saying, “Truly, May cannot come soon enough. I can’t remember the last time a game preview left me so excited to dive into the full experience.”

Meanwhile, Polygon compares the game’s flair for cinema and drama both in and out of combat to an arcade FMV classic, writing, “Hellblade 2 won’t necessarily be to everyone’s taste with its slow pace, deliberate inputs, and highly scripted, cinematic presentation. It struck me as a modern successor to something like the 1983 interactive animation Dragon’s Lair. As intense and dramatic as the section I played was, it remains to be seen whether the game’s story — a more outward journey for a more mentally balanced Senua — can connect as deeply as Hellblade’s trip into her darkest fears. But there’s no doubting the craft on display, or the immersive sense of presence this game has. It may be a sequel, but it feels like the start of something — like a true next-gen experience should.”

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II launches on May 21st for Xbox Series X|S and PC. It’ll be available day one on Game Pass.