Review: Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice.
The amazingly talented people at Ninja Theory were awesome enough to send me a review copy of their game Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, that just released for Xbox One. I've been wanting to try this game out ever since I first heard it would be releasing for Xbox One! I've played the game a bit now and I definitely have some things to talk about. Let's go!
Platform: Standard Xbox One.
In Hellblade, you play as Senua, a Celtic warrior on a quest to avenge her dead lover. The game is set in the Viking age, which makes for some awesome level design. The game starts off very peacefully, with Senua slowly riding a boat, accompanied by the narrators voice. The game has one of the best audio designs I've ever heard in a game and it definitely needs to be played with headphones, especially with Dolby Atmos. As soon as I saw Senua, I immedietly thought that she looked frightened, yet strong. It's very obvious that she will be doing everything she can to avenge her long gone lover.
The game, visually, looks incredibly gorgeous. Ninja Theory have done amazing work with the game, even on a standard Xbox One console. I would say it runs in native 1080p, but I'm not sure. It definitely should, at least. Moving forward, I get to see the game's beautiful first enviroments, which nearly made me drop my jaw. Trees, rocks, foliage, sky, sun rays and ground, all look insanely good looking. Shortly after, my first hostile moment happens, where there's this weird entity following me, or at least I guess so since I had to run for Senua's life.
Hellblade was created in collaboration with neuroscientists as well as people who experience psychosis, which is something you really notice when playing the game, due to Senua's mind being very explored. The voice acting is superb, in my opinion, and the narrators voice makes for a perfect narrative. The game features wallpaper-worthy open enviroments, that are breathtaking to look at. I really enjoyed looking at the first one I saw.
The game also has puzzles, some of which aren't too hard to overcome. The good thing is, though, that the puzzles actually are somewhat entertaining. You'll encounter your first puzzle very early on. The first puzzle is very easy, though I do sense later ones will be much harder. In terms of performance, on a standard Xbox One, the game holds up very well. I haven't noticed a single framedrop, pretty much! Once again, great job Ninja Theory!
In addition, the game has a very unique and interesting system/mechanic that works as some sort of punishment. It works this way: if you die too many times, your save file gets deleted. From the game's view, it's like this: everytime Senua dies, she gets more "rot", if she gets too much "rot", it takes over and you lose ALL your progress. Interesting and awesome, in my opinion! Now, the story has a very detailed, mature and dark tone to it. The story will really keep you entertained, as well as making you wanting more out of it. Senua seems to be a very loyal person, and it's clear that she really did love her husband. There's something very special about her, and her stubborness at avenging her lover, definitely makes me like her even more. In case you didn't know, Ninja Theory created Devil May Cry, which I really loved, so I knew from the start that Hellblade Senua's Sacrifice would be no exception.
Many people call this game a "Walking Simulator", and it might be, to some extent, but this game is different: it actually features combat. Do not expect to see tons of enemies and getting to slaughter a Viking warrior at every corner of the game, though. The combat system is actually very fluid, and let me make it clear to you that Ninja Theory definitely went the whole way with the combat part of the game. When fighting the game's Viking warriors, you'll immedietly notice that it's actually a big part of the game. For being a "walking simulator", the combat is really well executed. In terms of the developer's punctuation on psychosis, like I wrote before, it's something you really notice, due to Senua's continued tendency to hallucinate, see visions and hear voices. They very much nailed Senua's psychosis in this game, it was very realistic and believable. As you continue through the game, the story will get deeper and deeper. Will Senua avenge her lover? Will she find peace? Will she survive? I kept asking those questions to myself while playing. Ninja Theory really did an awesome job at designing the game's enviroments and it really feels like you're in the Viking age. I keep thinking to myself that this game is one of the prettiest I've ever played.
All in all
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is a short but wonderful masterpiece, both visually and narratively. It features a great story and deeply amazing, as well as immersive, atmosphere all the way through.
My score: 5 out of 5.
+ Ground-breaking visuals/graphics
+ Incredibly immersive audio design
+ Amazing in-depth story
+ Great combat system
+ Difficult yet simple puzzles
Reviewed by Jesper Ingemansson.