Hellblade 2 is the New, Best Looking Game

Leading up to the release of Hellblade 2, I finally finished the first game in VR. It was nice to actually finish a game in a few hours, while I still have 20hrs+ left in Grounded. The first Hellblade grew on me, but Hellblade 2 has wowed me. It’s a busy month, so I’m only over an hour or 2 in, but I’m in awe. It’s too early to judge the story, but those visual and that sound are incredible.

Struggling Though the First Hellblade in VR

Senua's Sacrifice Hellblade SteamVR screen capture

Years ago, I bought the VR port of the first Hellblade. It was gorgeous for the first half hour, but the performance issues reared their ugly head. There was a ton of pop in and stuttering issues which turned into bad motion sickness.

I tried a ton of settings, but my old setup was just not up to the task to run it and look decent. Fast forward to now and I have a RTX 4090. There’s still some pop in issues, but I brute forced my way to the performance I wanted. It ran better when I turned the graphics up which was a nice change instead of lowering resolution.

There were still stutters here and there, but I was able to make my way through the entire game. It looked great in VR and my Valve Index headphones really enhanced the haunting audio. The story pulled me in and it left me with plenty of excitement to play the sequel.

Hellblade 2 Touts the Best Visuals and Audio

Senua in HB2 looking over the landscape in the daytime

Having just finished the first Hellblade a day before, the jump in visual quality in Hellblade 2 is striking. The cutscene quality from the start is impressive, but the actually gameplay actually looks better. The quality is the best I remember ever seeing in a video game.

It’s across the board. From the textures, environments, the animations, character model quality, to the excellent lighting. It’s a visual feast. That’s not an understatement, it’s one of those games that messes with your brain, knowing you are seeing the next gen of visuals.

The excellent HDR usage really helps my Alienware OLED Ultrawide to truly shine. There’s some much detail in the blacks and then the light pops through everything. Yeah I showed screencap above, but only an OLED monitor or TV can do it true justice.

Award Winning Audio Design

The visuals are at the absolute top already, but the audio possibly surpasses it. Hellblade 2 is almost a guarantee to win best audio this year. The binaural audio is crisp and disturbing. Whispers and shouts by the voices in Senua’s head feel like they are really there.

Even sounds in the environment are so impressive that I’d sometimes wonder what was coming from the headphones versus background noise in my house. I can only imagine the creepy things I’ll hear along my journey. I already turned my head to look to see if something was behind me at my desk.

Like the first, I expect HellBlade 2 will make me feel like I’m going crazy. Hopefully I won’t start hearing those voices in my head when I’m not playing the game.

The New Hellblade 2 Combat is Brutal

Senua stabbing sword through the neck of a viking

I remember complaints about the combat in the first game, but I actually grew to enjoy it, for the most part. The simple, yet varied light attack, strong attack, parry, dodge and focus, was satisfying to me. Hellblade 2 includes all those same moves, but improved by the impressive presentation.

The fully motion capped movements make it much more brutal. It feels like every hit holds so much weight. It’s not some flurry of attacks that seem to just swipe the opponent or phase through them. All the hits connect with a realistic reaction, movement and emotion from the characters.

Complaints people had when they heard about the one-on-one combat is quickly forgotten. I love not constantly hearing “behind you” like in the first game when it was already too late to block the unseen attack. There’d be multiple enemies to fight at one time, but no easy way to pick your target (at least not in VR).

It was practically like fighting one-on-one, but with a crowd. I’m glad of the change Hellblade 2 made to combat, so there’s more focus on a brutal fight. Defeating one enemy might quickly delivers a new one, but in a cinematic combat way with a near perfect animation transition.

I’ll see if that holds up with later enemies, but I’m very impressed so far. Feels like it does Viking style combat, justice.

Digging into Hellblade’s Story

Senua in HB2 with someone's hands covering her face

After the first game’s journey through insanity and grief, it seems it’s now time for revenge. It’s still early to know everything going on with the story, but there’s already plenty to work with. There’s slavers, a Draugr cult, mysterious new companion and the mention of giants.

Like the first game, it will be hard to know what’s real and what is in Senua’s head, but I look forward to it all. Whether you want to argue with someone whether Hellblade 2 is more of an experience or a game doesn’t matter.

What matters is this is something everyone should experience, even if they don’t stick around for the whole game. The visual and audio presentation is undeniable good. Even for those that criticize the gameplay, they cannot deny what Ninja Theory achieved with their tech and artistic vision.

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