Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, the sequel to 2017’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, was just announced for the also just-announced Xbox Series X during this year’s Game Awards. The trailer (embedded below for your convenience) shows an incredibly detailed model of a woman doing some totally badass throat singing, along with a bunch of severed hands hung up to dry, people wearing elaborate headdresses made of branches, and a goopy field of bones. Developed by (what is now Microsoft’s) Ninja Theory, Hellblade 2 is the second-ever Series X game announced, following Halo Infinite.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “The trailer is cool, but we’re at a point where pre-rendered graphics can look pretty damn good. I have a certain set of expectations based on modern video games and I am not bewildered by what I see here, despite my appreciation for the artistry on display in this trailer!” Hold your Nordic horses though, because according to the trailer’s YouTube description, everything you see below was “captured entirely in engine,” meaning that — theoretically at least — that lady’s face is gonna do all that contorting and squinting and stuff in real-time, and that the lighting is actually going to look that good. That’s pretty damn impressive, if true!
The trailer’s description also cautions that “availability and sale of Xbox Series X is subject to required regulatory approval(s) in your jurisdiction,” so uh, keep that in mind I guess. If you live in a jurisdiction where required regulatory approval(s) prohibit the sale of consoles that realistically render depressed-looking rock monsters, maybe consider moving before this game comes out. You’ve probably got time though — Hellblade 2 has no release date.
The music used in the trailer was written and performed by Heilung, an “experimental folk” band with members originating from Germany, Denmark, and Norway, whose work is based on “texts from artifacts of the Iron Age originated by the Northern European peoples of the Celtic and Viking Age,” according to the band’s Wikipedia. (Their stuff sounds like this). Ninja Theory says that Heilung is collaborating on Hellblade 2‘s soundtrack, so it’s possible that throat-singing traditions might have narrative significance in the game.
The first game, Senua’s Sacrifice, was lauded upon release for its careful depiction of psychosis, which the titular protagonist suffers from. Ninja Theory staff consulted with neuroscientists and non-profit mental health organizations, as well as people who actually suffer from psychosis, to ensure that Senua’s auditory and visual hallucinations were realistically consistent with the experiences of those who live with the condition.
The role of Senua was played by Melina Juergens, who had never acted prior to her work on the game. Her motion capture and voice performances were recorded simultaneously through the use of an elaborate head-mounted camera and microphone jig, which prevented Juergens from interacting directly with other staff while recording. To get around this, queues from writer/director Tameem Antoniades were pre-recorded ahead of time and played back to Juergens through headphones that fit underneath the capture rig. That’s definitely Juergens’ likeness in the above trailer, but whether she’ll reprise her role entirely has yet to be announced.