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Hellblade 2 previews hail a true “next-gen moment” on Xbox

Senua’s Icelandic outing could very well set a new standard for current-gen hardware, as Hellblade 2 previews are singing the Xbox exclusive's praises.

Hellblade 2 previews: Celtic warrior Senua with black face markings

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 is arguably the biggest Xbox exclusive of 2024 – at least from a technical perspective. 2017’s Senua’s Sacrifice set an incredibly high bar for breathtaking visuals and total immersion of the senses, but it wasn’t without its flaws. Fortunately, the Hellblade 2 previews are in, and it looks like developer Ninja Theory is succeeding in producing an experience truly befitting the capabilities of the Xbox Series X.

Senua’s Sacrifice is, categorically, one of the best Xbox games out there. A heartbreaking story of grief, and a thought-provoking exploration of life after death, Ninja Theory’s tiny team managed to move (Norse) mountains. Six years after Microsoft acquired it, the studio is still small by triple-A standards – around 80 devs have been whittling away at Hellblade 2 – but its ambitions remain ridiculously high for the Xbox exclusive. By the looks of things, it’s paying dividends.

Trading Helheim for Iceland, Hellblade 2 is a much more grounded experience – at least in terms of locale. There are still plenty of “otherworldly creatures like draugr and giants” roaming the island, as IGN notes, and fortunately, Senua’s combat chops have been polished sufficiently to deal with them.

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“Each swing of the sword comes with a heavier weight to it,” the outlet writes, “emphasising the damage every plunge into a foe’s flesh causes. Dodging and parrying remain key components, just as reading the rhythm of your opponent’s attacks stays vital to your survival. These tells are something you’ll need to keep an extra keen eye on this time around, too, as the parry window for Senua to meet steel with steel appears far less forgiving.”

Visually, Ninja Theory’s been able to replicate its graphical wizardry – this time on current-gen hardware. Polygon says the game “looks stunning, whether it’s rendering the black, smoking slopes of an Icelandic volcano or the pale, haunted eyes of Senua performer Melina Juergens.” If you’ve been eyeing up one of the best TVs for Xbox, you’ll definitely want to invest before it arrives on May 21.

Senua’s internal struggle with psychosis remains one of the best representations of mental illness in the medium. While she’s made peace with the Furies for the most part, they’re still very much around, though this time “they feel more akin to true companions” according to Gamespot. Part of GamesRadar’s preview, meanwhile, dives into the audio wizardry that goes into reproducing Senua’s internal menagerie of monologues, remarking on the studio’s “smart use of binaural audio to lock you into Senua’s reality.” PCGamesN also says that while the preview session only lasted around 45 minutes, “the sensory experience lingered throughout the rest of the day”.

Echoing Gamespot’s sentiments, “May cannot come soon enough.” The sheer amount of care that’s gone into Ninja Theory’s craft cannot be understated – at least from what we’ve perused in the previews. The new Xbox game has the opportunity to set a new experiential standard for the platform, and its developer seems to be taking hold of it with both hands.

For more of the latest news on the best Xbox Series X games, check out why Dune Awakening has the spice to turn us into survival game addicts following our preview of the game at GDC. Additionally, peep the new Xbox Game Pass games for April if you haven’t already.