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Hellblade 2 doc showcases its powerful portrayal of psychosis on Xbox

There are few studios putting the level of care and attention into authentically representing mental health as Ninja Theory is in Hellblade 2 on Xbox.

Hellblade 2 psychosis: Senua with her blue face markings next to a talking rock face

Senua’s Sacrifice: Hellblade remains to this day one of the most faithful on-screen representations of mental illness – specifically psychosis. As Hellblade 2 rapidly approaches, developer Ninja Theory has shared a deep dive into the extensive measures undertaken to portray Senua’s psychosis as accurately and sensitively as possible in the experiential Xbox game.

As explained by studio head Dom Matthews in a new Xbox Wire post, “Senua’s experiences of psychosis in Hellblade 2 are rooted both in neuroscience and in real lived experience.” Once again, the studio’s worked with Professor Paul Fletcher, Professor of Health Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, on the sequel to one of the best Xbox games, as well as with people who live with the condition.

“The way that Hellblade has captured the experience of psychosis is nothing like I’ve ever seen before in terms of its realism, in terms of its fairness to people like me,” remarks one such person, named Paul, during the 23-minute video. It’s a riveting feature, and a must-watch to truly appreciate how much effort has gone into encapsulating lived experience in the Xbox exclusive.

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Speaking on how this is materializing in the Xbox Game Pass game this time around, VFX director Mark Slater-Turnstill says that, visually, Ninja Theory has “lent into things like repeating fractal geometry shapes, cymatic patterns, with lighting and post-processing changes to all help reflect the current feelings of Senua.”

Considering the original Hellblade was famed for its use of binaural audio, it’s unsurprising to see Helen Goalen and Abbi Greenland back in the recording booth, having reprised their roles as the Furies. However, as Matthews notes, Senua has somewhat made peace with her internal chorus.

“In Sacrifice, we saw a story of Senua suffering at the hands of her experiences,” Matthews begins. “In Saga, we’re telling a more nuanced story of the next step on her journey – one where she has found a greater balance, but where her experiences are just as strong. Where, rather than being a victim to her experiences of psychosis, she is driven by them on a path that only she sees.”

Hellblade 2 is easily one of the most exciting new Xbox games on my radar this year, and to hear people like Paul vouching for the authenticity of how it portrays psychosis is heartening. As Matthews notes in the Xbox Wire post, devs have a responsibility to ensure that sensitive subject matter is handled with appropriate care. Though I’ll never be able to empathize with Senua’s struggles, the original Hellblade was eye (and ear) opening to say the least.

For more of the latest news on the next step on Senua’s journey, check out the recent report that stipulates she might very well come to PS5 post-launch. To keep up to date with all of Senua’s movements and more, give our Google News feed a follow.