Hellblade is one of the best hack and slash adventure games we’ve seen in years, and it is an indie title to boot. Ninja Theory managed to create a unique experience by demonstrating the effects Psychosis in a Norse-mythologic setting. It just works, period.
I recently got a chance to play Hellblade in VR using an HTC Vive and it was simply breathtaking. In this piece I’ll talk about the VR version of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.
Hellblade VR Uses Third Person NOT First Person
VR is all about immersion, and so most games in the genre use a first-person view. I was expecting the same for Hellblade, but after following Senua in third-person for a good 7-8 hours I’d say third person view actually suits this game, VR or not.
From a story perspective, the player is one of the voices in Senua’s head and every time Senua breaks down, it feels more upclose and unnerving. All the other voices (especially the narrator’s) also feel a lot more pronounced, further enhancing the experience.
Her struggle and illness have taken a toll on her, and that is apparent from the way she talks and behaves, her body language and even her movement
Every time something or someone from her past returns to haunt her, the agony is apparent on her face. A first person experience wouldn’t have conveyed these raw emotions.
VR may be the next big thing for gamers, but the visual fidelity of most headsets is fairly average. On a QHD or UHD monitor, Hellblade looks gorgeous, but in VR the cracks begin to show. This is mainly because almost all VR headsets run at 1080p, and with the extended viewing angles, the pixels are more than visible.
Ninja Theory have added the option to enable super-sampling or downscaling, but it just isn’t as good as native 4K. Plus anything higher than 2x SSAA, and the frame rate begins to suffer, and yes I ran the game on a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, so don’t question my test bench.
Furthermore, the foliage and level of detail looks a lot less…detailed. I’m not sure if it has been curbed or it’s simply because of the poor pixel density, but suffice to say the graphics fidelity in VR has quite a ways to go.
Ninja Theory has adopted a unique control binding with the VR version of Hellblade. Its fully keyboard based, no mouse, no joy-stick, none of those fancy VR controllers, just the keyboard. While this does sort of limit the immersion, I doubt they’d have been able to implement the control scheme using the VR controllers without major chnages.
In case you are wondering how they did that, the regular keyboard controls are the same, while the mouse functions have been assigned to the arrow keys. It does take a bit of getting used to, but after a while it isn’t much of a bother.
Furthermore, the experience while sitting down is quite exhausting. I couldn’t play for longer than 2.5 hours at a stretch. I got a headache and had to go out and take a break. I can only imagine how exhausting the whole ordeal would have been if the controllers were involved- swinging them repeatedly from side to side, you’d probably hit someone or worse, a wall or the screen.
Even if you consider the mediocre visual quality or the primitive controls, Hellblade VR is one memorable experience. The 3D audio was already quite immersive. This takes it to the next level, and I fear there aren’t many levels above this one. You don’t get to experience Helheim through Senua’s eyes, but I believe this is an even sweeter deal. It’s like you’re just behind her, helping her along, seeing and hearing the same things she is. Lastly, Ninja Theory deserves a thumbs up for packing the VR version free with the base game.
- Assassins’ Creed Odyssey: A Witcher 3 rip-off?
- Why we need to give BioWare and Anthem the benefit of doubt