Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice PS4 review
It's been a while we heard of Ninja Theory and Hellblade - the game we saw revealed during Sony's press conference on the Gamescom in 2014. Of course we knew after Heavenly Sword, the amazing Enslaved and the Devil May Cry reboot DmC already that the boys and girls of Ninja Theory know how to create games that are fun and innovative, but with Hellblade, the studio goes a little further. The game looks like a slash meets puzzle adventure, but the real essence of this experience is psychosis. This game is so heavy on your mind that I eventually had to force myself to play many short sessions. It's a game that hits you in the face, with a story that intrigues and a character who fully manages to suck you into her experience.
You are playing as Senua, a Celtic warrior who wants to revive her lover. This lover named Dillian has been brutally sacrificed by the Norwegian invaders, upon which Senua decides to travel to Hell - the mythical Norwegian underworld - and convince goddess Hella to return him to life. Senua differs from other game characters in the way she is struggling with severe psychological complaints. She constantly hears voices who encourage, are contradictory, intertwining and remembering the darkness that governs her life. The game advises you to buy a good headphones and you really should. With headphones, it feels like the voices roll in your head - sometimes closer, sometimes further away. The experience is phenomenal and frightening at the same time. Not only do they constantly question Senua, they also do it to you, influencing the choices you make.
For a good representation of the effects psychosis has on the mind, Ninja Theory has had support from psychologists and patients. The experiences they shared were incorporated into the game, which makes the whole thing difficult to keep going. At times, the world is twisted and full of shame, other times just very beautiful and bright. Occasionally you see the world like broken glass and at other times there is nothing but total darkness about Senua, with worse things when the light goes on. All of this sounds like "been there, done that" in games, but the way Hellblade is presenting it is remarkable.
So Senua struggles with her mental demons, which is portrayed through the combat scenes. Ranging from shadow demons and Norwegian warriors, all enemies have different attack patterns that you should anticipate. Senua has a heavy and light attack, can block attacks and of course dive to dodge them. Combat in Hellblade is fine, even though its pacing could have been better. Confrontations are quite spread apart, after which you get a lot of waves of enemies thrown at you. Senua also has a combat focus meter, allowing you to slow down time gigantically and to do a lot of damage when it's full.
This focus is an important element in the game. To get through the beautiful world, many puzzles will need to be solved. You are always looking for rune characters to open a particular door, which should be found in the area. This is often a matter of perspectives, as shapes in the world around you can also form the symbol. The shadow thrown by a newly lit fire pit on a piece of stone or two pieces of wood that form exactly a rune character at a certain angle. The whole thing is pretty cool, but gets repetitive after a while.
With a game duration of between six and eight hours, I experienced Hellblade as long enough. The story is a fierce experience and certainly not one that you can recommend to every gamer. Repetition in fights and exploring the world also meant that the game shouldn't be longer. Together with a lower initial selling price of 29.99 euros, this is certainly worth playing.