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Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 launches to mixed criticism

Hellblade 2 was first revealed in late 2019, alongside the announcement of Microsoft's next-gen Xbox console. Now, four years into the Xbox Series X/S generation, Ninja Theory's long-awaited sequel has finally arrived, but reviews are a little more mixed than anticipated. 

While Hellblade garnered universal acclaim back in 2017 for its level of polish, visuals and gameplay, all while keeping the game within a manageable scope. With Hellblade 2 though, the expectations are somewhat higher. Ninja Theory is no longer an independent studio trying to do the best it can on a budget, it is now one of Microsoft's prized first-party studios, with access to ‘tech giant' levels of money. This in itself has skewed expectations for Hellblade 2, which many expected to be a bigger game compared to the original.

As it turns out, Hellblade 2 shares a lot of DNA with its predecessor. The game still focuses on psychological horror elements, fantastic visuals and cinematic story-telling, while keeping the overall runtime down to less than 9 hours. The primary upgrades to the sequel come in the form of visuals. Unreal Engine 5 is used to draw out a level of realism not yet seen for a current-generation game. In many ways, Hellblade 2 does feel more like a cinematic art-piece than a video game, right down to its 21:9 presentation and deliberate blurring of the lines between cutscenes and gameplay segments.

Overall, this has led to a mixed bag when it comes to reviews. While some love Hellblade 2 for its horror elements, story-telling and visual-spectacle, others were expecting more from the gameplay aspect of the title. While some sits like Game Informer and Eurogamer delivered high 9/10 and 5/5 scores for Hellblade 2 respectively, other sites like GameSpot, PCGamer and Metro were less keen on the game, delivering scores of 6/10 and below.

This means that while Microsoft was reportedly tracking for a 90 overall on Metacritic, Hellblade 2 has actually debuted at an 81 overall score, based on 77 critic reviews. On Open Critic, this improves to an 82 overall score based on almost 90 critic reviews. On Steam, the game has an ‘very positive' rating based on over 200 user reviews so far.

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KitGuru Says: I've only played about an hour of Hellblade 2 so far. The game is certainly dedicated to getting that ‘cinematic' feel right, all while keeping things unsettling with its fancy 3D audio technology and dark but realistic art style. It certainly earns points for presentation. 

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