Hands on: Ninja Theory’s Hellblade on PS4

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Hands on: Ninja Theory’s Hellblade on PS4

Hellblade, Ninja Theory’s forthcoming third-person action game isn’t a title that shies away from tackling difficult subjects. A story told through the lens of Celtic warrior Senua’s faltering mental health, it’s testament to Ninja Theory’s vision that they’re creating a game that’s both progressive and honest – and as a recent hands-on play through demonstrated, an immensely entertaining, playable experience with a refreshing sense of freedom.

“We’re trying to make a game with that indie spirit but AAA production values. So we’re able to take creative risks”, development manager Dominic Matthews tells me at one of Hellblade’s.

“The mental health theme is one that we’re treating with a lot of respect. Movies, TV, art and literature always tackle challenging subjects, but games tend not to – and if they do, it’s not always in a particularly positive way. We’re not trying to be educational, but if we can deliver a truthful portrayal of Senua’s mental illness, then maybe some people will understand it a bit better.”

Hellblade on PS4

Ninja Theory are known for their visceral, intense games, and iconic lead characters – such as DmC’s reimagined Dante, Enslaved’s Monkey and Heavenly Sword’s Nariko. Has it been tough to balance that trademark style with such a challenging subject matter?

“We want to deliver something that’s truthful and also specific to Senua – but at the same time, make a game for people who are fans of what we do; we’re known for combat and a certain art style and deep stories. First and foremost it has to be an entertaining, compelling game,” explains Matthews.

“I think there are similarities between Senua and previous Ninja Theory characters, but we want to create a character that’s memorable and heroic for her own reasons.”

Hellblade on PS4

At its heart Hellblade is an action game with combat that is very much focused on brutal one-on-one encounters that will test your timing, tactics and knowledge of Senua’s fighting style.

“Senua has one weapon and her entire move set is available from the start. It’s up to you as a player to explore that system and to master it and to uncover all of the nuances of Senua’s battle style. She’s a Celtic warrior, fighting against a Viking clan, so that’s what she does, she’s awesome at fighting! It is a battle and it’s relentless.”

Approaching the E3 demo’s first fight is a punishing experience. As I move into a clearing in the woods, a hulking, blade-wielding warrior towers over Senua and, for the first few encounters brutally sends her sprawling into the surrounding undergrowth. But soon, the rhythm of the fight takes over and a series of blocks, parries, nimble dodges and carefully timed attacks gives her the upper hand.

Hellblade on PS4

“We want every fight to feel like it matters. We won’t just throw fodder enemies at you – the combat is deep, complex and each encounter will need you to think about your tactics, not just crowd control.”

The brutality of each combat set-piece harks back to genuine historical events – and Senua’s place in this era gives meaning and context to her situation.

“The story is based on a period in history when the Orkney Islands were invaded by Vikings who wiped out the Pictish Celts – Senua is a survivor of that invasion, and the story is her coming to terms with that violence and trauma that was caused by that event.

“The combat in the game and the violence that Senua’s involved in isn’t a result of her mental health; everything in the story is her reality, that she has to deal with.”

Even at this early stage, Hellblade feels like a confident, exciting and ambitious take on a genre that has always felt at home on PlayStation. Suffice to say, you’ll be hearing more about it soon, right here on PlayStation Blog.

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  • OMG! That looks amazing! Getting this for sure.

  • Hard to say no to a Ninja Theory game

    • Ever play DmC?

    • You mean the game with a bunch of critical praise getting an 85 on metacritic, but a bunch of butt hurt people who hate any change and reimaginings, and 1 person specifically giving it a low score because it offended him being a Republican… XD calling it leftist popaganda. XD

      It’s not a bad game. It gets a lot of hate, but the only DMC game that ever deserved the hate it gets was 2.

    • I really enjoyed DMC much more than any of the originals, I bought the HD remastered trilogy and hated it. But I guess that makes me a bad person.

    • You have me wondering who the reviewer was that got offended? I haven’t played DMC but now I want to check it out.

    • Hey MakaiOokami,
      Nicely done.

      Hey Ninja Theory,
      Day one.

    • I agree! They do their own thing and I love it. Their take on DMC was fantastic! I have platinumed every DMC game, less 2(for reasons haha) and am now working on 4 so save the salt for those who hate on it :)

    • Yep, and Opikal said, it’s hard to say no to a Ninja Theory game.

  • looking good! i can’t wait to get this game! Hopefully it will be a physical version of this game

  • Great games, Ninja Theory! Hope you guys are considering remastering your other games. A lot of people missed out on those and I would love to replay them. Can’t wait for this one to come out!

    • With DmC at its peak on PS4, I’d love to see Enslaved and Heavenly Sword. Both excellent games, but it’s clear that they also both had some technical difficulties. I’m sure that if they got a chance to go back to them they’d give it their all again like they did for DmC DE.

    • The reviews of Heavenly Sword with the Headplay seemed to really say it made the game play better due to how you could really focus on what the characters were doing.

      So I’m hoping that those remasters on a Morpheus set up, would give us an amazing experience.

  • we want PS1 and PS2 emulator on PS4.

    • I personally do not want that at all. I am *very* pleased with Playstation Now game streaming, and am looking forward to the content library expanding as well as the service becoming more polished.

      After I clear up my backlog, I am looking forward to playing through Ratchet & Clank All 4 One, Mass Effect 2, ICO and finishing Shadow of the Colossus.

    • I disagree. I think it would take WAY too much development time away from other features and I think it would be grotesquely underutilized. The one thing I wish is that PSOne classics I had already purchased digitally were playable in some way on PS4 without needing to pay again for them. But a full emulator for it would be asking way too much.

    • No thanks here either…i have no prob firing up my ps1 or 2 when i have a desire to play a game from one of those consoles.

    • Umm… PS TV? What’s wrong with that?

    • Yeah! … Uh, I mean, no. I still have a PS2 for those games. Seriously, who is sitting around with an HD tv, a PS4, and a burning desire to play PS1 games? Come on…
      And stop with the “we” and “everyone” type comments, please. A vocal minority is all we see actually asking for this. Always the same people…

  • Too excited for this! It’ll be interesting to see how having Senua’s entire move set is available from the start will play out in a world where everyone loves their RPG mechanics and feeling of progress. If the gameplay is solid and deep, I can’t see how it will be a problem for anyone though. Good luck!

    • Having the entire moveset available from the beginning makes me think of Shadow of the Colossus and Fighting games so I don’t doubt its possible to pull off its just a matter of having the right encounters to put your brain to the test.

  • Sounds intriguing and has peaked my interest. Looking forward to seeing some game play. As a huge fan of Ninja Theory I can expect this game to have great game play and story linked in one cohesive package.

  • So Rhys, since your an Online Content Producer, is it fair to say there will be online multiplayer or co-op? BTW, so excited especially with what they’re doing with the soundtrack, original indeed! Vikings are badass!

  • Whoever is in charge of posting the Flash Sale can you post it already so I know the prices please lol im going out and dont wanna come back and be like ah man now i gotta go buy more psn cards

    • Unless you only carry around cash…
      You do know that you can purchase PSN card codes directly from Amazon, right? Varying amounts from $10-$100. You don’t even need to put on pants, let alone leave the house. You’re welcome. :)
      >> goo.gl/nuyMLK

  • Everything about Heavenly Sword was stellar from its story and narrative, graphics, and combat, I eagerly await any original IP from Ninja Theory because of it! That said, what is being made for Hellblade is mind-blowing, and I’m glad to hear that such mature content is being brought into its story and with such care.


  • @saiyanknight87 This game looks too good to not be put in disc!

    @JDiegoelArabe I also came in to say the same thing. Heavenly Sword would have done way better if it came in later in the PS3’s lifetime. When HS originally released there was too much Sony-exclusive IP bashing for it to be taken seriously. Heavenly Sword deserves an HD Remaster and it deserves a sequel. Although on the matter of a sequel, HS was a complete story, so it might just be wishful thinking.

  • This game is going to be amazing. It already looks good, and I’m sure that the combat will be as fluid as it can possibly get. I can’t wait to get my hands on this game.

  • Definitely looking forward to this. Ninja Theory always delivers!

  • I can’t wait to see more! This is a title I am very much interested in!

  • Really behind you guys on this game. I feel you’ve gone from strength to strength with your games, the next game better than the last. I was a bit disappointed by Heavenly Sword even though I loved parts of it. Enslaved was a step up, then DmC was fantastic in my, and most reviewers, eyes. I really hope you pull off the mental illness part as well. I feel that important messages and opening peoples minds can be made into entertaining experiences. Seven and Fight Club are examples of this, two movies that are hugely entertaining but they also have a strong message behind them.

  • As someone who does not act like everyone else. Thank you for putting people with a unique perspective in your video game.

    I hope I get to fight many of Senua’s inner demons just like Doctor Gregory House.

  • looks cool enough, but my god. Ninja Theory just makes another Heavenly Sword!!!!!!!!! Hellblade? lol They’ve been dancing around a new heavenly sword for years. What is the deal?

  • Looks fantastic. I love how PlayStation has these really diverse protagonists in their games versus other platforms.

    Here’s another vote for Heavenly Sword on PS4/Vita. The fact it’s an early PS3 title and doesn’t make much use of the SPUs (which is why it’s up and going in the open source PS3 emulator in a limited fashion) should help a lot. It’s visual style doesn’t need as much technical help as Enslaved, IMO.

    I love the concept of Enslaved and the gameplay, but it was just an ugly title at a time when games on the PS3 had hit their visual stride. Another vote for bringing Enslaved for PS4, where I think UE4’s lighting tech (GI specular highlights, etc), and better environmental textures/shaders, would allow it to really shine and find an audience better than it did on PS3.

  • are there any GLBT characters? playable or non-playable?

    • That is an absurdly irrelevant and inappropriate question and it needs to be deleted, immediately.
      In fact, it will better suit the blog and this community if your comment privileges are removed, as all you do here is spam the same nonsense on every single post.

      @Moderators- Please do something about this.

  • “Progressive and honest”

    What does that mean? The game progresses in story mode? You make progress as a character? How is a video game fantasy about made up people doing made up things…honest?

    Or, is progressive being used in the modern sense? IF yes, take it and shove it Ninja Theory. Games are for gamers and if you want to make a statement with your games instead of make an awesome game, you can keep it and I will move onto developers interested in fun. You want video game art – go play Ico again. You want to make statement art, then I ain’t buying what you are selling. The very fact this is your vision for the game probably means crap. It means distraction from mechanics to message – always a bad sign.

    • If you can’t figure out what “progressive” means after actually READING the article, you need to learn basic comprehension skills…

      If you are getting MAD because a developer wants to make a personal + powerful story with good action too, then you dont have to play the game….

      It’s pathetic that you’re trying to stop ARTISTS from making ART. You tell them to “go play Ico” if they want art, as if we shouldbt have more than 1 piece of art in the world?!?!? LOL… I cant believe I’m even arguing with such disgusting ignorance. Go play the simplist game you can find little one, IF you can find a game that doesnt make any kind of a statement at all…

      PS: If you’re scared of art…go find a new hobby, this one’s gonna make you REALLY mad ;)

    • I have to say the most disgusting thing u said is “gamers are gamers” ….well no $h%+….but what does that mean? Lol…if you’re trying to say that “gamers are only people who think exactly like me!!!!” then you’re the most delusional person I’ve seen on the internet today, congrats. Sorry I coukdnt give you most delusional of the week lol, there are plenty of clueless jerk$ out there.

  • Ninja Theory have made a few of my favorite games and this one seems to be no exception. I am looking forward to seeing more and being able to support their endeavor in this project.

    So count me in as a fan:) I really like they you are trying to approach mental illness with this game. It should be uplifting and inspiring for those that have live with it in their lives. Also for those who want a better understanding of it.

  • I need to see more gameplay footage.

  • Sounds awesome! I love Lead Female Protagonist games!

  • Out of curiosity, exactly what kind of mental illness are we talking here? I’m perfectly fine with getting into themes like mental health, but it seems kind of vague when you just say “mental illness”.

  • Another mediocre piece of crap from one of the most mediocre developers around. How are these clowns still a float? seriously? Also, it’s incredibly amusing seeing “progressive” and “honest” together.

  • Look amazing! I love every Ninja Theory game, especially DMC! Such great storytellers. I would love something like Heavenly Sword but with DMC combat and rich story :)

  • DAY 1 I love this dev and have missed them! Please come out with a new Heavenly Sword on PS4 too!
    Also can we please get a Legacy of Kain & Fear Effect game for PS4 too! (Square-Enix bought Eidos, now do something with their amazing IP’s)

  • For a feature called, “Hands On”, it’s always a little disappointing not to see a new video. But the game continues to look and sound astounding. I love Ninja Theory’s games, and this production is astounding considering how you’re working on it small scale but it looks like… well, this! It’s amazing! You guys are crushing it.

  • + sealum01 are you on drugs something?

  • Just watched the gameplay trailer. Looks pretty bland to be honest. Graphics are ok,but nothing special. If you look at the forrest location,the trees look last gen modelling. Guessing by the trailer it looks like 7/10 game. I was expecting better that’s all.

  • Love everything that Ninja Theory does. Really looking forward to this. Day one for me no matter what

  • DmC was horrible, from the whole deal with that director, to the shallow manipulable gameplay to get SSS, bland boring environments and enemies to that trite story and its execution. The best part was the LOL lame, high school level dialogue between the Succubus boss and the try-hard protagonist (not even worthy of the name Dante). “You are ***”, “No, you are”, “No, youuuuuuuuu”. Or something. Rofl. Can’t believe I played that to the end waiting for it to get better.

    Ninja Theory, I hope you fired that director. I liked Enslaved and hope this game lives up to its potential.

    • Oh, completely forgot about the ridiculous wig scene. Lord have mercy. The whole “style” in that game came across as forced, a cheap imitation which actually believed it was cooler.

  • This game just looks better and better each time I hear about it! At this point do you have an idea roughly when next year you think the game might be ready?

  • Ninja Theory you now have my attention.

  • I wouldn’t add BC to PS4. I still have the original PS3 with backwards compatibility. I just added a 3TB upgrade…it’s all good. Lol

  • I lvoe Ninja Theory and what they did with DMC. I rather enjoyed that game and even the remaster. Although played it on Xbox. I will pick this up easily. The story and character sound really interesting. Good amount to look forward to in 2016.

  • Been watching all the making of vids on this project. Definitely looking forward to it…and also a far fetched Heavenly Sword sequel. :)

  • Fabulous! l am getting this ASAP! :D

  • LOOKS DOPE! dayumm!

  • This looks promising. Definitely has some serious potential. And the biggest plus for me is the honest and historical take on the Celts AND the Vikings. I hate how romanticized the Vikings have been as of late: they were brutal murderers who lived to slaughter innocent people and steal their money, food, etc. If that’s cool to you, then you’ll get no hate from me. Just saying that as an Irishman, seeing a game that has us fighting as an Irishman/woman is awesome, especially fighting the people who nearly wiped out my ancestors and ensured I would never exist.

    History references aside, still a great looking game. I hope this one avoids the strong language and such, if it does I’ll definitely buy it asap. :)

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