HELLBLADE

Go to hell... lit­er­ally

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Hel­heim is a lot qui­eter than we thought it would be. No wail­ing. No demons jump­ing around with pointy sticks. Senua, the war­rior who you’re ac­com­pa­ny­ing through this harsh land, walks through the for­est with silent foot­steps. Oddly for Ninja The­ory’s ac­tion-ad­ven­ture game, the only noise is com­ing from the voices in Senua’s head as she quests to save her lover Dil­lion. Jostling over each other, they doubt her, they push her on­wards, they laugh when she thinks she’s mak­ing progress... and ev­ery so of­ten, they help.

Hellblade does its best to make you feel like you’re alone. All the voices in your head make it painfully ob­vi­ous how lit­tle hu­man sup­port sur­rounds you, their hoarse scream­ing when you’re fight­ing be­ing the clos­est the game gets to a tu­to­rial. But... it works. Sim­ple con­trols mean that although you’re limited to a ba­sic light and heavy at­tack (along with a vi­cious kick to break your en­emy’s block), you’re given the build­ing blocks for cre­at­ing some bru­tal com­bos on the fly. There’s noth­ing quite like stum­bling upon one by chance and be­ing treated to a raw, bone-crunch­ing fin­ish­ing move that re­wards you with enough time to give them a quick stab be­fore dodg­ing their flail­ing at­tack. Hon­estly, just try to re­sist yelp­ing with glee. There’s no room for er­ror ei­ther, as on Nor­mal dif­fi­culty it only takes three hits – four if you count the one that makes Senua a bloody splat­ter on the dirt – for you to start all over again.

Mak­ing the break

Hellblade isn’t harsh, though. Each en­emy has a rou­tine set of at­tacks and pro­vides you with a whole sec­ond – two if you’re lucky – to ex­ploit the break in its de­fences. Okay, so that doesn’t sound like a lot. Tak­ing full ad­van­tage of these gaps in your en­emy’s metaphor­i­cal ar­mour (they’re all rip­pling with mus­cle, by the way) is the only way you’ll sur­vive. We know this sounds ridicu­lous, but Senua’s de­feats are as re­ward­ing as her vic­to­ries. Ev­ery stran­gled scream you let out when you’re hit by a chipped axe is a les­son in pa­tience and tim­ing, en­cour­ag­ing you like a stern par­ent – or god, if you’re get­ting into Hellblade’s Celtic set­ting – to mem­o­rise the at­tack pat­terns of each foe you’re fac­ing. Some­times com­bat can get dull as the game suf­fers from a rel­a­tively slim amount of en­e­mies. You know how the game side­steps this, pos­si­bly its only fault? It throws more en­e­mies at you.

Be­cause once you’ve mas­tered tak­ing on one tar­get, Hellblade de­cides to give you a cou­ple more. At first it’s hor­rif­i­cally stress­ful, but grad­u­ally it be­comes sec­ond na­ture to evade to a po­si­tion where all your en­e­mies re­main in your eye­line. When it all gets a bit too much – as it inevitably will – the voices start to be­come your most im­por­tant re­source, warn­ing you when some­one’s get­ting too close or yelling “evade!” just at the mo­ment a

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