Glowing Xbox ‘Hellblade 2’ Previews Hit, Ninja Theory Co-Founder Leaves

Hellblade 2 is arguably Xbox’s biggest exclusive of the year, and its would-be GOTY contender, depending on how things go when it arrives on May 21.

Now, a series of previews of the game have just gone live from a number of outlets, and almost no one has anything bad to say. The previews are glowing, and it generates even more hype for the Xbox game during a time when Xbox very much needs a big, exclusive win. While the original Hellblade may not have been a sales monster, it was a success, and Hellblade 2 is shaping up to be excellent (though will also not be a sales monster, due to launching on Game Pass). Here is what outlets are saying:

  • Polygon – “The game, which I played on Xbox Series X, looks stunning, whether it’s rendering the black, smoking slopes of an Icelandic volcano or the pale, haunted eyes of Senua performer Melina Juergens. But beyond that, Hellblade 2 has a tactile immediacy that seems to operate at an almost subconscious level. Ninja Theory’s artists are seeking an emotional connection with the player that, they believe, can only form if the player thinks that what they are seeing is real.”
  • Gamespot – “Truly, May cannot come soon enough. I can’t remember the last time a game preview left me so excited to dive into the full experience.”
  • IGN – “This battle demonstrated the increased variety of enemy types, with new foes emerging from the shadows to replace their fallen allies. They delivered both quick ranged attacks and heavy close-up blows that put my (admittedly rusty) skills to the test. All of this occurred while all hell seemingly broke loose around me, as innocent victims met swift and vicious demises while fire, flames, and all manner of horror filled each corner of the screen. It was thoroughly exciting and felt like an improvement over the original’s rigid by-comparison combat.”

The previews broke almost at the same time another Ninja Theory story emerged, that the studio’s high profile co-founder and creative director Tameem Antoniades has left the studio, where he’s been with the team since 2004 through Heavenly Sword, Enslaved, Devil May Cry and the first Hellblade.

It’s not exactly clear what happened here. While it may make sense for a figure like Antoniades to leave after 20 years and the conclusion of a major project, his departure was never announced, and only when Polygon noticed he was not at the preview event did Ninja Theory confirm he had left. No reason was given by either Ninja Theory or Antoniades himself. He did indeed work on Hellblade 2, so you might imagine he would at least stay through launch to help promote it, but he’s gone. And it’s unknown exactly when this happened or why. Perhaps more details will emerge later. I’ve asked Microsoft for comment and will update when I hear back.

But the topline is certainly that Hellblade 2 is shaping up nicely and will likely be at the very least a critical hit when it arrives in May. The final product may differ from the preview somewhat, but it sounds like it’s all green lights for the time being.

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