BAFTA-award winning action-adventure game, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, is getting a major upgrade at the end of July. Microsoft Studio developers Ninja Theory has announced that the critically acclaimed experimental game will be released on the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. For players that previously bought the Steam version of the game, the VR Edition will be a free upgrade.
According to an exclusive first look with Road to VR, the new edition is anything but a simple port. Great care was clearly put into making this more immersive version of the psychological thriller, from the award-winning motion capture of Senua herself, to the intentionally unsettling and overwhelming vibe of being in the heroine’s fractured psyche. Combat is still largely the same, with a system that relies on precise dodges and rolls while bogged down by the side effects of Senua’s psychosis condition. However, the VR edition adds an additional level of depth to the experience. Road to VR states that “Enemies at times spawn behind you, but the beauty of having a 360 view is in choosing where to look and when, so you can naturally keep an eye on baddies as they come.”
Part of the uniqueness of the title revolves around players having to adapt to Senua’s psychological condition. In an attempt to emulate the inconvenience and horror of struggling against a mental illness, the world around Senua can constantly morph and change even as voices batter her from all sides. This makes puzzles especially unnerving and engaging, an appropriate fit for VR integration. The VR edition also keeps players locked into a third-person perspective, and cutscenes shift into cinematic views with smooth transitions and slow panning to avoid the discomforting pitfalls of virtual reality POV.
There are a few limiting factors with the VR edition to note, however. The recommended minimum specs for the graphics option from the developers is a GTX 1080, currently the top-of-the-line GPU that most gamers do not have. Slow rendering on “high” settings as well as graphic pop-ins from render distance limitations highlight some of the more obvious graphical issues. The Vive controllers are also not supported for the VR Edition. However, given the daunting task of optimizing the FPS for such a complex game, these issues are almost negligible in the grand experience of it all.
Though the VR platform has hit quite a few milestones in recent years, there is still a discernible lack of truly AAA titles (most are lazy ports of existing games at best) that can cement it as more than just an experimental way of playing glorified tech demos. Resident Evil 7 came close, as the PSVR system helped alleviate the high barrier of entry of most VR setups. With the meticulous care and dedicated research time given to Hellblade’s VR Edition, it’s clear that developers Ninja Theory has the gamers’ best interests at heart and a curiosity to improve the entire VR experience. Whether this endeavor will serve to push other developers to adopt polished VR content, only time will tell.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice VR Edition launches on PC this July 31.