Hellblade 2's mocap glow-up is seriously impressive

Hellblade 2 Senua face screenshot
(Image credit: Ninja Theory)

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 has impressed me visually from the moment it was revealed back in 2019, right up to its most recent tech demo from GDC 2023. In particular, I'm consistently blown away by how lifelike the performances are, all but stripped of that distinctive videogame-ness that so often characterizes even the main protagonists from the biggest budget franchises. 

For the extended Xbox Games Showcase 2023, Hellblade 2 developer Ninja Theory has allowed us a peak behind the curtain at the dramatically upgraded performance capture studio being used for the sequel. Compared to the first Hellblade's mo-cap studio, the new digs are a literal game-changer.

"The scale and complexity of our performance capture has multiplied to meet our creative ambitions on Hellblade 2," said the studio's social media ninja (actual title) Will Potter.

"We shot the first Hellblade in the board room of our old studio. It was very MacGyvered together," said principal production ninja Lara Derham. "In the new studio, we have a custom built mo-cap space which has pretty much everything we could've dreamed of."

Because I can't possibly explain with any degree of authenticity the technical details, you'll have to watch the above video for a proper breakdown of Ninja Theory's new performance capture setup. That said, I was able to glean that it involves more cameras - 46 to be exact - with infrared capabilities that triangulate actors' performances precisely, as well as more props, wall-to-wall projectors, and near complete sound proofing.

"We can push even further on our ambition of bringing through as much of our actors' performances as possible into the game, even down to the most nuanced of movements," said Potter.

"You can track performers movements down to the millimeter, so we can see somebody shuffling their finger along the table or just wiggling them very gently. You can see hesitation and breath. There's no need to push the action and overreact. You can just be your character," said Derham.

Look, I don't claim to know exactly the mechanisms behind this apparent witchcraft, I just know that it looks really damn good when in action. I can't wait to see more of Hellblade 2, and hopefully we'll get some gameplay this time so we can see how all of this fancy performance capture translates into gameplay.

Hellblade 2 is just one of many upcoming Xbox Series X games we can't wait to play, and for everything on the horizon, don't miss our extensive guide to new games of 2023.

Jordan Gerblick

After scoring a degree in English from ASU, I worked as a copy editor while freelancing for places like SFX Magazine, Screen Rant, Game Revolution, and MMORPG on the side. Now, as GamesRadar's west coast Staff Writer, I'm responsible for managing the site's western regional executive branch, AKA my apartment, and writing about whatever horror game I'm too afraid to finish.