Hellblade dev sets the bar for new-gen realism – at the top of an impossibly detailed staircase

Project Mara
(Image credit: Ninja Theory)

Hellblade developer Ninja Theory has released a behind-the-scenes video for its upcoming horror game Project Mara, and it centers around the development of an impossibly realistic in-game staircase.

To be clear, the clip is more about creating the most realistic-looking staircase from a performance standpoint; that is, the movement of the characters walking up and down the stairs as well as the physics of a staircase under the weight of actual people. Regardless, the staircase - and hell, the whole dang apartment - looks incredible from a purely graphical standpoint too. Ninja Theory dove further into that side of the visuals in an impressive trailer from January.

"After building a hyper-realistic apartment in-engine for Project Mara, we recreated part of the main staircase inch by inch in our studio," reads the video captions. "By pairing this accurately measured set with our virtual production stage, we can capture the most realistic and believable performance possible."

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Creating a real-life replica staircase modeled closely after the in-game one, and then mo-capping actors walking up and down it, certainly seems like going above and beyond, but it's no easy task making "the most realistic video game staircase ever." If the developers are going to these lengths just for a simple set of apartment stairs, one can only imagine how complex the development process gets in bigger, more action-heavy sequences.

Ninja Theory was acquired by Xbox Game Studios in 2018, and it's prepping to release Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 as a new-gen exclusive for Xbox Series X/S and PC. Project Mara, the studio's new experimental horror game, was revealed alongside this cryptic teaser back in January 2020. Both games are without release dates for now, but expect Hellblade 2 to launch ahead of Project Mara.

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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.