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ℹ️ - Senua's Saga: Hellblade II Photo Mode Revealed

Developer: Ninja Theory

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios

Platform: PC, Xbox X|S

Initial Release: 21st May 2024


It seems like an eternity since Senua's Saga was announced alongside the yet to be released Xbox Series X, but Ninja Theory's much anticipated Hellblade sequel is now just a few days away. It's one that virtual photographers in particular have been looking forward to and, after teasing us with some impressive shots, the studio have just given a full peek at what their new photo mode has to offer.

Senua's Saga Hellblade II Photo Mode Revealed

The clip is a little over 1 minute long but there is plenty to be learned from it. For a start, the seamless transition from gameplay to photo mode tells me that there will be a handy shortcut to dive right in, while the non-neutral values on the UI might suggest that settings are retained when closing and re-opening it.

Camera movement itself remains something of an unknown with no visible control scheme and certainly no indication as to its potential range, but the small adjustments that the clip does show look like they are made using free camera movement to me. Accompanying this, there is an option to vary the camera's movement speed, always useful for quickly covering distance or carefully fine tuning, along with the expecting things like field of view, camera roll, and exposure.

New this time is a compositional grid – presumably a thirds grid, although it is not actually shown – plus temperature and tint sliders to adjust the colour tone of the image. Camera focus is well catered for too with manual focus distance and aperture f-stop values to control the depth of field, as well as a few extras.

A green line is overlaid in the scene to usefully show exactly where the plane of focus lies, and there is a fine adjustment option to get things mm perfect. The one concern I do have is that the manual focus slider shows a value of just 3.59 m at close to its maximum setting. Assuming the max may then be 4 m, that is simply not enough and will rule out focusing on anything beyond nearby characters and objects.

Senua's Saga Hellblade II Photo Mode Revealed

If manual isn't your thing, then there does seem to be an auto-focus option too, along with some Focus Assistance options that unfortunately aren't shown. My guess here is that these will include options to lock the auto-focus onto Senua and other characters, or just have it detect objects at the centre of the frame.

From here on, things get quite creative in this photo mode. Character options go well beyond a simple visibility toggle with rotation and 3-axis positioning, all of which seem to be adjustable for Senua herself and other characters like nearby enemies perhaps, and there is a fully featured 3-point lighting system.

Senua's Saga Hellblade II Photo Mode Revealed

Each light includes brightness (in lumens no less), hue, and saturation adjustment, as well as range and softness values to control how the light falls onto objects in the scene. That's not all though, as the lights can also be set to illuminate everything, characters only, or just to ignore fog to avoid visible volumetric light effects around the source.

It all looks like a very user-friendly too. The obviously visible light bulbs easily show the position of lights as they are moved around, and an option to attach / detach them on the camera allows for a more direct method of placement. Only having it in-hand can I say for certain, but for now at least, this looks like a good implementation of photo mode lighting.

"Whether the likes of 'Depth Saturation' and 'Shatter' make a return remains to be seen..."

In most cases, that would be the headline feature but it's worth remembering that Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice also had some particularly unique rendering modes and effects that could be just as transformative. Whether the likes of 'Depth Saturation' and 'Shatter' make a return remains to be seen, but it does look like there may be something interesting in store.

Aside from the standard aspect ratios, vignette, and colour filters, this photo mode has a whole tab dedicated to Effects. A toggle for Real Time Effects presumably turns on / off full-screen effects from the game itself while Senua's physical condition is seemingly adjustable with a Health percentage.

Not many of the actual effects styles can be seen in the short preview, just 2 actually in Timeless and Focus, though it's intriguing that each one comes with a different set of options to tweak. This suggests that, much like in the first game, these effects will be quite unique, varied, and individual and I can't wait to see more of them.

It's all shaping up to be a game and photo mode that were well worth the wait then, and if camera movement is available during cinematic scenes again, then Ninja Theory could be raising the bar here. One way or another, it's not long until we find out for sure.

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