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Clickbait Analysis Hardware GamingBolt: Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 – Xbox Series X In-Engine Graphics Analysis.

IbizaPocholo

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At this year’s The Game Awards, Sony and Microsoft appear to have jointly decided to surprise everyone by announcing Godfall and Hellblade II, the first exclusives for the PS5 and Xbox Series X respectively. While neither showed actual gameplay, the Hellblade II reveal outed over two minutes of in-engine footage. It’s not much to go on, but that brief glimpse answers some key questions about the direction that visuals will take on Xbox Series X. Here are some of the graphical highlights of the trailer.
Advanced Water Rendering

Right at the beginning of the trailer, there’s a long overhead shot of the sea. We get a good idea here of what Ninja Theory is targeting in terms of water rendering in Hellblade II and we’re quite impressed. Waves appear to be mesh-based, with a fairly high level of geometric complexity, at least by eighth-gen standards. We see high resolution texture assets in use to highlight high frequency detail like the foam. The high quality of texture assets is something of a recurring theme here. Evidently, the Xbox Series X’s generous memory pool has allowed Ninja Theory to craft extremely high quality textures, across the board. Even on Xbox One X, texture work is sometimes compromised relative to PC because of how memory intensive 4K is. Here, we see no such limitation.

Photogrammetry and Complex Surface Meshes

The shot of the sea is followed by an overhead shot of a rocky, volcanic environment. We’re pointing out again that texture work here is of the highest quality: these assets positively shine in 4K. But the real generational leap on show here is the massive increase in surface geometric detail. Through the eighth-gen, we’ve been accustomed to geometry shortcuts like tessellation and parallax occlusion mapping. These create the illusion of depth on relatively flat surfaces viewed at oblique angles. In Hellblade II, the raw power of the Xbox Series X’s Navi GPU comes to the fore. Surface objects like small rocks appear to be made of real geometry, with photogrammetric textures wrapped around.

And speaking of photogrammetry, we have a strong suspicion that Ninja Theory may be using Quixel’s Iceland photogrammetry texture archive. Hellblade II is likely powered by Unreal 4, as the original was. Epic recently acquired Quixel, a photogrammetry startup, and released a large number of extremely high quality photogrammetry assets to developers. These include Quixel’s Iceland assets–the rocks and ground surfaces here bear an uncanny resemblance to Ninja Theory’s work in Hellblade II. Photogrammetry has been increasingly common in games as the eighth-gen draws to a close. By using scans of real-world objects, it helps take next-gen games a step closer to photorealism.

Extremely High-Quality Volumetric Effects

We’re shown a distant shot of both cloud rendering and a smoking volcano. What’s surprising here isn’t so much the effect itself. Volumetric particle rendering has been an important part of the eighth-gen visual repertoire for quite some time. What impressive about Hellblade II is the sheer density of the particle volumes. Using low resolution volumetric effects was a common approach to optimization on eighth-gen platforms. This is evidently a case where the core tech hasn’t changed, but the increased GPU power of the Xbox Series X allows for a far more refined implementation.

Very High Draw Distance Scaling

LOD scaling has always been a challenge on eighth-gen platforms. This is because extending draw distances hits both the CPU and GPU. At high resolutions, eighth-gen consoles just don’t have it in them. A number of tricks, such as using distant static depth-of-field have been used in games to mask the impact of short draw distances. But the problem remains. Titles like The Witcher 3 and Red Dead Redemption 2 often feature draw distances even lower than the PC low setting, because the Jaguar CPUs in the consoles couldn’t cope with the number of draw calls. In Hellblade II, we see remarkably generous LOD scaling, with 3D objects rendered in high quality at what appears to be several hundred meters.

Model Quality- Better Than Mid-2000s CGI

Every time we move to a new console generation, the added graphics horsepower means that the fundamentals–character models, textures, and lighting, get significant boosts in fidelity. With Hellblade II, model quality is now higher than the remarkably high bar set in 2007 by the movie Beowulf. Senua’s own character model receives significant enhancement over the original game. Hair rendering is much-improved, with a greater density of strands and better hair physics simulation. Polygon counts have increased significantly as well, with high frequency details like individual teeth and stitches in leather now made of geometry. One compromise that was often made in the eighth-gen was using lower quality NPC character models. The polygon budget is large enough now that multiple onscreen NPC characters can be rendered at a high fidelity, and not just the player model.

Enhanced Cloth Physics

Cloth physics–and general soft-body physics simulation–have been a thing since the 7th-gen. However, generational improvements to CPU and GPU capabilities mean that the quality of the physics simulation has improved significantly over time. Eighth-gen games–including Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice–featured cloth physics. However, the number of “bend points,” where cloth could ripple, was relatively limited, meaning that fluttering cloth and sails still looked stilted. In Hellblade 2, cloth physics simulation has improved dramatically. Air ripples realistically across the ragged, fluttering sails–which now resemble sails and not stiff sheets of cardboard.

Post-Process Effects

In terms of post-processing, we don’t see much that’s new in Hellblade II. What we do see is refinement. Everything–from bloom to depth of field to motion blur–is present and accounted for, and of a much higher quality than in the previous game. Low-quality post-processing was another easy optimization shortcut in the eighth-gen. Low-res depth of field effects, for example, “got the job done,” by emphazing the object in focus. Artifacting and a poor blur effect meant that in-game depth of field was still a ways off from the “real deal.” In Hellblade 2, we see an extremely high quality implementation of bokeh depth of field. We also see per-object and camera motion blur with very high sample counts. These bring a significant degree of cinematic flair to the game.
 

mejin

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I thought we understood this video to be CGI and NOT real-time\in engine.
DF believes it is in engine, but not real time.

Anyway, right now, several articles are coming daily from the MS PR machine. Anyone who think all the horse shit is true will be disappointed later.
 
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mckmas8808

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It is in-engine but not real-time.

Remember that trailer from Ucharted at E3 2014? That was in-engine too.
What does this mean? How can something be in-engine, but not real-time? Are you saying they sped up the footage to be 24 fps?
 

ethomaz

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What does this mean? How can something be in-engine, but not real-time? Are you saying they sped up the footage to be 24 fps?
In-engine just means the scene was made using the developed engine for the game... there is no gameplay logic, the hardware can be a TOP PC, a PC target console hardware, actual final console hardware, you can render in what framerate you want and speed up to match the desired framerate (like pre-rendered).

Real-time is when a scene is rendered by gameplay running on the final hardware with.

Pre-rendered... the best you can do on TOP PC hardware (or PC farm, cluster, etc) that have no limitations of the game engine... it can take days to render a frame after it is speed up to mach the desired framerate.


The biggest difference between the three are:

  • Pre-rendered: No game engine limitation... you can reach the heavens
  • In-engine: you can do anything your game engine limitations allow without gameplay.
  • Real-time: what you actually see in gameplay.
This is Uncharted 4 in-engine vs actual gameplay trailer (the first part of the video after they are comparing with 2015 trailer that was already inferior to in-engine 2014 one):

 
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mckmas8808

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In-engine just means the scene was made using the developed engine for the game... there is no gameplay logic, the hardware can be a TOP PC or the actual target console hardware, you can render in what framerate you want and speed up to match the desired framerate (like pre-rendered).

Real-time is when a scene is rendered by gameplay running on the final hardware with.

Pre-rendered... the best you can do on TOP PC hardware (or PC farm, cluster, etc) that have no limitations of the game engine... it can take days to render a frame after it is speed up to mach the desired framerate.


The biggest difference between the three are:

  • Pre-rendered: No game engine limitation... you can reach the heavens
  • In-engine: you can do anything your game engine limitations allow without gameplay.
  • Real-time: what you actually see in gameplay.
This is Uncharted 4 in-engine trailer:

I'm still "slightly" confused. Me and you both love Death Stranding. But clearly the videos that show the cutscenes are in-engine, because there's no gameplay that's going to happen. Plus, you can see the game cut from gameplay with a brief 1-2 second pause and then the cut scene starts. BUT.....Sam Bridges has on the same stuff in the cutscene that I'm also carrying around, so it's also real-time.

I guess my question is.....can a video be in-engine and real-time at the same time?
 

ethomaz

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I'm still "slightly" confused. Me and you both love Death Stranding. But clearly the videos that show the cutscenes are in-engine, because there's no gameplay that's going to happen. Plus, you can see the game cut from gameplay with a brief 1-2 second pause and then the cut scene starts. BUT.....Sam Bridges has on the same stuff in the cutscene that I'm also carrying around, so it's also real-time.

I guess my question is.....can a video be in-engine and real-time at the same time?
Yes... it is called in-game cutscene.... they remove the gameplay logic but it didn't match the in-engine trailers.
In-engine trailers not necessary runs in real-time or in the actual console hardware.

There is little info about Hellblade 2 trailer so let's suppose it is in real-time running in the actual Xbox Series X hardware, it is in-engine at 24fps shows it probably won't reach the same level at 30fps (way less in 60fps if that is the target).

That is why devs says in-engine because they know the game won't be like what they showed.

Good exemples of in-engine trailers:

Said that the trailer didn't add any next-gen feature so it is basically a this gen game boosted in graphics... let's see if they will update the engine (Epic UE for next-gen consoles hardware).
 
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mckmas8808

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Yes... it is called in-game cutscene.... they remove the gameplay logic but it didn't match the in-engine trailers.
In-engine trailers not necessary runs in real-time or in the actual console hardware.

There is little info about Hellblade 2 trailer so let's suppose it is in real-time running in the actual Xbox Series X hardware, it is in-engine at 24fps shows it probably won't reach the same level at 30fps (way less in 60fps if that is the target).

That is why devs says in-engine because they know the game won't be like what they showed.

Good exemples of in-engine trailers:

Said that the trailer didn't add any next-gen feature so it is basically a this gen game boosted in graphics... let's see if they will update the engine (Epic UE for next-gen consoles hardware).
So basically if something is labeled in-engine and the game is a year or more away, the best thing to do is just cross our fingers and hope the devs planned properly to match the trailer? I think Kojima Productions did a good job with Death Stranding and matching their in-engine trailers.


Remember these screenshots and video from 2016?



 

Gavin Stevens

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I think some of you are messing up your terminology.

Real time means real time rendering, exactly what it sounds like. It runs in “real time” and doesn’t require a lengthly per frame rendering pipeline, such as a CGI movie you would see in the cinema.

The video was rendered in-engine. It was using engine assets in real time, just probably not “gameplay” assets.

Gameplay assets are usual different in quality to cinematic quality. Usually, in a game, you have multiple sets of LODs, with a top tier level used for cinematic that will be smoother with many more polygons for facial deformity.

You can see this “switch” in just about any game made these days. Good examples are Uncharted 4, Last of Us 2, or Gears 5. The quality will be superb in cinematic, then take a hit when it switches back to you playing the game. You will see that level lighting and effects are all different during an ingame cinematic, as the artist can place them and move them at will, something you can’t do when it normal gameplay.

There’s a few cameras you can download if you’re interested in this, that allow you to essentially control the camera during cutscenes. It’s funny to watch the lights flip about, the models instantly change position etc.

Anyway, long story short, the trailer was rendered in real time, and you could view it as such on an Xbox series X, and even control the camera to a limited degree (such as MGS2 where you move the camera angle slightly). But the game won’t look like this when running about, no.
 

Agnostic2020

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In engine pre rendered on high end pc running at 60% of 4K /30 . Kinda naive to believe this will be anything representative of final actual game that has to also run on base x1.
 
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ethomaz

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So basically if something is labeled in-engine and the game is a year or more away, the best thing to do is just cross our fingers and hope the devs planned properly to match the trailer? I think Kojima Productions did a good job with Death Stranding and matching their in-engine trailers.


Remember these screenshots and video from 2016?



I already played this scene in Death Stranding and it did not reach this quality.
 
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At this year’s The Game Awards, Sony and Microsoft appear to have jointly decided to surprise everyone by announcing Godfall and Hellblade II, the first exclusives for the PS5 and Xbox Series X respectively. While neither showed actual gameplay, the Hellblade II reveal outed over two minutes of in-engine footage. It’s not much to go on, but that brief glimpse answers some key questions about the direction that visuals will take on Xbox Series X. Here are some of the graphical highlights of the trailer.
Water physics and detail is shit, total utter shit its not even a new level its ps3 and 360 level the geometry is low its simply pixel shading, tge water in the other trailer was impressive though but not hellblade 2
 
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This analysis is all bullshit first of all we havent seen clearly how cloth physics is implemented in hellblade 2, we havent seen how detailed other characters are rendered in hellblade 2 and for fucks sake we havent seen how hair is rendered in hellblade 2, we havent seen none of that!
 

Insane Metal

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Meh. I'm pretty sure we're getting that kind of graphics this gen, but that wasn't the actual XSX running.
 

SLB1904

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What does this mean? How can something be in-engine, but not real-time? Are you saying they sped up the footage to be 24 fps?
I think is more like dreams. You csn make videos and games. But one is playable and the other not. They just use engine assets
 
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SLB1904

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But its made using the consoles power so its realtime
I mean it could but we also know both xbox and ps5 the specs arent finalised yet. It coupd also mean a target spec.
Best thing to do is wait. Also it doesnt mean gmaes will come out looking like that out of the gate. But ill be happy to wrong. Imagine games looking like that as a standard for next gen.
 
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I mean it could but we also know both xbox and ps5 the specs arent finalised yet. It coupd also mean a target spec.
Best thing to do is wait. Also it doesnt mean gmaes will come out looking like that out of the gate. But ill be happy to wrong. Imagine games looking like that as a standard for next gen.
I dont know why people think hellblade 2 is that impressive it looks very normal for a ps5 or a xbox series x to achieve, games today especially ps4 exclusives look awesome already! So what makes people think a nextgen console camt achieve hellblade 2 graphics, really whats so impressive in that trailer, or is it just a gaming cultural thing to denie everything?
 
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demigod

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I dont know why people think hellblade 2 is that impressive it looks very normal for a ps5 or a xbox series x to achieve, games today especially ps4 exclusives look awesome already! So what makes people think a nextgen console camt achieve hellblade 2 graphics, really whats so impressive in that trailer, or is it just a gaming cultural thing to denie everything?
The thing that made Hellblade 2 look impressive to me were her fucking gums, lol. But yeah I had a feeling it was not realtime, it looked way too good. Hopefully a developer will achieve it next gen.
 
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The thing that made Hellblade 2 look impressive to me were her fucking gums, lol. But yeah I had a feeling it was not realtime, it looked way too good. Hopefully a developer will achieve it next gen.
Rendering gums isnt expensive at all nothing on that video says a nextgen consile cant render, in any consile generation you can render more detail upclose on characters or anything because the memory and resources are focused on whats on screen, la noir is a last gen game and up until now its got the best facial tech and it was realtime, why people are suprised by a nextgen console remdering gums is beyond me!
 
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Mistershine.

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Hes probably a pc gamer who never played death stranding and simply just hating, theres tonnes of this people online
Wow, I'm pretty sure you'll find he probably has a PlayStation shaped dildo that he uses while he felates kojima, so if he says it doesn't look like that then I'm going to believe him.
 
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Elenchus

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Some of us can recall when the in-engine teaser trailer for the original Hellblade dropped in 2014 and everyone on GAF was excited to play this new PS4 exclusive.


Seems Ninja Theory is the enemy now. Guess times change huh fellas?!

 

DeepEnigma

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Some of us can recall when the in-engine teaser trailer for the original Hellblade dropped in 2014 and everyone on GAF was excited to play this new PS4 exclusive.


Seems Ninja Theory is the enemy now. Guess times change huh fellas?!

Changed at the same time story driven “movie games” are now the hotness with excitement for the sequel.
 
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This is the usual new gen graphics denial, it happens everytime they show nextgen visuals when announcing nextgen consoles, first everybody denies, everybody becomes a computer science prophessor and says why ut cant happen and itll be the end of the world if ut happens and then at the end the new consoles come out and it happens.

And after a few months of playing such graphics people go online again and start looking for defects and start shaming console graphics again, spoiler this circle also happens everytime after e3 trailers. And after the said consoles reach 5+ years old everybody magically becomes tired of playing them and starts crying for a new console, and the circle starts again..... Insanity. Farcry 3 explained this very well.


The fucking ps5 is rumoured to use a 128gb ssd as extra vram buffer plus a fast gddr6 16-24gb of it with a 12 teraflop gpu who the fuck in his right sober brain would think hellblade 2 visuals are impossible in realtime after playing death stranding, horizon, the order, uncharted 4 on a ps4 with 8gb n only 5gb used for games with a mobile cpu... Or do people just like going online and complain silly shit.
 
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mckmas8808

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I dont know why people think hellblade 2 is that impressive it looks very normal for a ps5 or a xbox series x to achieve, games today especially ps4 exclusives look awesome already! So what makes people think a nextgen console camt achieve hellblade 2 graphics, really whats so impressive in that trailer, or is it just a gaming cultural thing to denie everything?
Because that video was VERY impressive! Like super nice looking. But I also agree with you that it should be what we are expecting with next-gen consoles.
 
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Because that video was VERY impressive! Like super nice looking. But I also agree with you that it should be what we are expecting with next-gen consoles.
Its super nice looking because its what a ps5 and a series x is supposed to be a next gen console with fresher super nice looking graphics, why would you want to see the obvious?
 

mckmas8808

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Its super nice looking because its what a ps5 and a series x is supposed to be a next gen console with fresher super nice looking graphics, why would you want to see the obvious?
Because the obvious is going to be our amazing future. Do you not get excited for things that are somewhat obvious?
 
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Nemesis Prime

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Love how this game has amazing next gen graphics even a 12tf navi cant render but also is totally doable on a standard ps4.
Half think this is CGI and impossible, the other half thinks it’s ps4 level with ps3 level water graphics 😂
 
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thelastword

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Target Render
"in-engine rendered"
HEVC encoded 29,976 fps
0% realtime / 100% CGi
Actually its 23.976 fps at 60% of 4k rez.....
Some of us can recall when the in-engine teaser trailer for the original Hellblade dropped in 2014 and everyone on GAF was excited to play this new PS4 exclusive.


Seems Ninja Theory is the enemy now. Guess times change huh fellas?!

Actually, I'm more interested in how Xbox fans looked at Hellblade then vs how they look at Hellblade now..... Could you do a comparison of their takes over that span of time?
 
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ethomaz

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This is sea of thieves



And this is hellblade 2



So please ellaborate what is so impressive in hellblades 2 water?
Unless its just hyped
Sea of Thieves is one of the best water effects in the industry.
 
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DeepEnigma

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Sea of Thieves is one of the best watcher effects in the industry.
Agreed. 80-90% of the rendering budget went into the water.

Now imagine a game with objects and characters with the same level across the board.

Skulls and Bones on next gen boxes and PC, maybe?
 
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Agreed. 80-90% of the rendering budget went into the water.

Now imagine a game with objects and characters with the same level across the board.

Skulls and Bones on next gen boxes and PC, maybe?
point is sea of thieves is a current gen game and remders water better than hellblade 2 a trailer people say is cgi, why would anybody make cgi water that looks rubbish than current gen tech?

And secondly sea of thieves is just one of the examples and since u said it uses all the budget here are other games, keep talking shit





Its a fucking tesselated mesh with a vertex and pixel shader trick theyve done it time and time again since the ps3 and 360, the famous assasins creed series is known for this literally u can plug ur ps3 or 360 and play ass creed 3 naval battles.... Hellblade 2 water isnt impressive nothing on hellblade 2 is cgi because its a fucking next gen console. Ur thick heads are stuck in current gen visuals and cant think of anyway or how outside ur boxes.
 
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DeepEnigma

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point is sea of thieves is a current gen game and remders water better than hellblade 2 a trailer people say is cgi, why would anybody make cgi water that looks rubbish than current gen tech?

And secondly sea of thieves is just one of the examples and since u said it uses all the budget here are other games, keep talking shit





Its a fucking tesselated mesh with a vertex and pixel shader trick theyve done it time and time again since the ps3 and 360, the famous assasins creed series is known for this literally u can plug ur ps3 or 360 and play ass creed 3 naval battles.... Hellblade 2 water isnt impressive nothing on hellblade 2 is cgi because its a fucking next gen console. Ur thick heads are stuck in current gen visuals and cant think of anyway or how outside ur boxes.
Step back on your tone. You quoted a post that had nothing to do with this whole argument. Just a passing observation by me with that one comment on said game, saying all the budget went into the water, because clearly it didn’t go into the character models or land assets in Sea of Thieves.

Show me where I was involved in this stupid fight to try and come at me with a dickish tone? I’ll wait.
 
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Step back on your tone. You quoted a post that had nothing to do with this whole argument. Just a passing observation by me with that one comment on said game, saying all the budget went into the water, because clearly it didn’t go into the character models or land assets in Sea of Thieves.

Show me where I was involved in this stupid fight to try and come at me with a dickish tone? I’ll wait.
Your whole argument is dickish saying sea of thieves budget all went to the water is dickish n i showed u tonnes of games with asset budget going all over the board such as assassins creed odyssey up there, so saying sea of thieves only achieved it because they threw the budget on the water is dickish and shows how cheap n dickish ur thinking is.
 

DeepEnigma

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Your whole argument is dickish saying sea of thieves budget all went to the water is dickish n i showed u tonnes of games with asset budget going all over the board such as assassins creed odyssey up there, so saying sea of thieves only achieved it because they threw the budget on the water is dickish and shows how cheap n dickish ur thinking is.
It was mainly sarcasm, FFS get off the internet and breathe a little.

ethomaz ethomaz understood it, hence he laughed. And English isn’t even his first language.
 
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Mobilemofo

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Imma wait.. Weve seen this sorta shit before only to be let down many many times.. The games looks good but not like... Wow!.
 

Nemesis Prime

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This is sea of thieves



And this is hellblade 2



So please ellaborate what is so impressive in hellblades 2 water?
Unless its just hyped
Do you think the water even looks realistic in sea of thieves? Has a certain hyper realistic look to it, not the style hellblade 2 is going for at all.