Ninja Theory is using some amazing tech to create Hellblade’s facial animations


I’ve always had a soft-spot for Ninja Theory’s character development. Their games very often place a monumental amount of importance on creating and presenting memorable characters. Heavenly Sword’s Nariko and Kai, Enslaved’s Monkey and Trip, even their remake of Dante in DMC: Devil May Cry all stand out in my head as some of the more recent video game characters that seemed to benefit from an extra layer of care during development.

For their next game, Hellblade, Ninja Theory is tackling some pretty heavy themes that include mental disorders and insanity. We’ll be playing as Senua, who suffers from mental health disorders. As you can imagine, facial expressions will be key in conveying what our playable heroine is feeling. As such, Ninja Theory has gone all-out to ensure that Senua’s face is immaculately detailed.

To do this they travelled to Serbia along with video editor Melina Juergens, who is providing the facial reference for Senua. Once there they spent time with a company called 3Lateral, which specialises in super-high-res scans and character development. 3Lateral’s technology is amazing; it’s so amazing that Ninja Theory wasn’t even allowed to film the equipment for their Dev Diary. The results, however, speak for themselves as you can see in the video below.

Maybe it’s just me, but part of the reason I adore video games is for the tech that lies behind many of them. Motion-capture, facial scanning, game engines… this stuff does it for me. I don’t understand about 99% of it, but I still find much of it absolutely incredible.