Holy moly, Hellblade 2's photo mode is one of the best I've ever seen, and it's about to send all of us to screenshot heaven

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 — Senua grimacing.
(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

What you need to know

  • With the graphical fidelity of games rapidly increasing in recent years, it's become increasingly common for developers to include photo modes in their releases.
  • These special modes give players tons of useful options when taking screenshots, such as the ability to toggle UI elements or change the position of the camera.
  • Ninja Theory, the developer making the upcoming Xbox and PC exclusive Senua's Saga: Hellblade II, has teased the sequel's photo mode in a new clip on social media.
  • In addition to the options that players have come to expect from photo modes, Hellblade II's also features the ability to add custom light sources to images as well as options to change the on-screen position of protagonist Senua and other characters. Both of these very advanced functions are accompanied by an extensive suite of different settings.

Over the years, the graphical fidelity of video games has grown rapidly, making it more enjoyable than ever to take fetching screenshots of everything from the grandest vistas to the finest details of a character's facial expressions. Recognizing this, an increasingly high number of developers have shipped their games with photo modes — special menus that pause the gameplay and help you capture specific environments or moments with advanced camera controls, additional visual effects, special frame borders, toggles for UI elements, and more.

There have been some truly wonderful photo modes in recent years — the one in Ghost of Tsushima, which is debuting on PC in just a few days, definitely comes to mind — but it's looking like the one built by developer Ninja Theory for Senua's Saga: Hellblade II will cement itself as one of the industry's best. The studio teased some of what you'll be able to do with it in a clip on X (Twitter) on Tuesday afternoon, and holy moly, it looks phenomenal.

You can check the video out with the embed below, which prominently shows off several of the features "virtual photographers" will be able to take advantage of while using the photo mode.

The clip begins with a look at some fairly standard camera and lens settings for things like position, tilt, field of view, and depth of field, though the inclusion of options for color temperature and tint is certainly noteworthy. What came next, however, is what started blowing my mind: the ability to create multiple light sources — each with fully tweakable settings for hue, brightness, range, illumination style, and more — and move them around the environment, essentially allowing you to add finely tuned custom lighting to your screenshots.

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Based on what the teaser showed, that lighting can be as realistic or as stylistic as you want it to be, with helpful lightbulb icons making it easy to keep track of each light source's precise location in the image. The lighting, though, is just one of the things in Hellblade 2's photo mode that wowed me.

The other is a "Character" tab with a suite of settings that let you change the position of protagonist Senua and presumably any other character in the shot. It looks each character can be moved up to 100 millimeters left or right, forward or backward, and up or down, with additional options for the angle of their horizontal rotation and a toggle that determines whether the selected character is actually visible or not.

Hellblade II protagonist Senua prepares for battle against an Icelandic warrior. (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

All of this is fantastic, and when used creatively in tandem with the various framing, filter, and sharpness options the clip ends with, I'm sure players are going to use the photo mode to take some stunningly beautiful shots. Hellblade 2 is only a week away from its scheduled May 21 launch, at which point I'm sure it'll propel all of us directly into screenshot heaven.

Hellblade 2 itself is looking as good as its photo mode does, which is to say: excellent. The story-rich Xbox console exclusive sequel to the original 2017 cinematic adventure game looks to wow fans with cutting-edge visuals and legendary performances supported by some of the best motion capture tech in the world, and I can't wait to play it once it's finally out. There's a very good chance it'll end up being one of the best Xbox games and best PC games of 2024.

Once it is out, you'll be able to play Senua's Saga: Hellblade II on Xbox Series X|S consoles or Windows PC through either the Microsoft Store or Steam. The game costs $50 to buy permanently, though it will also be playable day one on Xbox Game Pass; note that Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers will also have the option of streaming it on devices compatible with Xbox Cloud Gaming like mobile phones, tablets, PCs, and Xbox One consoles.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II

Senua's story continues in yet another darkly artistic adventure. To get the best cinematic experience, you'll want to make sure your computer meets the recommended system requirements at least.

Pre-order at: CDKeys (Steam code) for $49.39

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.