There are many factors that truly bring games to life for those willing to pick up the controller. The visual look, the writing and the action all sit at the forefront of presenting the thrills we crave. Yet the audio design is one of those crucial pillars that never quite gets its due. It is the small sounds that allow us to sink in, to feel a sense of realism despite setting, to engage beyond the screen. Above voices and music, it is these nuances in sound design that bring the force behind every button press and every step taken. It is important to take note of these features, and we at SA Gamer firmly believe it is key to celebrate those that made us consider the importance of sound. While 2017 was an incredible year for gaming, one game made us all clear out our ears just to make sure no detail was missed.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
While audio always requires care, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice made the audio mixing a key part of the presentation. As the game starts, players are encouraged to use headphones and once on, it is not hard to understand why. Senua’s journey to the underworld is not just built around the horrors of the land, but the internal struggle within her mind. Instead of merely showing you Senua’s mental struggles, the team at Ninja Theory used the audio to present something truly unsettling.
Senua is accompanied on her quest by the voices inside her head. They come from all directions putting any player’s surround sound system to the test. The voices overlap with a fluent mix that works at creating a controlled sense of madness that bogs on the player as much as it does Senua. Outside of just the internal screams, the exploration of the world utilises a feeling of distance through the aching and sullen sounds of the wilderness. The trees snapping, the crows crying, all the furnishings work at creating an absolute delight for the ears. It is frightening throughout and that deep feeling that never quite leaves your chest, all thanks to the sound design.
Ninja Theory put an emphasis on the audio design a lot of games often overlook. Where players will often never appreciate the detail that goes into bringing life to a game through sound, Hellblade makes it impossible to ignore based on how phenomenal the mixing was. With all this in mind, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice takes our award for the best use of audio in 2017.
Runner-Up: The Evil Within 2
Honourable Mentions: Project Cars 2, Little Nightmares