August has been a month of blockbuster titles, and Splinter Cell: Blacklist is no exception. It is receiving high marks from all major press outlets for its polished gameplay that flexes to almost any player’s style and a story that keeps gamers engaged right from the first cutscene. You might expect that because it’s a game that relies on stealth, it is more accessible. But is this accurate?
The short answer, yes—especially for gamers with visual impairments. Nothing in the game uses color or fine details to communicate, with the one exception being HUD text that could probably be a little bit bigger. But that can also be mitigated by simply sitting closer to the TV. So it doesn’t really affect the game negatively, especially since the game features top-notch voice acting to communicate all of the important story dialogue. And while it is true that the game uses shadow to a great degree, players always have the option of activating Sam Fisher’s night vision goggles, which increases the contrast allowing players to see enemies better, which can really help when trying to clear out a shadowy hallway full of enemies or when dealing with the endgame lens flare while looking into the sun. Beyond that, nothing in Splinter Cell: Blacklist should even affect gamers with visual disabilities since it seems like every element of the HUD is communicated in at least two ways. For instance, there is a little icon that turns red at the corner of the screen when Sam’s execute ability is available. But since it also says “Execute Available” above the little bar, the inability to distinguish the red color won’t be a problem. Beyond that, one of the best things from the standpoint of visual accessibility is the fact that all of the objectives in the game are painted on to objects in the environment, which gives the impression that Sam is looking at massive billboards that give him instructions.
From the standpoint of fine motor accessibility, Splinter Cell: Blacklist only lowers slightly from the high mark it set with visual. The one disappointment is that there is no controller customization whatsoever. But since the game is stealth-based and has a more tactical pacing to it, players will be able to take their time, which can help compensate for difficulty accessing the default controller layout. However, this can still pose some problems for players, especially if they have difficulty reaching the triggers and bumpers on the controller. On the positive side, Fisher’s mark-and-execute ability has returned in Splinter Cell: Blacklist, which allows players to tag enemies in the environment and then execute up to three at a time using stylish cinematic kill sequences. This can be a real help to disabled players since it can be used to even the odds in a room full of enemies so that even when they have to manually shoot enemies, they are only dealing with two instead of five, for example.
The other thing that Blacklist does extremely well is checkpoints. Previous stealth games have had a reputation for being brutally hard and punishing players for the slightest misstep. While the first might still be said of Splinter Cell: Blacklist, it helps compensate for its difficulty in a way that gamers with all disabilities will not feel punishes them for dying lots and lots of times. It accomplishes this through a forgiving checkpoint system, which saves players often in the middle of a level and even keeps these positions if they exit out of the game. As a result, there will not be as much path retracing in Blacklist as there are in other stealth titles.
Unfortunately, players with hearing disabilities will struggle more with this game than other disabled players. This is because there is not much in the way of non-auditory warnings for the guard’s reactions. It is true that there is wheel that pops us to show you when they are alerted to you, but in a game where players need to manipulate guards, if a player can’t hear them say, “Hey, what was that?” before they start walking toward the player and give Sam an opportunity to take them down, players will be somewhat limited in their options. While this does hurt the accessibility for the hearing impaired, it doesn’t completely break it, since there is always the option of watching the guards and trying to guess at what they will do. Other than this however, the story line features comprehensive subtitles, which is a good thing because the story in Blacklist is one of the better ones in the genre.
As a whole, Splinter Cell: Blacklist is pretty accessible. It’s only players with hearing disabilities that really need to try this game out before they buy it, due to a lack of subtitles when it comes to in-level interactions.
Overall Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Visual Rating: Barrier Free
Fine-Motor Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Auditory Rating: Partially Accessible
GameInformer Score: 9.00
The Bottom Line for Disabled Gamers: Splinter Cell: Blacklist
– Nothing communicated by color alone.
– The ability to turn on night vision goggles, which increases the contrast even in well-lit areas.
-The HUD text is a little too small.
– Slower, more tactical pacing.
– Mark-and-execute system does most of combat work for the player.
-No controller customization.
– Story dialogue is thoroughly subtitled.
– There is a warning system for guard alertness.
– No subtitles for guard reactions.
– Heavy reliance on reading guards’ audible reactions.
This article has been transferred from DAGERSystem (now AbilityPoints). Scores, formatting, and writing style may differ from original CIPT content.