Watch Dogs accessibility review

Josh Straub3 minute read

Watch Dogs has been arguably one of the most hyped games Ubisoft has ever produced. It offers players the fantasy of a vigilante super hacker with the ability to alter the outcome of a gun battle using nothing more than a smart phone. The game itself offers some fairly impressive next generation visuals and gameplay that has the potential to be fun, but when it comes to accessibility, gamers will spend more time coping with the barriers in this game then they will hacking their way through Chicago.

To begin with, this game is not for visually disabled gamers. I have a 42” HDTV that I sit less than 10 feet away from when testing games, and I still found myself unable to read the button prompts when trying to navigate through mazes of enemies. While nothing seems to be communicated through color, the tiny unreadable text should be enough to scare gamers who have small TV’s, let alone gamers with disabilities. To make matters worse, even though I am not photosensitive, I found myself nauseated by the jarring shot transitions and near seizure inducing flashiness of the cinematics.

Beyond that, Watchdogs poses greater barriers for gamers with fine motor disabilities. The world within the game is massive, and from the very beginning players will be following Aiden Pearce as he criss-crosses Chicago in search of revenge. The problem is that this requires players to drive. This is a hidden barrier that disabled gamers weren’t expecting from all the pre-released information. Because of the amount of driving within Watchdogs, players who struggle with precise movement and slow reflexes should probably avoid this game all together. The only alternative is to walk everywhere, which is easier and can be done, but is also incredibly boring. Combine that with limited controller customization options and players with fine motor disabilities will very quickly be fed up with the inaccessibility of Ubisoft’s newest title. Even if players choose to walk everywhere, they will be forced to drive in protracted chase sequences that move the story forward. The problem is, the very first time I ran into one of these, the game was completely unplayable. The time limit is too unforgiving, and the car controls too squishy to make it through without the help of an able-bodied gamer. While it is true that with patience and help players can probably get some enjoyment out of Watchdogs, it is so contrary to the concept of an accessible game, that this title should probably be ignored unless players are willing to make their way through a frustrating slog.

Unfortunately, because of fine-motor barriers, I wasn’t able to get a full view of the story, so I can only make assumptions about the quality of the subtitles. It is true that all main story driven dialogue is subtitled, but in a game that relies heavily on ambient dialogue, there is not nearly enough to give the player all the information that they need. In that respect it reminded me of the original Assassin’s Creed, where Ubisoft was so concerned (rightly), about putting out a new game that they didn’t make it accessible to disabled players. Beyond this, the fact that the subtitles are hard to read, even for those with perfect eye-sight, it’s clear that Watchdogs presents a risk for hearing impaired gamers.

The bottom line is that Watchdogs is the biggest accessibility disappointment I’ve ever reviewed on DAGERS, I respect Ubisoft for what they’re trying to do, but they did it in a way that excludes disabled gamers, and that’s truly disheartening. I wanted Watchdogs to be more accessible then it was, but the fact is it just wasn’t.

Overall Rating: Partially Accessible
Visual Rating: Partially Accessible
Fine-Motor Rating: Inaccessible
Auditory Rating: Partially Accessible
Released For: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U
ESRB Rating: M
GameInformer Score: 8.50


-Nothing relies on Color

-Font is extremely hard to see even for non-disabled gamers.

-Game is not recommended for players with photosensitivity.

-Game relies on the ability to see fine detail.

Fine Motor

-Limited controller customization.

-The game must be played with two hands.

-The game features lots of very unforgiving driving sequences.

-Players must have quick reflexes to progress through the game.

-Players must be precise to progress through the game.

Auditory-Main story dialogue is subtitled.-No ambient sound is subtitled.

This article has been transferred from DAGERSystem (now AbilityPoints). Scores, formatting, and writing style may differ from original CIPT content.

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