Deaf Game Review – Metro Exodus

Game reviewed on Xbox One.

Game reviewed on Xbox One. Important update information included at the end of this post. Having not played either of the previous Metro games, I came into Exodus with no expectations for accessibility or what kind of game I was in for. About ten minutes into wandering aimlessly, a gigantic (and very real looking) spider crawled across my gas mask and I immediately determined that this game is not for me. No spiders, gigantic or otherwise, thank you. BUT the Deaf/HoH accessibility is decent (and I only say just decent because I played Far Cry New Dawn first and Ubisoft…
A patch that improved accessibility makes Metro Exodus a must-play for deaf/hoh gamers, if for no other reason than to experience this incredible captioning.

Metro Exodus Deaf Accessibility

Visual Representation of Dialogue - 10
Visual Representation of Sound - 10
Visual Cues - 10
Controller Vibration - 10
Visually Engaging - 10

10

A patch that improved accessibility makes Metro Exodus a must-play for deaf/hoh gamers, if for no other reason than to experience this incredible captioning.

Important update information included at the end of this post.

Having not played either of the previous Metro games, I came into Exodus with no expectations for accessibility or what kind of game I was in for. About ten minutes into wandering aimlessly, a gigantic (and very real looking) spider crawled across my gas mask and I immediately determined that this game is not for me. No spiders, gigantic or otherwise, thank you.

BUT the Deaf/HoH accessibility is decent (and I only say just decent because I played Far Cry New Dawn first and Ubisoft moved the goalpost for superb Deaf/HoH accessibility).

Metro Exodus gameplay settings screen
Metro Exodus accessibility options screen

You’ve got your standard fare in terms of gameplay and accessibility settings, including language, subtitle size, subtitle background and speaker label options. The size options include small, medium, and big. The subtitle background is solid black with no adjustment.

Player character walking in snowy area holding gun. Subtitles for Anna on screen.

Here you see the subtitles set to size “big” with the background on. They’ll be big enough for most players and the background ensures low contrast is never an issue when trying to read them.

There is an odd issue with the subtitles though that will leave Deaf players getting only part of the story…

Player walking through clinic area
Player character walking in clinic area, two men appear to be talking in the distance
Player character approaching two men talking in clinic area

In the above series of images you’ve just retaken control of your character after a brief cutscene. You wake up in the clinic and hearing players will hear two men discussing an important matter. You turn the corner and can finally see who is talking, hearing players will hear their voices growing closer. Finally you approach them and the subtitles begin mid way through their conversation. So you see how Deaf players are being left out here and only getting part of the story.

Player walking through dark tunnels carrying a gun
Player walking through dark destroyed train car

The images above I captured during important sounds that have no visual indication. In the first image, hearing players have the sound of their radiation meter (I know this device has a name and it is lost on me at the moment). No visual indication of it unless you’re paying really close attention to your character’s wrist. In the second image, there’s a very loud enemy off screen. It’s there to attack you shortly after you step off the train. Because there’s also no compass bar with waypoints or enemy indication, Deaf/HoH players have absolutely no indication of this because sounds only pair with controller vibration sometimes.

Player in dark area being attacked by an enemy that's not visible. Visual indication of where damage is coming from.

The above image shows the damage indicator which is helpful but what would be even more helpful is some kind of enemy indication before they’re on top of you.

Player walking through dark ruined building. Anna's subtitles read "Did you hear that?"
Player walking through dark ruined building. Anna's subtitles again asking if he heard a sound.
Player walking with gun in snowy area, Anna again asking if he heard a nearby sound.

And lastly, the most irritating issue I came across. There are so many times where Anna asks her husband some variation of “Did you hear that??” and no, Anna, I didn’t. You know why? Because I can’t hear worth a damn and there are no sound subtitles. It would have been one thing if whatever sound Anna was referring to had been paired with controller vibration but it wasn’t. The vibration seems to be reserved for only the most obvious things that can usually be seen and heard.

Is Metro Exodus playable with these accessibility missteps? Absolutely. And there are 4 levels of difficulty should Deaf/HoH players find themselves running into difficulty due to lacking captioning (not that this is an excuse for not captioning important sounds). These issues were more of an annoyance than anything and when playing on easy and reader difficulties, I had no issues due to the lack of captioning.

Update 2/16/2020

Back in August, Deep Silver released a patch that added a couple absolutely incredible accessibility features that make most of my complaints above moot.

They’ve added a feature people want in literally every game; the option to toggle off tinnitus sounds.

They’ve also added a feature that, in my opinion, puts Metro Exodus among the very best in deaf/hoh accessibility, alongside Far Cry New Dawn and Gears 5; “Subtitles for the hearing impaired.”

Updated accessibility menu.

These new subtitles, which appear distinctly different from the regular subtitles, are simply amazing. They tell you, while keeping with the military-style language of the game, exactly where an enemy is, what sound they’re making, and what they’re doing.

New subtitle example 1.

The Watchman is searching due left, quite close by.

New subtitles example 2.

One Watchman is attacking me (as we can see in the image) right in front of me, right on top of me, and another is screaming nearby slightly to my right.

New subtitles example 3.

There’s a gunshot a bit to my right.

New subtitle example 4.

The dreaded “Shrimp” females have found me and they are screaming. One close, one not so much.

Tool tip indicating the player needs to listen for a certain sound.
Captioning for the sound the binoculars make when focusing on a point of interest.

Now, it’s important to note that I have absolutely no ability to tell analog time nor do I have any concept of how far a meter is (I am a product of the American public school system, after all) so when reading these subtitles I sit there looking like I’m trying to solve quadratic equations in my head but what matters is I know something is happening and I can prepare for it while I figure out where 1 o’clock is and whether 13 meters is close or not.

Deep Silver left nothing out with their addition of these subtitles and their patch has made Metro Exodus go from a game I never planned to play again to one I want to experience every bit of and tell everybody about it as I play.

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Co-founder and EIC of Can I Play That?, captioner of many things, occasional writer of fiction. Any pronouns. courtney@caniplaythat.com
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