Ghost Recon Breakpoint Deaf Accessibility
A widely accessible game, though it suffers from issues that hurt immersion and greatly impact the player's experience of the story due to some subtitle and captioning oversights.
Score7.8 out of 10
Game reviewed on Xbox one. Review copy provided courtesy of Ubisoft.
I don’t think it’s any secret at this point that I’m among Ubisoft’s biggest fans. I love their games and their vocal commitment to accessibility, paired with the fact that many of their developers were the very first supporters of Can I Play That? and what we’re trying to accomplish here, and, well, they could release an unplayable blank screen and I’d want to play it and give it a good review.
It’s also necessary to say that Gears 5 set a new standard by which I rate all games from the major studios and the release of Ghost Recon Breakpoint is the first major release to be held to this new standard. I was so excited, thinking GRB would be the second triple-A game to get a perfect score. However, I couldn’t quite give it that score I so badly wanted to.
Let’s dig into why that is.
First things first, the subtitles are just awesome. Displayed below is the largest size with the darkest background available.
There is no lack of options that allow players to customize everything to suit their play style and the accessibility features are quite robust, from full controller remapping, to the opacity of the background behind subtitles.
Despite the multitude of options, there are some things that simply don’t work (like speech to text in multiplayer) and others which it’s hard to tell if it’s a bug or an annoying oversight.
Take, for example, your player character. The subtitles display beautifully for all cutscenes and some instances in gameplay. However, your character talks to themselves quite a lot. And none of it’s subtitled. At the start of the game, mine was lamenting the loss of most of her squad, an obviously difficult realization for her. But players who rely on subtitles will miss all of this self-talk because it’s not subtitled. A major problem for players interested in the story (which I think is a good one).
The above instance is one of the many that needs subtitles, as your character is talking to herself, realizing something pretty important, but there are none.
The above image is a little hard to see (rain likes to make your life difficult in GRB) but it’s another seemingly big thing missing from the game. My character is standing right next to this group of three NPCs, who are engaged in conversation, giving those who don’t rely on subtitles some of the story, the history of some of the people of the island and the current state of things there. This information, for players that can hear it, serves to make the world feel real, something they should care about. But players that need subtitles? No luck.
There were also several instances in which the amazingly detailed world had some pretty important sounds, both seemingly important and sounds that would have helped with immersion, that remain un-captioned, which, considering The Division 2 and Far Cry New Dawn and their captions/indication of important sounds, is incredibly disappointing.
Shown above is immediately before you first take control of your character. They’re injured and groaning in pain. Compare that to this:
And you understand my disappointment. (I know they’re two different games, but I told you, my standards for triple-A studios has changed thanks to Gears 5.)
Here again, we have a scene that could and probably should have captions, as there’s gunfire all around, explosions, soldiers audibly panicking, etc. But there are none, which makes for a rather boring cinematic, even though it’s telling players of the plot for basically the whole game. (The dialogue in this scene is subtitled but the dialogue is minimal.)
Lastly, we have the above scene, in which Elizabeth Garcia and I (both of us hard of hearing and wearing headsets) stood there for a good while as we wondered what in the world was happening around us, waiting to be abducted by aliens or eaten by dinosaurs – it was very hard to tell what the sound was but it was very loud – and from what direction we would meet our demise. The sound was not captioned, not indicated by controller vibration, and nothing showed on the minimap. So we were just lost, unable to distinguish directionality or the source of the sound, and unsure what direction to go in order to avoid it. It was frustrating because it’s something that seemed like it should have been visualized.
The above issue is more nit-picky than something that impacts gameplay (though it impacts immersion tremendously) but those two guys walking? They’re having a conversation, again, sharing info that serves to flesh out the world, tell the player exactly what’s going one, and make them care about it. And once again, it’s not subtitled. Now, I understand that in a game with thousands of enemies, sometimes in very large groups, not all of them can have subtitles. But in instances such as the one shown above, even though their presence is clearly indicated on the minimap, I can’t help but feel a bit slighted as a player who needs subtitles to play games, that I’m missing out on SO much of the story.
One last thing that’s also an annoyance more than it is something that hurts gameplay – the speaker names for subtitles only display sometimes, which I’d guess is a bug that will be patched.
In terms of gameplay, GRB is very accessible. Enemies are indicated on the minimap and there’s a clear visual indication that tells players when they’ve been spotted by an enemy. Nobody will be able to take you by surprise simply because you didn’t see them in your FOV.
The good news for GRB is that all of these annoying immersion issues and (hopefully) bugs, the game is still rather accessible and the gameplay experience won’t be hindered for Deaf/hoh players. While speech to text doesn’t seem to work as intended, the game features both voice and text chat, so it’s still fully accessible for Deaf/hoh players.