Forza Horizon 5 Accessibility Review — Can I Play That?

Ben Bayliss13 minute read

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Forza Horizon 5 Accessibility

Deaf / Hard of HearingBlind / Low VisionMobilityCognitive

Forza Horizon 5 is the most accessible Forza Horizon game to date with fantastic subtitles, large text, game speed, and customization. There are some areas it falls short, but it's certainly a giant step up from its previous venture.

Score

9 out of 10
  • Subtitles are clear, legible, and customizable
  • Text size can be increased
  • Game speed feature for offline play
  • Decent management of menus and game features
  • Assisted driving
  • Subtitles are not available for GPS...again
  • HUD elements could be made bigger and include backgrounds
  • Screen reader support seems iffy
  • Motion blur and camera shake is heavy and can't be turned off

After spending a number of years driving fast through the ever-changing seasons of the UK, Forza Horizon 5 takes us to Mexico to experience heat, deserts, jungles, storms, and culture — all while driving fast. Since the previous entry to the arcade racing simulation hybrid, Playground Games has focused a lot more on accessibility for Forza Horizon 5, and it’s a focus that has paid off as this game is wheel-spinningly enjoyable from an accessibility standpoint.

For me, It’s without a doubt that Forza Horizon 5 is one of this year’s most accessible games. If I was reviewing this from a d/Deaf/HoH focus I’d have given this a solid 10/10. However, looking at the game across the board, there are areas where more could have been done.

But before we jump in, a bit of history.

Those who have been following Can I Play That? since Forza Horizon 4 launched in 2018 may recall the late Susan’s d/Deaf/HoH-focused review of the title where the game was criticized for its awful subtitle presentation. Following the criticism, Playground Games patched the subtitles in the following year to improve their legibility and it resulted in the game scoring a 10/10 in Courtney’s revisited d/Deaf/HoH-focused review.

And now here we are, in 2021 with the release of the next game in the series and following an interview with us that will be going live later today, it’s clear that Playground Games has had a new focus on accessibility.

Start your engines

Upon booting Forza Horizon 5, there’s no boot menu because every time you boot the game you’ll be sent to the title screen that includes a shortcut button to open an accessibility menu. There’s a good range of options to fiddle about with here, from interface visuals, colorblindness filters, subtitle options, text resizing, moving background, notification duration, offline game speed, screen reader support, and text-to-speech and speech-to-text support.

If you want a more in-depth look at these menus, be sure to check out our Menu Deep Dive.

All of these options come with explanations as to what they achieve and some also have previews. What’s wonderful for subtitles is that you can hit an input to look at their presentation with a timed preview including spoken dialogue. While having a preview constantly available would be better, it’s still a good addition to see.

An example of the small text and large text, also with subtitle previews shown.

Another cool thing about the menus throughout the game is the capability to have a popout box that shows all available options that are contained within options featuring multiple presets or toggles at once.

A popout window showing all Increased Text Size options.

The default way of navigating these is to cycle through with left and right navigations, but this option, as you can see above, is wonderful for being able to see everything at once.

Sit back and read

I’m mostly going to focus on accessibility for the blind and visually impaired here but will throw in my experience with reading and HUDs.

As already highlighted in the accessibility menu, there is screen reader support, however from using it quickly, it seems to be largely unhelpful. While menus are narrated as expected, it’s not reliable all the time. The screen reader will read out some options you’re highlighting but won’t narrate some elements, such as what race you’re selecting on the map screen, or a large majority of purchasable content. There are also numerous menus where button prompts are narrated but nothing else.

High contrast on and off comparisons.

When driving around, race pop-up notifications are also narrated, but I’m unsure how players would feel comfortable driving around as the only audible cues are from the GPS doing its usual, “Turn right in 500 yards” etc. Some audio guidance for driving could have been helpful for blind players in the form of directional sounds and cues.

Update: SightlessKombat has revealed how he was able to play the game without sight. Watch his video here.

Forza Horizon 5 is one of this year’s most accessible games

Where Forza Horizon 5 is strong in this area is with legible text. With the text size capable of being increased up to 150%, I was finally able to sit back and relax instead of hunching forward and squinting. And with bold fonts and a nice high contrast mode available that adds a dark background for in-world titles, I actually felt comfortable.

An example of tiny text regardless of text size settings.

It’s not all great, however, as some of those titles don’t seem to include background panels when within the events themselves. I also came across some horrible small text when taking part in Forza Arcade events. During these, you’re assigned quickly-timed missions, and those are presented as text, which would appear tiny to fit within the container.

Not only that, but some main missions could have fared nicely with high contrast for objectives that appear on the side of the screen. High-contrast for HUD backgrounds would also be a welcomed feature as everything blends in far too easily.

Great subtitles! But distracting

Forza Horizon 5 has certainly learned from the past with subtitle accessibility, and what’s available is pretty much perfect. There are speaker labels, there are size sliders, and background opacity sliders. There’s also an option to highlight keywords, a feature that was built-in by design (Following its subtitle update) in Forza Horizon 4 and will make certain keywords and emphasis stand out from the default font.

While I can’t complain about the subtitle presentation, my one personal gripe was that having 2 lines to read while driving at speeds in the many available cars going over 120mph became incredibly distracting. It was a case of choosing to read the subtitles or focus on the road. Honestly, I think having a reposition feature to nudge the subtitles higher-up in my lower-thirds could have helped at the cost of covering my wonderfully pretty vehicles from my view.

Forza Horizon 5 has certainly learned from the past with subtitle accessibility

A good example here would be one mission that had me driving a lovely white Ferrari for some telemetry data readings. While driving fast, my passenger is waffling about things, and at one point even mentions there are hidden fast travel and XP boards. I failed to find these boards, but I also failed to remain on the road while trying to read the subtitles.

I also feel I’m missing out on some world immersion due to subtitles not being available for both the GPS system —which was a complaint in our original Forza Horizon 4 review— and the radio stations. I was pretty sure I’d been missing out on some great conversations being told over the airwaves, and Courtney confirmed that there are lots of personalities taking place that I’m missing.

Update: Something I forgot to mention prior to publishing was that subtitles the span conversation longer than 2 lines will find the rest of the subtitles sliding in horizontally within the boxed container. It means there’s more to read, but also just feels…off-putting?

Blooming hell

It’s no lie that the game is incredibly beautiful to look at. The dense foliage, the fluffy clouds, the devastating sandstorms. However, there are a few graphical annoyances I’ve found that you can’t seem to turn off on the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X.

Motion blurring is heavy in Forza Horizon 5, and there appears to be no way to reduce this or turn it off which is awful for accessibility. What’s more, motion blurring happens within menus as well which makes navigating uncomfortable.

Example of motion blur within menus.

Also, expect lots of camera shake for simulating speed and even environmental disturbances such as nearby planes or quakes. I don’t usually struggle with motion blur or camera shake in games, but for this, I’ve certainly been feeling a bit queasy.

Motion blurring is heavy in Forza Horizon 5, and there appears to be no way to reduce this or turn it off

The other annoyance comes in the form of bloom. Having the sun reflecting off of wet roads and puddles is all well and good with providing a realistic graphical experience. The issue here is that the bloom —and even overgrown foliage— will obscure the driving guide, and as someone who is heavily reliant on using this feature to understand my route, it’s enough to throw my concentration out of the window when I suddenly cannot see upcoming guidelines.

Take it all in

I’m not talking about taking all of Mexico in, of course, you should totally do that because it’s a lovely place to drive around.

Instead, I’m talking more about Forza Horizon 5 cognitive accessibility here. It does seem as if a lot of Forza Horizon 4’s many menus has been significantly reduced as best as can be, although there is still a fair bit to contend to. Your garage, your vehicle designs, car shop, clothes shop, Forzathon bonus shop, accolades, events, and many more populate your menu experience.

The world map is fairly easy to navigate with colors and icon types for different events, showing the route information visually. There are also sections of the different menu types where there are lots of elements to contend with such as collecting Accolades rewards. Personally, I’d have liked a shortcut to collect all available accolade awards here rather than trying to find the redeemable rewards like I’m ruffling through an advent calendar.

Objectives are clearly highlighted for most missions although could stand out more with high contrast HUDs. I will say, when it comes to finding things for some missions and events, it can be frustrating. There’s one mission in the middle of a tropical storm where optional objectives require finding a statue, placing a beacon, and finding a certain Mayan temple to name a few, but I couldn’t figure out where these objectives were.

I followed the driving line guide instead and ended up finishing the mission without having to have completed the objectives, but had lost out on bonus points. Turns out, a later mission in a less visually cluttered environment —the volcano— had these waypoints shown, but still not overly clear.

Oh, and why can we not skip any cutscenes!?

Assisted and customizable driving

There are ways to adjust your driving difficulty through the difficulty options, allowing you to have braking assists, traction control options, and more. There’s also a number of presets, one of which is a new “Tourist” mode that is best suited for those that just want to drive without the simulation experience that can be offered. In Tourist mode, should you fall behind in races, such as missing a checkpoint and being respawned further back, the AI ahead would slow down until you catch up. Apparently, this is the case for offline and co-op matches, but not online.

In addition, if you’re playing offline there’s a new game speed mode that can allow you to slow down the game allowing you to play at a speed that allows you to process what’s going on. This is only available offline, however.

The controller inputs can be remapped for gameplay controls and there are 16 default layouts to choose from, in addition, there are 5 controller profile options to customize if you want to choose everything from scratch. All defaults can be customized as well. For PC, I’ve not had to chance to install and check, but you can likely expect the same level of remapping for gameplay.

Frustratingly, players who want to take the game easy will have to forego earning extra in-game currency (CR) as prominently as those playing on higher difficulties because those on lower difficulties earn significantly less CR. This isn’t anything new as the previous game did it, and as Courtney pointed out to me it seems to focus more on racing skill as opposed to requiring controller dexterity such as the recent Riders Republic.

Representation of disabilities

While Courtney is going to have deeper thoughts on the topic of representation and inclusion, I wanted to share some thoughts of my own for the review. Forza Horizon 5 feels iffy with its representation across the board. The characters you choose are all presets with no real customization, which would be fine if you’re choosing actual characters, but the game appears to be encouraging you to “be yourself” by allowing you to choose hairstyles, clothing, and pronouns.

Showing the racial diversity available in avatar selection in FH5.

But the reality is that it feels incredibly limited as if I’m choosing a character that doesn’t feel like me.

While the introduction of prosthetic limbs is incredible to see, I’d have liked instant access to some free glasses, weight adjustments, it would have even been nice to see hearing aids and cochlear implants available, or even ASL/BSL sign emotes available from the off to truly have full control over my character but also deeper representation.

Post launch plans

In our upcoming interview with Playground Games about Forza Horizon 5 and accessibility, there is one feature that hasn’t been made available for launch but is on the way. We’ll update the review later today when that embargoed information is ready to reveal.

We have a winner

Forza Horizon 5 lamborghini in a jungle

Forza Horizon 5 is the most accessible Forza Horizon game to date. It’s clear that accessibility took a more critical role during production and any improvements or additions added post-launch would only serve as an extra treat to the delectable offering already there. However, more could have been done, from high-contrast backgrounds including HUD elements, fine-tuning screen reader support, and motion blur and camera shake reduction to name a few.

A review copy of Forza Horizon 5 was provided by the developer / publisher.

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Ben
BaylissEditor-in-ChiefHe/Him

Ben is the one in charge of keeping the content cogs at Can I Play That? turning. Deafness means that he has a focus on discussing captions, but with experience in consultancy and advocacy, he covers what bases he can. Having written about accessibility in video games at DualShockers, GamesRadar+, GamesIndustry.biz, Wireframe, and more he continues his advocacy at CIPT. He was actually awarded a Good Games Writing award for an article he wrote here! He enjoys a range of games, but anything that’s open-world and with a photo mode will probably be his cup of tea. You can get in touch with him at: ben@caniplaythat.com

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