Forza Horizon 5 — Steve Saylor Accessibility Impressions

Steve Saylor27 minute read

Playground Games has been pushing for more accessibility in the Horizon series and with the newest adventure into Mexico, is Forza Horizon 5 the most accessible game in the series? Or also is this the most accessible Xbox title to date? Can I Play That? media partner, Steve Saylor sits down with Courtney Craven and Ben Bayliss to discuss Forza Horizon 5 accessibility.

Transcript

Steve: Playground Games really does care about accessibility, we saw quite a bit of that in their previous Forza Horizon 4. And now with Forza Horizon 5 coming out very soon, is it the most accessible game that they’ve had in the franchise? And also, is it Xbox’s most accessible game to date? Let’s find out.

Tldr Yeah. Yeah, it is.

Before I begin this video, I want to encourage you to please hit the Subscribe button, and also if you’d like this video at the end, hit the like button, it’ll help honestly grow this channel even more and I really appreciate it.

Hi, I’m Steve Saylor. I’m blind. And if you’re wondering how I’m able to play video games, if I’m blind, if you take a look at the video here and the video is not there, click the link in the description down below to see exactly what I see when I’m playing video games. So I’m not going to dive into any preamble. We’re just going to jump right into the conversation that I had with Courtney Craven and Ben Bayliss from CanIPlayThat?

I sat down with them to build to discuss Forza Horizon 5 and the accessibility that we found in the game. So let’s jump right into that discussion.

So Forza, it’s a good game, right?

Courtney: It’s a very good game. Yeah.

Steve: So I wanted to ask Courtney because you were going to you have a piece that’s going to be coming out on Can I Play That? that has sort of a bit of a personal sort of story about you and your history and your and Susan’s history with Forza. But I’m going to start off with you as this is the fifth version or the, yeah, the fifth edition. I don’t know what you would call the fifth sequel, Forza Horizon. How is this to you? Just kind of general thoughts kind of seeing like you’ve been with this sort of franchise for quite a while.

Courtney: So just to gauge how much I and formerly Susan loved this series, we actually bought the Xbox 360 after we bought the Xbox One just so that we could play the first in the Horizon series. So.

Steve: Oh wow.

Courtney: We’ve played all of them, and this one is by far my favorite in the series because it’s so colorful and. I don’t know, it’s kind of nice to play somewhere that feels warm when it’s getting cold out here in Michigan.

So that’s nice and it’s just it’s bright and vibrant, and I love the characters even, you know, one of the big differences I noticed this time, which unfortunately is not very accessible, but the DJs on the radio have so much more personality this time than they have in previous entries in the series. So I think it’s just it’s such a big step up from past games and I’m excited to keep playing.

Steve: Yeah, I mean, even my general thoughts of it, it’s like, Yeah, this is kind of like the first sort of like Forza game that I really got into. I played a little bit of 4. I played a little bit of Forza 7, but I never really could get into it because driving games and I just do not match well. I’m probably going to insert a clip here of me actually like trying to build a play, just another driving game, and I suck at it.

Oh crap. Oh crap, I don’t know. We’re like, Oh, oh, oh, oh no, no, no, no, no.

Forza Horizon 5 lamborghini in a jungle

But when I when this opportunity kind of came up, we’re essentially being able to review 5. I was really kind of excited just to kind of see what this game is like from an accessibility standpoint.

But like even just in general, this game is just like, absolutely gorgeous. And it’s like there are many moments where I did feel like it was a bit of immersion sort of breaking like and not like in a bad way because there were times I did feel like that I was driving through an actual photorealistic Mexico like it was. It felt like I was watching a video and not playing a video game.

And that’s just how gorgeous it looks. I mean, this is I’m playing on the Xbox Series X, so it jus,t it looks just as good as you could on a console level. And yeah, I actually fell in love with playing this game. Ben, what about you? What are your general thoughts on 5 and what is your history on the franchise?

Ben: Yeah, so Forza Horizon 4 is set in the UK, which is where I’m from and very, very close to where I am, it’s set in the Cotswolds area, which is pretty nice. So yeah, I had a good time in that game. But Forza Horizon 5 is just an entirely different ballpark in regards to accessibility if you compare the two.

Like you both, I found the landscapes stunning as a person that enjoys jumping into photo mode things. This game is perfect for that, and I know that you both have an Xbox Series X. I have it on S and looks just as good as the clips that I’ve seen from the X. So absolutely amazing optimization as well. But I am definitely enjoying it, just enjoying racing around Mexico.

Steve: That’s awesome. So let’s jump into the accessibility of this because on the surface, even if you look at the accessibility menu, it doesn’t look like that there is a lot there. But this is kind of like where we get to like we get to see where accessible design and accessibility options really get to blend together because there is a lot that is just as much under the hood as there is on like on top of the hood to use a proper car pun as it were.

I want to talk a bit about that because the accessibility menu, there’s not there’s some stuff there. I think the screen narration is great. The subtitle options are fantastic. Like, I really actually kind of like in a weird way. I kind of like the emphasis on words when they bold certain things that are just kind of like emphasized and dialogue, which is really great.

And being able to basically tweak pretty much everything in the settings before you even jump in is like, it really does work quite a bit. And even sort of the assisted driving modes and difficulty options are also their stuff that’s happening behind the scenes that essentially are kind of are helping you to be able to kind of like really like not only just create just an experience that you want, but also be able to fine-tune the experience that you want.

A purple BMW bubble-looking car with the CIPT logo on the side of it.

And I kind of wanted to ask like, Well, jump to you, Courtney. What do you think of sort of the accessibility offerings in Forza Horizon 5? We’ll talk about sort of because there’s some stuff that we’ll like nitpick a little bit, but what are some of the general sorts of positive thoughts that you have on it?

Courtney: General, I think it’s amazing, I think it’s the best, not just the best, I mean, obviously, it’s the best for the game, but I think it’s one of the best, most inclusive Xbox titles to date. But for me, one of the things that that really does is because it is an Xbox exclusive game. It works with Xbox systems, right? And the quick resume feature I started to race last night that I won’t tell you which one. I won’t spoil it, but I started a race last night that ended up taking me about 20 minutes to finish. It was that long of a race.

Steve: There are definitely some long races in there and yeah, yeah.

Courtney: But being able to know that, OK, well, I can just pause it here and go to bed because there’s not a chance I’m going to finish this tonight and pick it up in the morning. Is huge because in past games or on other consoles like there are choices, but you know, other consoles, I would have had to restart the whole thing and finish it all in one go. And not having to do that makes this a much more inclusive experience than it would be otherwise.

Steve: I love that. I love that sort of like thing that’s not designed specifically for accessibility can, like, be sort of like a good quality of life thing. Because even still, even if the power went off at your place last night, you still could have jumped back in because of quick resume, like that’s just how cool that is. So Ben, what about you? What do you like? Think about the accessibility in Forza Horizon 5?

Ben: It was the same, it’s amazing what’s there like you’ve already mentioned the subtitles, you can customize subtitles size, you can customize whether you have the keywords highlighted or not, you’ve got the preview button for subtitles.

I particularly I’m so glad that they have this. The text size increase where you can increase it by one hundred and fifty percent. And I can now just, yeah, I can now just sit back, enjoy a game without having to lean forward to the squint and struggle to see. So I really like that.

The other features are the screen reader support I found to be a little bit iffy with something I mentioned in my review that not everything is narrated. And what you said to me yesterday, Steve, was that you have menus where the pumps are narrated, but nothing else. Yeah. So it’s kind of like a bit iffy in places. Yeah, I think Forza Horizon 5 is the best Forza Horizon game to date. And after the year that we’ve had in this year, 2020 one, I think probably one of the accessible games of this year that have come out?

Steve: I would agree. And the thing is, I like I said, I mentioned before, I am not great at driving games, and I tried this game with like a little bit of expectation being like hoping that it was going to be a little bit more accessible for me to be able to play. And for the most part, when I jumped in, it was like as I jumped in with basically fully assisted driving and stuff like that, which basically kind of like lines you up on the driving direction path. That’s that kind of overlays on the road and it does slow like it breaks when you need to need to.

Forza Horizon 5 can i play that decal

And it really kind of like forces you on that line, which is great and can really kind of help, just kind of like acclimate you to to to basically the game, but then also even adding the bonus of the Rewind feature, where essentially, if you just make like one mistake like on a turn, you can just quickly rewind yourself back so you can be able to like get your like into the term properly again and add it on to that. But what I found was I was sort of like, it was kind of like kind of a push and pull where I was. I was hoping I was wanting certain things to do or some control over and then.

But the game was kind of like trying to take that control away from me. But once I really dove into the settings a bit and adjusted a bit of like the steering, the steering sensitivity and the and kind of like the assisted modes kind of turn that down a bit. And even the difficulty modes kind of turn like turn that down a bit like it, just it really allowed me to tweak the experience to be able to make it so that I can fully enjoy the game without it, get with my disability, getting in the way. And I think that’s kind of like the joy of Forza is that you get to like, have the experience of its gorgeous driving around Mexico, but it’s also like amazing just to be able to kind of like really fine tweak not only just your cars and fine-tune them to be able to make them perform even better.

But it’s also like the ability to just like kind of like trying out different cars and different tracks and different sort of like areas around the whole, the whole map. And it’s a large map, too. And I think, yeah, I agree with both of you. It is, I would say, definitely the most inclusive and accessible Xbox game to date.

We’ll see how that comes when once the halo comes out in a couple of weeks. But yeah, I think in a year of 2021 with hasn’t been a lot of accessibility wins for games. This is definitely one of them. So. So, Ben, you did mention in regards to the narrator. So I kind of want to do at least because there is as much as we say this is really accessible.

There are obviously some drawbacks to it and it’s stuff that you could sort of possibly hope for as a post-launch update at some point. Or it could just be that it just was a lot easier said than done to really try to implement. And Ben, you mentioned in regards to the narrator, that is true. So there are many kinds of menus that aren’t narrated. It’ll just be even tell you this menu is not narrated, which is kind of a bummer, but it does work for at least the most, the very most important stuff, but not in anything beyond just kind of like like even getting into the in-game menu.

But Courtney, I want to talk to you because you mentioned in regards to the DJ’s. So explain a little bit about the issue with the DJs and subtitles.

Courtney: As far as I know, this has been an issue throughout the series, but where most of the voiceover is captioned or is subtitled, the DJ’s are not. And it’s particularly disappointing in this one because I always listen to the classical station in Forza games and in past games, the classical DJ has been kind of a dick, I guess like detached from the series and not caring about what’s going on.

Forza Horizon 5 car driving through dark ruins heading to the outside

Whereas this one, she’s really full of personality and she talks about drivers, she talks about things you’re doing as the player. And it’s a shame that players that rely on captions deaf and hard of hearing players, et cetera, don’t get that that immersion. Because to me, listening to her and being able to laugh or enjoy some of the things that she says really puts you in the world, in my opinion, whereas without the captions, you’re kind of missing a whole, a whole part of the game.

Steve: I agree. Yeah, the jazz is kind of like one of the things I didn’t expect. Like, I knew there was radio in there, but I didn’t think the DJs were kind of like, be like super sort of like immersive in that there are even times where you’ll hear, like the DJ say, and our favorite superstar loves listening to Pulse like it’s and like, it kind of takes into the fact of like, if you’ve been listening to one station for long enough, it’ll even mention that you even have like story elements. Will they’ll talk to some of the NPCs that you’ve been working within some of the story sort of quests? And they’re like, and they’re explaining that, Oh yeah, like this certain superstar has been helping me out and it’s like, they’re talking about you, but it’s like, it kind of really doesn’t feel like you’re part of the like the horizon sort of experience.

But yeah, it just our adventure. But it just it’s a shame that essentially that’s not captioned and could be that. It’s just like you can jump into a radio station. They could be midsentence, and it’d be difficult to build a caption, something like that, I don’t know. But yeah, it is a shame that that’s not that, that’s not subtitled. I hope that that’s something that can be able to happen in the future. But yeah, if you’re saying that, that’s a problem with the series, that doesn’t look like that. They were able to solve that in five.

When we were doing our review purposes, it could happen later. I mean, who knows what people watching this on YouTube later, Ben, what about you? What were some of the kind of the things that you notice that were just not necessarily like, really bad, excessive? I mean, hey, if there’s stuff that’s pointed out, hey, talk about it. But yeah, what are some of the things that you kind of saw that we’re a little bit off for accessibility?

Ben: Yes, so, I was actually one of the people that didn’t really get immersed into the radio stations. I could hear the host talking, but no captions there, so that would be something that’s negative really. I think this is probably more a me issue, I guess. But when you’re driving around, 120, 120 miles an hour, zooming through like mountains and jungles and stuff, and people are talking to you with the subtitles, I don’t know what to focus on the words or the subtitles.

It’s kind of made me think that maybe it would be nice to have control over the positioning of subtitles, rather than having them set in the lower thirds, be able to adjust them a bit so they cover your car, but not the word. So your eyes, aren’t having to gaze too much. But I think that’s probably just I missed quite a lot of story elements because I was too focused on trying to get the grasp of a brand new car.

But that’s another thing as well. That was there, which was in relation to difficulty so downhearted with difficulty. The more credits that you earn. And I know that this is something that Courtney is probably best to talk about because of a recent experience with another game. So I throw it to Courtney, see if I can do it on the camera. Yeah. All right.

Forza Horizon 5 car driving at night through a jungle, its lights illuminating the shrubbery ahead

Courtney: That’s OK. Yeah, I mean, for Riders Republic, I didn’t love the control system in that if you relied on the controls that didn’t require like button precision or timing precision, you didn’t get penalized, but you didn’t get a bonus. So it feels like you’re being rewarded for being able-bodied or having quick reflexes. And it’s a similar system in Forza. But to me, the fact that it’s just credits and not XP makes it a little more OK.

But like, honestly, I would love to see just that sort of system, like being more rewarded for how good you are, just kind of go away because it sucks if you rely on, you know if you need assistive modes or anything like that. And then, you know, OK, well, I’m not going to get this bonus credit. And then here are all these other people that might be it. It just doesn’t. It doesn’t feel good. It’s not. It doesn’t make for very inclusive gaming.

Steve: Yeah. I’m also not a big fan of that, either. I mean, I understand sort of the mentality or the thinking behind it. But yeah, it kind of does sort of make it even a little bit harder to to kind of like be able to grind up and collect credits and XP and stuff like that, especially when you’re like when this game kind of relies on that to progress forward in the story. So it does mean that you have to grind more at lower difficulties than at higher difficulty. But I will say that like as well. It’s one of those things.

It’s like, what’s good? What’s interesting about like how they kind of award XP in credits is that it’s OK to crash into things because you get XP anyway for crashing into things, which is kind of funny. I was like, Oh, OK, so it’s OK to build a crash into that tree that’s that’s over there. Ok, I’m fine with that because I do that a lot. But it’s so there are something kind of like as we say, it’s like, but it is like kind of a bit of a balance, a balancing act with it.

I will say in regards to difficulty, so I did start off at like kind of the lower end of kind of the easier quote-unquote difficulty in that sense. And I was starting to kind of like win a few races here, like here and there. But then it got to the point where I was like winning pretty much all like by a lot.

Steve: And one of the long races that you do there was like there was the thing that popped up that said, Hey, you’ve been kind of winning races a little easily like it literally says that you’ve been winning races a little easily. Do you want to up the difficulty level for this one? And I was like, Yeah, sure, why not? I’ll do that. And it was the most like challenging race I’ve ever been on, and that’s a race that like you’re on for like a good 15 minutes and you’re in and it’s and you have to drive at high speeds because at that difficulty level, because if you like, if you like, lose your handle like if you lose your direction and for one second, like they’re all there on your ass and they’re basically like, and they’re all like, they’re always a little bit of a better speed and acceleration than you, which was a challenge and it was fun. I still beat the race.

So there we go. But it was like it. Like, it actually kind of hurt my hand because I was holding the trigger down to be able to accelerate so hard and holding that for like 15 minutes. I was like, I’m OK with being able to do that for a first and shoot because you’re like constantly tapping it but holding it down for 15 minutes. That hurt. And I’m on

Courtney: Everyone knows in racing games. The harder you hold the trigger, the faster you go, right? Like. Into oblivion, and you know,

Forza Horizon 5 car driving fast, side shot with blurred fences

Ben: What’s interesting about the difficulty is that Can I Play That? actually got a chance to sit down with some of the developers from Playground Games, and they explained that the tourist market is a new difficulty that’s been added to Forza Horizon 5. And essentially what that does, it pushes you to the front of the starting grid, so you’re ahead of everybody already from the start.

But after that, if you do fall behind, you missed a checkpoint and you get sent back a little bit. Every eye in front will slow down, allowing you to catch up once you catch up and they’ll stop being challenged again. And think that’s a pretty cool introduction to just a much simpler racing style.

Steve: See, that’s what I’m always talking about, like a little bit behind the scenes of under the hood of how these sort of accessibility like that’s built into the game is a part of it. Because, yeah, there’s definitely a lot that’s happening behind the scenes that kind of like really helps make the game a lot more accessible. And so I would say, like, yeah, even with the stuff that we talked about, sort of like, yes, they can be blockers and certain things that it would be difficult for certain people’s people on under different disability spectrums to be able to play.

I think that for the most part, I mean, yes, this is definitely the most accessible force to date. And yeah, it’s the most accessible like at least Xbox title to date. So they definitely hit another home run with this one. That’s kind of like my general thoughts. Courtney, what are your sort of like last kind of like thoughts about accessibility for this one?

Courtney: I think I think the biggest testament to the accessibility is that I just want to keep playing it. You know, this is the first one that I’ve been able to get off of easiest difficulty because with the new systems and the new controllers, you have a little bit more fine-tuned control over things. And it just it feels good to play and it feels better to play than previous. Entries in the series, but. Yeah, it’s so good that I just want to keep playing it, whereas I kind of lost that. Ok, let me play more feeling that I had in previous games. Awesome. Ben, what about you?

Ben: Yeah, I think Courtney kind of stole my answer. Really? I mean, I’m just enjoying playing it, so much. I feel comfortable reading. I feel comfortable understanding the subtitles, but I’m not driving really super fast and it just feels prurient and fact.

I know they told us that planning post-launch support as well. I don’t know what other forms of support they have, but they are planning on adding ASL and BSL interpretation in the bottom corner of the screen. So if that is very possible that it could have bring it at launch because of the script. But yeah, just that, really. It’s amazing to play and it feels good.

Steve: I love that. Yeah, and I’m echoing both of yours because it’s like, Yeah, I definitely just even talking about it now. I’m like, I want to. I just want to turn on my Xbox and play this right now. Like, seriously, it’s just so much fun. I never thought I would like to have this much fun playing a racing game. I think the last one I like, I played that. I enjoyed that. I played a lot of was GranTurismo three, and even then I was like, it wasn’t even really that good, but this one was something that I just like. I can’t wait to get back in there. It’s gorgeous.

They really, I think, like, made this game like, like, look just as good and feels just as fun to play. And that that kind of like is a testament to the franchise itself. It’s just like the environments you’re in. And the gameplay is just fun to kind of like just jump into a car and just race around the countryside. But then also as well, it’s like if you want to jump in and really find tweak things and kind of go for a simulated or simulation experience, you can totally do that, too. So before I let you both go,

Courtney, we were able to do something that I think other players, once this game launches, can be able to find and be able to add on into the in the game. Can you tell us a little bit about the livery and what you can actually be able to search for?

A car driving fast over a bridge in Forza Horizon 5

Courtney: We and you’ll be able to find this on @CanIPlayThat Twitter on the embargo day. But we were able to create the kind of play that logo and put it in the in the library so you everybody can have. CanIPlayThat race cars now from your super speedy McLarens to my favourite the Bronco?

Steve: Yes, the Bronco. Yeah, so, so so I think we both myself and Courtney, we have like if you just search for CIPT, you’ll be able to find the special kind of like a design. CanIPlayThat? Designs. And it looks pretty good. Like, I’ll say, like, yeah, the Bronco and what was it? You did it on the Volkswagen. Like, did you do it in the Volkswagen Beetle?

Courtney: The little BMW, the BMW?

Steve: Yeah, that was I was cute, too. So yeah, you can be able to download those. And especially like yeah for the Ford Bronco, which is one of the first cars you’d get at the beginning of the game. So you can be able to, you know, have a little bit of CanIPlayThat as part of your gaming experience? And it and it looks pretty cool too. Like it’s like I would say, like, we’ve made some pretty good-looking cars. I’m just so yeah, just make sure and I’ll I don’t know.

I don’t even you can’t even link to it. Just search for CIPT in, I guess the livery. Once you get one to get the game at launch and you can be able to find the CanIPlayThat design. So also as well, if you want, be able to find out more about can I play that? And all the reviews, Ben, where can we be able to find all the coverage for Forza Horizon 5?

Ben: Yes, we will be publishing all of our articles on launch week, so you’ll be able to find our review and menu deep dive and Courtney’s features on CanIPlayThat.com. And you can see why we gave it a 9 out of 10.

Steve: Oh, there you go exclusive there. Courtney, what is what is some of the articles, the features you got at Can I Play That?

Courtney: Details the history of Can I Play That? and my personal history with myself and my late partner and why this series is special to us, and then I have another feature looking at the addition of prosthetics and they/them pronouns for character customization.

Steve: That’s something we didn’t get to talk about, but that’s that was something that was really cool about the inclusion factor of accessibility in there. So that’s really, really awesome. I want to thank Courtney and Ben for joining me today.

If you won’t be able to check out all of their coverage. You can be able to follow @CanIPlayThat on Twitter or go to CanIPlayThat.com Link in the description down below and you can see all the coverage that they have for all the features and articles and reviews that they have going up today, as well as for the rest of the week leading up to release.

A few things I wanted to kind of bring up that we didn’t get a chance to mention in the conversation, but I was really fascinated by one of which was the colorblind features. What basically what you can be able to do is you can adjust the user interface colorblind settings, so it will help to be able to navigate the menus from there. But also you can add a colorblind filter to the gameplay itself. So we’ve kind of seen a little bit in certain games of certain ways to be able to adjust the user interface and the gameplay, but usually, they’re kind of like combined together.

This is the first time I’ve seen where you actually the two things are completely separate and you can be able to fine, like adjust each individual with its gameplay or user interface for colorblindness settings. And I thought that was really cool. Another thing I did mention in this that really helps blind and low vision is the high contrast mode. There are a few things that actually I just kind of like turn it on and just thought, Oh, this is cool to be able to see the interface.

A campervan drives through a desert road at sunsunt

I didn’t realize until I actually turned it off and then turned it back on again that I was like, Oh, this actually helps out a lot. There are times where you can be able to see certain elements on the HUD that actually can blend into the environment and with you. If you turn on the high contrast filter on, it’ll actually add like a drop shadow or a background to some of the user interface.

That actually kind of makes things stand out a little bit easier and makes it a little bit easier for me to be able to see. So I thought that that was really, really cool. I just forgot that I had it on because I turned it on at the beginning of the game and I was like, Oh, this is how the game looks.

And then I forgot that that is actually an accessibility option in there. So that’s just a few things I kind of wanted to say. Say in there once again, pick up this game. It’s definitely worth checking out. It may not be able to hit every single disability part of the spectrum for definitely certain disabilities.

But it’s definitely one of the more accessible games to date for Xbox, and I definitely recommend checking that out. Thank you so much for watching. I really appreciate if you got this far in the video. God bless you. Like, thank you so very much. If you like this video, please hit the Subscribe button. If you want to be able to like help grow this channel, be able to do that. Plus also hit the like button. That’ll really help out with downloading this video, but also kind of add this into the algorithm.

And if you want to do it to be notified when new videos come out, make sure you hit the bell notification icon, too. I’ll see in the next video. Thank you so much again for watching, and as always, I remain obediently yours. Bye.

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Steve
SaylorMedia partnerHe/Him

Steve Saylor is a Toronto-based podcaster, radio host, Blind Gamer, YouTuber, Twitch Streamer, Graphic Designer, Content Creator and College Professor all while being blind! Starting in 2015, his entertaining YouTube series “Blind Gamer” fuses humour with his passion for playing video games. In just a few short years he is considered a thought leader on accessibility in gaming and an advocate for developers to push video game accessibility forward. Steve is the top Blind Gamer in Canada and has worked with prominent clients in the video game industry.

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