Published by OneSwitch.org.uk Wednesday, 18 May 2016 8:10 pm.
Naughty Dog's Uncharted 4 shares something in common with a small but growing number of big-name games: Accessibility options. Finally. :) So what's it got?
Accessibility Options Up Front: Uncharted 4 is proud of the options, and quite rightly offers them up to everyone on the very first start up of the game.
Controller Accessibility Options: The core controls are complex as you can see in this short Uncharted 4 controls video. The up-side is that six-axis motion control is not used and the track-pad is kept to basic use as a simple push-button. This enables compatibility with a very wide range of alternative access controllers (most of which can't simulate six-axis nor fine control over the track-pad). See the video above for some examples. This is a 10 years old barrier dating back to the Wii and PS3 that kills access in games for many players (try playing Heavy-Rain, Wii Bowling or Flower without using the motion sensors and see how far you get).
Additionally, Uncharted has a lovely option to help reduce button mashing in QTE-like (Quick Time Event) action scenes. You can just hold a button rather than having to rapidly tap it. More than this, there are camera sensitivity adjustments and assist modes that allow you to quickly line up the camera or lock-on aiming on the push of a button. There are some basic remapping options too. It's important to say that the PS4 has some nice in-built controller access features that not all players are aware of who may benefit from them. These include the on-line "Share Play: Play Together" mode if you have a fast enough connection (also possible in the same room if you have the right adapter and two controllers), and fuller remapping options.
Difficulty Level adjustment: A meaningful range from Explorer to Crushing. Explorer mode is the easiest (good description as "Easy" is so arbitrary, and for some players there is no such thing as "Easy"). Some elements of the game still require a very high level of skill and timing, but much of the game is made hugely more playable for many. It has game hints, tutorials, threat indicators and NPC marking to help work out who is who (I think, I didn't test that particular feature) in multi-player games.
Subtitles: Dialogue is well-done, but these would be much improved if they included text descriptions of music and sounds, colour-coding and a sans serif font option. See the video below for a (rough) possibility.
Quick Start: Nice and easy to get going. There's no requirement to install anything and there's a hugely welcome "Chapter Select" and "Encounter Select" option so you can keep practising and enjoying unlocked areas.
Visuals: Visual hints give you a nice idea upon where to search for items or clues (at least in Explorer mode). Additionally, the in-built PS4 accessibility options allow you to Zoom in on certain areas (although not play whilst magnified) and even invert the colour-scheme if this is helpful at all.
Four Suggested Improvements: 1. Improve the subtitles/closed-captions. 2. List accessibility features in an easy to find way. 3. Don't forget that some alternative access controllers won't have six-axis, any track-pad compatibility nor rumble-motors (perhaps make the journal accessible via the options button and menu). These are real PS4 problems all developers should be aware of from day one. 4. Consider a reduced control scheme option in future games. Something like FIFA16's Two-Button mode or Wii Mario Karts choice of Wii-remote or traditional controller.
Uncharted 4 is far from the only recent big name game worthy of accessibility praise: The Chinese Room's Everybody's Gone to the Rapture on PC and EA's FIFA 16. The sound design in Microsoft's Killer Instinct and Blizzard Entertainment's Overwatch. The colour-blind options in Bungie's Destiny. The font-size choice in Don'tnod's Life is Strange. Thanks to Ian Hamilton for some of these examples.
Things are certainly improving, but there's a long way to go before you can buy any game and expect the developer to have taking into account at least a basic level of accessibility. That day will come. Meanwhile, I recommend developers take a look at the likes of Game Accessibility Guidelines and AbleGamer's Includification for further inspiration. For those dipping a toe, take a look at the SpecialEffect Top 5 Game Accessibility Tips or the IGDA GASIG Top 10.