Watch_Dogs and Accessibility

Yesterday, I bought Watch_Dogs. I wasn’t going to, but as always, when there’s something new and shiny to play, I can’t hold myself back. That and the £90+ of Game store credit that I had. 

I was dubious about starting the game as some of the reviews that hit sites on Tuesday when the game came out were mixed. Some people on Twitter didn’t have many great things to say about the game, some people also had fantastic things to say about the game.

Aside from the 20+ mins from inserting the disc to actually playing the game (on PS3, day one patch + install), I was extremely happy by what greeted me on the title screen.

The title screen in Watch_Dogs shows the standard “Press X” text. With every game, I do a standard test; I press any other button first because 9 times out of 10, this text normally means “Press any damn button”. I pressed Triangle, I pressed Square, I pressed Circle. I even mashed the shoulder and trigger buttons a few times. Only pressing X would let me progress. Whilst this test really has nothing to do with accessibility, it just adds an extra layer of polish, and leads me to be able to trust the rest of the game’s UI and text information. 

Secondly, the menus. The main menu is set out fantastically with your standard Continue, New Game, Options, Controls, Credits options. As always, I went straight to “Options” so I could put on subtitles. Within the Options menu, there was a sub-menu titled “Audio and Language”, which sparked my interest straight away. This sub-menu ended up being the greatest sub-menu I’ve ever seen;

 

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Not only were subtitles on by default (yes!), but the amount of control I, as a player, now have over the volume of various components is fantastic. With my hearing issues, I have difficulties picking up voices when there are other sounds – everything just sounds really muffled to me. Being able to slide the music, SFX and songs volume down whilst keeping the voice volume at 100 will probably come in really handy. 

Another sub-menu with Options caught my eye “Control Scheme”, and whilst this isn’t directly helpful or useful for me, for players who are left-handed or have difficulty with the standard controls, this sub-menu is definitely for you;

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Whilst the entire control scheme isn’t completely remappable, there are four different options, Default, Left-handed 1, Left-handed 2 and Left-handed 3. Each of these have subtle differences in the control scheme that help make the game a little more accessible.

I also have to congratulate Ubisoft Montreal for their subtitle design; white text boxed by semi-transparent black boxes. Readable on top of every colour in the game (so far, I’ve only completed the opening mission!), don’t obscure the game (like Tomb Raider’s subtitles did) and thus far, they’re shown at a nice, constant pace as well. But that last point is just my personal preference. Some players might find it too slow, or too fast for them.

Let’s just hope that the rest of the game lives up to this, and with Watch_Dogs selling so well, let’s hope that other developers and publishers carry on this accessible trend!

 

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