Disability Game Review: Titanfall 2
Written By: Megan Hammond
In 2014, Titanfall was a next-generation first-person shooter that welcomed all players, including players with disabilities. Titanfall 2 makes substantial gameplay changes but retains its core goal of making a game that is for everyone. The relationship between the human soldier pilots and Titans, the hulking mechs, is expanded upon in the single player campaign while the multiplayer offers a best in class traversal mechanic for non-stop action.
The multiplayer modes have moved beyond Attrition which was the traditional team deathmatch and introduced Bounty Hunt, Amped Hardpoint and others. The modes change the focus from eliminating enemy pilots to objective based matches such as killing AI enemies in order to gain bounties that have to be deposited at a bank as well as capturing and holding a hardpoint. Even within Attrition, AI enemies provide alternate opportunities to killing opposing pilots for players to gain points towards activating a Boost and calling down a Titan. Titans have more loadout options ranging from Ronin, the sword carrying Titan, who is a close quarters combatant to Northstar who is a precise shooter from afar. Additionally, Titans can be helmed either directly by the player or set to Follow or Guard as an AI.
Regarding the controls for players with fine motor disabilities; sprinting has an option that is automatically on when you click down on the analog stick to sprint which removes the requirement of pushing forward on an analog stick. Preset controller layouts offer four options for the Sticks and six options for the Buttons, as well as a Lefty option for any layout. The button presets include swapping Jump and the Tactical Ability between a face button and a bumper or swapping Melee and Crouch between a face button and the right analog stick as well as a combination of changes. Additionally, a recent update added several sensitivity scales to the controller options.
Titanfall 2’s campaign is a near even mixture of gunplay and platforming. For players with fine motor disabilities, the platforming is the most difficult. On one hand, the controller options provide automatic sprint and includes multiple options for the Jump button. On the other hand, the platforming becomes more complex during the campaign requiring players to execute multiple precise jumps in a row.
Similarly, in multiplayer matches, rodeoing a Titan, when a pilot lands on top of a Titan, results in the Pilot reducing the Titan’s health by removing a battery. The pilot then flees with the battery in-hand in an effort to deliver the battery to a friendly Titan. This maneuver requires careful platforming in order to both board an enemy Titan, escape safely and board a friendly Titan without being squished by a Titan in the process.
For players with fine motor disabilities who face a barrier with the platforming, the newest game mechanic is the grapple hook. The grapple hook is a Tactical Ability that lets players effortlessly fly across the map from one point to the other. In multiplayer matches, the grapple hook streamlines the platforming needed to traverse the maps and for boarding Titans. Overall, a player’s loadout includes one Tactical Ability and two passive abilities known as Kits. The multiple Boosts, Kits, weapons, and weapon mods complement different playstyles.
For example, deaf and hard of hearing players who focus on clearly seeing the opposing team can equip the Pulse Blade as a Tactical Ability. The Pulse Blade is a sonar that shows the profile of nearby enemies. It operates on a cooldown and can be used throughout the match. For more frequent use, players can equip the Power Cell, a Kit option, and Tactikill, a weapon mod in order to stack faster cooldowns for the chosen Tactical Ability. Additionally, a weapon scope also provides enemy outlines when aiming down the scope.
For deaf and hard of hearing players, Titanfall 2 is the rare multiplayer game that subtitles the voiceover and AI callouts in multiplayer modes. The subtitles are letterboxed and include the name of the speaker. In the campaign, the image of the speaker is displayed during voiceover dialogue and the subtitles even include speech inflections.
For players with visual disabilities, Titanfall 2 relies on communicating information in icons as opposed to color coding. Weapons and abilities along with cooldown timers and progression bars are displayed as distinct icons and often with a translucent background for clarity. The only pick-up object that players need to identify constantly are Titan batteries in order to restore a Titan’s health. Titan batteries are littered throughout campaign and multiplayer levels as a glowing green object with a clear shape. In the campaign, the batteries are accompanied with a symbol pointing out the batteries’ location on the battlefield. Additionally, Titanfall 2 launched with a colorblind mode for three primary types of colorblindness – protanopia, deuteranopia, and tritanopia.
For a franticly paced first person shooter, Titanfall 2’s HUD clarity in communicating game information visually makes the game stand out in a genre known for requiring a quick reaction time. The opportunity to increase the size of the visual information would only add to the game’s accessibility for players with disabilities.
For players with disabilities, a specific weapon returns in Titanfall 2, the smart pistol, but not in the same capacity. It’s still the same auto-aim weapon. It requires the player to only keep enemies within their field of view for a specific duration of time, less time for AI enemies and more time for opposing pilots who can then be killed in one shot. While the weapon is highly contentious, for players with disabilities the smart pistol is an accessible option that removes obstacles to aiming in fast moving multiplayer matches. In Titanfall 2, the smart pistol isn’t equippable. Instead, the weapon is unlocked at level 42 as a boost, the maximum level is 50. Additionally, the smart pistol replaces the secondary weapon, the anti-Titan weapon slot, and so players cannot fight directly against Titans when using the Boost.
Players can unlock items early with credits, the in-game currency, that are rewarded for completing multiplayer matches and leveling up. Still, credits become available at a drip drop rate and so players must be judicious when spending credits. For example, the Smart Pistol costs 125 credits to unlock and 1-3 credits are rewarded at the end of matches. Still, credits make must-have options for players with disabilities available earlier than unlocking items by leveling up.
Titanfall 2 is the rare FPS game that purposefully gives all players, regardless of skill level, the opportunity to contribute in multiplayer matches. At the same time, Titanfall 2 recognizes specific needs for players with disabilities from automatically on sprint to multiplayer subtitles to icon based visuals. Certainly additional accessibility options, namely full controller remapping and customization options for the size of HUD elements would only add to the game’s accessibility. Still, game design that welcomes all players while also providing video game accessibility features for players with disabilities is a refreshing change.
Overall Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Visual Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Fine-Motor Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Auditory Rating: Barrier Free
Released For: Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC
ESRB Rating: M