Uncharted 4

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Disability Game Review: Uncharted 4

Disability Review: Uncharted 4

Naughty Dog has said that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is their last foray with Nathan Drake. Long time readers of this site may remember that Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was the impetus for the formation of DAGERS. That game was reasonably accessible up until the very end when the player was confronted with a series of inaccessible QTEs that prevented fine motor impaired gamers from finishing the game. With this experience in mind, it is reasonable to approach Uncharted 4 with a cautious attitude. Not wanting to be put into a situation where you can’t finish the game because of one or two barriers in an otherwise accessible title. Fortunately, however, no caution is needed. Uncharted 4 sets a new standard for both quality and accessibility of gameplay. (Full disclosure: I was in contact with Naughty Dog helping them determine which accessibility features to implement)
To begin with, this game poses no serious barriers for players with visual disabilities. This is due to the fact that nothing relies on either fine detail or the ability to see color. As a result, players will be able to follow Drake on his quest for the pirate city of Libertalia without a visual disability impeding their progress. There is one slight misstep however, it would have been nice to see letter boxing around subtitles and other in game text to increase visibility in certain levels. Notably, the missions in Scotland where players will run into snow and other white background elements that can make white text hard to read. But this is little more than an inconvenience and does not make Uncharted 4 any less barrier free for those with visual disabilities.

The case is much the same for players with fine motor disabilities. I am well into the story of Uncharted 4 and can tell you that the game exhibits a pattern of fine motor accessibility never seen before in a AAA title. For example, Naughty Dog has given players the option to make QTEs and other functions executable with a held button rather than a repeated tap. Combine that with the controller options that were designed to aid access for one handed players and the fact that the Sony hardware now natively features fully remappable controls and you are left with a game that can be tailored to almost any gamers physical access needs. One other major feature to note is the snap to aim function which locks onto opponents without the player having to manually aim. This means that there is no need for precision and accuracy even in the games most intense moments. Beyond this, the gameplay experience itself is extremely flexible. Players can rely more on stealth in a Thief’s End than in previous Uncharted games which make it possible for skilled players to completely avoid some of the more difficult gunplay sequences, thereby removing any potential barriers. Yet here, there is also small gripe; with the implementation of the stealth mechanic it would have been nice to see other features such as a method for luring enemies included in the game. The lack of such a function means that in some areas where stealth is encouraged it is not really a viable option since there is no consistence way to lure guards out of their set patrol path. This makes stealth in certain areas difficult because the guards stick to open areas and can’t easily be blindsided. However, this is not a barrier to accessibility rather it is simply a feature that was not as fully realized as it could have been.

Finally, the Uncharted series has always been known for its compelling stories. Thanks to a comprehensive subtitling system that can be turned on prior to starting the games story, players with auditory disabilities will have no problem accessing the games well-written characters and compelling drama.
In conclusion, Uncharted 4 is completely barrier free. It represents a standard of accessibility that should be more wide spread within the gaming industry but beyond that it is an incredibly well-done game. Both fun and moving enough for even the most cautious gamer. It is an absolute joy to play and a must buy for anyone who owns a PS4 regardless of physical ability.

Overall Rating: Barrier Free
Visual Rating: Barrier Free
Fine-Motor Rating: Barrier Free
Auditory Rating: Barrier Free
Released For: PS4
ESRB Rating: T

Written by: Josh Straub

At the end of his internship with GameInformer magazine, Josh Straub graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University with a degree in creative writing and history. His earliest gaming memories are of looking over his father’s shoulder while he played Warcraft 2. While these experiences gave him a deep appreciation for the RTS genre, Josh seeks to play games across all genres and platforms due to his interest in game accessibility for the disabled. This interest stems from too many experiences in which he has hurled his controller across the room after finding out that a game was inaccessible, due to his Cerebral Palsy. Because of his wide exposure and interest in games, Josh appreciates the story of a game more than any other element, especially because the stories of the games of his childhood provided him with an invaluable sense of escape from his disability.

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  1. Shay May 19, 2016 | Reply

    I just read a story about you and your talks with Naughty Dog. It is so nice to see others breaking down walls and stepping forward to make accessibility a priority. Your story really touched me and put an issue in front of my eyes that I didn’t even know existed. As artists and storytellers, we want our stories to reach as far as possible. To be able to include as many people as possible can provide great things like discussion and inclusivity. It’s so great to see that Naughty Dog took great strides to make it easier for disabled people to escape their lives and be somebody else for a while. That’s what games are for me, escapism. I can’t even begin to imagine what escapism is to you, as I do not have any disabilities that can hinder me playing games. Regardless it’s nice to see that Naughty Dog took some extra steps to help include everyone and I can only hope that it continues well into the future. I don’t know you, and this might sound a little weird, but I am extremely proud of you. This story truly touched me in a way that I couldn’t even imagine. I’m writing this right now, tears welling up, and I just want to let you know that I love you. I’m so glad that you spoke up about something extremely important to you, and I am also glad that Naughty Dog listened.

    God bless.

  2. Greg Gould May 19, 2016 | Reply

    Just stumbled onto your website from the Playstation Uncharted 4 video. Great review and fantastic idea for a website, keep up the good work =)

  3. Joseph C May 20, 2016 | Reply

    I did find some of the later sequences where stealth isn’t an option to be considerably more challenging than the early sequences where a stealth approach is possible. I’m hoping players relying on stealth in the early game don’t hit a barrier when they encounter large waves of enemies later in the game. Overall it sounds like Naughty Dog did a great job making this accessible, though. I commend them for their efforts, and you for taking the time to review it.

  4. Jake W May 20, 2016 | Reply

    Fantastic website and resource for gamers with disabilities. Keep up the fantastic work.

  5. Joe May 20, 2016 | Reply

    I recently read about this on Kotaku’s website. It’s great to see you getting some attention from gaming media companies. I think the point you made about games being an escape from our lives is an extremely important and well placed sentiment as this is the case for a lot of gamers, both able-bodied, and those who might require the accessibility options. I spend a lot of my time programming software (not as fun as game development I assure you) but accessibility and ease of use for everyone that uses my designs is crucial to me, I would never want anyone to miss out on something that could improve their lives; even if it’s in the smallest way. Thank you Joshua for your work here, it’s needed, and it’s great to see a development studio like Naughty Dog really get involved with yourself and bring these barrier-shattering features to their latest instalment (which is a masterpiece of story telling if you ask me). Should you ever decide that you want to take your project and become more involved with the game development community rest assured that you will have plenty of support.

  6. Gelo May 20, 2016 | Reply

    Hi Josh,

    I’ve watched the video regarding your involvement on the accesibility options that Naughty Dog has done on Uncharted 4. You’re really inspiring! I believe all of us are entitled to play the games that we want, regardless of our circumstances. Congratulations! 🙂

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