Bioshock Infinite was one of the most anticipated games of 2013. The hype was apparently worth it, as the game is getting accolades across the industry for its engaging story and top-notch gameplay. Thankfully, Bioshock Infinite is not only an incredible game, but also a game that almost anyone will be able to enjoy regardless of their disability.
To begin with, players with visual disabilities will have no problem in Columbia because the art style that Irrational Games uses is similar to Dishonored and makes even the finest detail overstated and obvious. Also, the game highlights any objects players can interact with. Whether it’s glittering money on the sidewalk or a glowing red machine gun that the player can pick up and use, it’s always clear which objects can be interacted with and which can’t. And while it is true that some of the font can be hard to read on a smaller TV, but if the player can hear, there is so little occasion to have to read that this should not be a barrier. Combine that with the fact that nothing is communicated using color alone, and it’s easy to see why Bioshock is so accessible for the visually disabled. But the truly impressive thing is that in the one area where it is necessary to see fine detail (picking up items), this barrier is mitigated because every item features a clearly readable label that tells the player not only what it is, but what it does, such as “Hot Dog (+25 Health)” or “Coffee (+Salt).” This text is large and easily legible, even with a visual disability.
Players with fine motor disabilities will have absolutely no problem with this title either, since the gameplay is extremely forgiving. For example, players have a nearly infinite number of lives and lose just a few coins every time they die. But the single most impressive feature of Bioshock is the way that the character of Elizabeth actually makes the game more accessible. Non-accessibility reviewers (such as Joe Juba over at GameInformer) will talk about how remarkable Elizabeth is, because she doesn’t need protection and actually contributes to the gameplay. I say she’s remarkable because she actually makes the game more accessible by giving players health, ammo, and salt when they need it most. As a result, players may be surrounded by a dozen Columbian soldiers and about to die, and Elizabeth will throw them a med-pack that completely heals them. This makes the combat extremely forgiving. In addition, enemies also don’t respawn, and damage stacks between lives. So if a player is having a particularly hard time with a motorized patriot, even if the player gets killed, there’s nothing to worry about since the enemy will still be as badly damaged when Booker respawns. Given Bioshock Infinite’s extremely forgiving nature, and that it gives the player the ability change difficulty on the fly, it doesn’t matter that there are only three different controller setups for the console versions, since no matter what system a player is using they should still be able to access and enjoy Bioshock Infinite.
Players with auditory disabilities shouldn’t face any barrier either. This is mainly due to the game’s forgiving nature, which compensates for a subtitle system which relies on distance. (Players may not see subtitles displayed for what enemies are saying across the room.) This is also because the game’s subtitles do include most ambient dialogue, and even some of the inflections in the story driven dialogue. In addition, nothing in Columbia is communicated by sound alone and the game is not really meant to be played stealthily, so things such as guard awareness level are not important. The one part where players will have to hear is in the collection of recordings that give insight into the story. But again Bioshock compensates for this by giving fully written transcripts of each of these recordings in one of the game’s menus.
We rated Bioshock Infinite as Barrier Free because the developers at Irrational Games went over and above and included features that make it more accessible than a vast majority of shooter RPGs on the market. We wholeheartedly recommend that anyone play this game to enjoy its great story and fun gameplay.
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The Bottom Line for Disabled Gamers: Bioshock Infinite
– The art style is overstated, making even fine detail easy to see.
– Objects you can pick up in the environment glow obviously.
– Nothing is communicated by color alone.
– Items you pick up in the environment are labeled to tell you exactly what they do.
– Gameplay is extremely forgiving.
– There are three different controller setups.
– Players can change the difficulty at any time.
– Game does rely on quick reflexes.
– The subtitles are thorough.
– Nothing is communicated by sound alone.
– The game provides written transcripts of collectible audio logs that give insight into the game’s story.
– The subtitles are distance based, so they may not be displayed for characters that are further away from the player.