The latest game in Hideo Kojima’s tactical espionage series is a masterpiece of both story-telling and polish game play. It has earned many accolades across the game industry but from the standpoint of accessibility it is found lacking in many basic areas of accommodation.
When it comes to visual accessibility, problems start at the very beginning, the subtitles can be very hard to read given that they are white and lack much of a drop shadow thereby lacking contrasts in many of the games lighter environments. This lack of definition also plagues the eyedroid minimap system. The game expects you to differentiate between buildings and crowded areas without making them visually distinctive from the surrounding minimap. The game features a mark-target system that allows players to mark enemies and objects of interest within the game environment, but these marks can often be confusing, for example: in an early mission, Snake is tasked with rescuing a friend from a Soviet held village in Afghanistan. During this mission I marked several objectives and found myself tracking one that I thought was an important goal in the game, but ended up being nothing more than a mortar that I could use to distract or dispatch my enemies. Because of the extensive barriers in other areas, I did not progress far enough to speak definitively regarding the game’s accessibility for colorblind gamers, but because of the other barriers to visual accessibility Metal Gear Solid The Phantom Pain probably poses even more barriers for the color blind.
From the standpoint of fine-motor accessibility, MGS5 fares even worse. This is due in large part to the game’s very unforgiving nature. It is build as a tactical espionage game which means that the designers want you to understand the need to move around undetected. As a result of this there is a heavier emphasis on precision movements and controlling one’s noise output than in other stealth games such as Dishonored. Because of this The Phantom Pain can be incredibly unforgiving, forcing players to repeat segments of the game that while not large can get annoying on the fifth or sixth try. To compound matters, the control scheme is incredibly complex and technical. Players will need to use multiple fingers on both hand simultaneously to accomplish a certain action. For example, in order to call your horse, you will need to hold down the menu button and maneuver and press the right stick all at the same time. As a result the game is not very friendly to players with any kind of impairment that affects their hands especially given that it seems to lack significant controller customization.
The situation is only slightly better for auditory accessibility. We have already mentioned the hard to read subtitles, but even worse than that the subtitles are not on as a default of the game, causing players to miss out on an early cinematic that sets the mood for the unfolding story. Beyond this one of the most crucial features for stealth gaming accessibility is the presence of ambient dialogue subtitles which The Phantom Pain lacks. The game does feature a visual guard alertness system, but like the minimap icon system, this feature is often more confusing than helpful. Even though the story is fully subtitled when subtitles are turned on, this game poses more barriers than it eliminates for gamers with hearing disabilities.
The bottom line with Metal Gear Solid 5 The Phantom Pain is that yes, if you really want to you can probably progress through the game, despite physical disability. In my playthrough I found so many confounding elements that were aggravated by my disability that less than five hours into the game it had ceased to become fun and had become a slog.
Overall Rating: Partially Accessible
Visual Rating: Partially Accessible
Fine-Motor Rating: Partially Accessible
Auditory Rating: Partially Accessible
Released For: PS4, PS3, Xbox1, Xbox360, PC
ESRB Rating: M
GameInformer Score: 9.25