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