We recently spent our allotted thirty minutes exploring Raccoon City in the One Shot demo of Resident Evil 2 (out January 25th). Given that RE2 is a survival horror game, it came as absolutely no surprise that this game was just as inaccessible to Deaf players as nearly every other survival horror game.
The gist of RE2 and every other game in the genre is you play as somebody with a gun and you’re up against an assortment of bullet sponge enemies. Your goal is to survive and find a way out.
The only accessible feature in Resident Evil 2 (again, just like every other survival horror game) is dialogue subtitles. Not even great dialogue subtitles. Just dialogue subtitles which you can turn on or off (shown on the menu screen below).
Our gripe with this game and several others is the effort put into the sound design. Here’s a game that’s gone to the lengths of including real-time binaural audio but they can’t be bothered to to include even the most basic visual cues for sound. And before anybody loses their mind and proclaims that doing so would ruin the game, understand the this about options: they’re optional, hence the name. If hearing players can turn on or off binaural audio, WHY can’t Deaf players get the same option for visual sound cues?
Above is an example of the subtitles. There’s no speaker labels so for much of the cutscenes Deaf players will have no earthly idea who is speaking. We ran into several other issues with the subtitles as well.
In the above scene, you’re walking down one of the only two hallways available to you and suddenly dialogue appears on screen. It turned out to be from a radio on the shoulder of the dead guy up ahead. There was nothing to indicate that it was a radio, not even a tiny light blinking on the thing once you approached the dead guy.
And in this scene shown above, you’re presented with the subtitle text of someone yelling at you to open the door. It came on screen the moment I was within view of the door you see in the picture, so it would stand to reason that this is the door you’re supposed to open, right? Wrong. In that same corridor were at least three other doors and no clue as to which one the person was yelling from behind.
Where RE2 really failed Deaf players was with the enemies though. And we know, we know, the thrill of the surprise is what makes it fun. It’s the jump scare. The thing is, well, there’s two things… Jump scares don’t really work for a lot of Deaf people (not the game’s fault, obviously) and even with the jump scare effect, hearing players usually have the faintest hint that an enemy is nearby. A creaking floor, directional footsteps heard faintly. Something. Without visual cues, Deaf people benefit from none of this. And none of the immersion.
All that said, if you’re a Deaf fan of survival horror, RE2 won’t be any different from any other survival horror. The subtitles aren’t great but you’ll learn the story (though not the speaker) and there’s not one visual cue for any sound, but the game, in a genre like this, is perfectly playable if you don’t mind a more difficult experience.
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