Deaf Game Review – We Happy Few

We Happy Few Deaf Accessibility
5.2 / 6 Reviewer
Pros
Expansive deaf accessibility options, Full subtitles with speaker tags, Ambient sounds are subtitled in a news ticker, Adjustable subtitle sizes, Helpful visual cues
Cons
Sound captions don't work (on the Xbox version anyway)
We Happy Few left early access with some of the best deaf accessibility options we've seen thus far (even though some of them don't quite work yet, hopefully that will be remedied). It's a unique and interesting game, that we've been excited about for a long time, and it's a rare game that lives up to our expectations both game wise and in terms of accessibility.
Visual Representation of Dialogue
Visual Representation of Sound
Visual Cues

It’s rare that a game makes such a turn around from being largely inaccessible in its early access stages, to having some of the most comprehensive accessibility options I’ve seen. We Happy Few did just that. We’ve had the game on Xbox Game Preview for nearly two years now, I think, and to be honest, the state of the accessibility in its first iterations really didn’t give me a whole lot of hope for actually being able to play it when it finally did release.

Below is a screenshot from the game preview from 2016:

Gray haired man in ragged suit.

You can see how tiny the subtitles are, with no indication of who is speaking (although you can assume, as there’s only one person in view) and the text is nearly impossible to read in some spots due to the lack of contrast.

Compare that to this shot from the full release:

Blonde man in ragged blue suit.

Every single aspect of the lines of text have been vastly improved. The font is large enough (and players are free to adjust the size to one of three sizes), the little triangle indicates a change in speaker (your character always has a white triangle next to their text), and you also have the option to choose from this style of visibility, with an outline around the letters, or a background, pictured below:

Exploring after dark between a brick house and a fence.

These two images also display the size of the large subtitle option and the medium subtitle option.

Language options screen

The robust language options also include the ability to toggle on a news ticker, which will display, in a small text box at the bottom of the screen, like a TV news ticker, dialogue coming from various news sources one hears in the game, such as TVs and radios. One thing to note is the sound captions option. It’s there, but in the four hours we’ve spent in the game, I’ve yet to see it function. Hopefully this is a small bug that will be remedied in a patch, because right now, the sound captions, at least in our Xbox version, are nonexistent.

Patrol officer with a light on his helmet walking past hidden player character.

Another very handy feature is the indication of walking paths by enemies when your character is hidden. Even if you can’t see the enemy, their footsteps/paths will be shown on screen, through walls or bushes or whatever you happen to be hiding behind (this is extra helpful given the sound captions bug).

Let’s take a look at the other accessibility options:

Difficulty options menu

Much like what has been shown in the upcoming Tomb Raider game, We Happy Few offers a pretty substantial difficulty menu. There are the standard easy, normal, and hard options, each with preset choices, or you can individually change various aspects of the game to create an experience tailored to your preferences or needs. Each option also comes with a description of what changing that setting would do as well.

Player character sneaking in demolished building.
Player character sneaking in grassy area.

The onscreen status indicators are quite helpful as well (again, especially so considering the sound caption issue). They are displayed by both a symbol and color. Your conformity is indicated by the little face at the top of the screen. When not suspicious looking or acting, you get a white smile. When your looks or behavior makes you suspect, you get a red frown. You also get written status indicators, such as “You are concealed” and “Warning! you are trespassing.” Whenever you’re doing something that could result in trouble, it’s red. Safety or neutral is indicated by white (unfortunately there are no colorblind options). The last indicator at the top is whether or not whatever you are doing is making noise.

We Happy Few left early access with some of the best deaf accessibility options we’ve seen thus far (even though some of them don’t quite work yet, hopefully that will be remedied). It’s a unique and interesting game, that we’ve been excited about for a long time, and it’s a rare game that lives up to our expectations both game wise and in terms of accessibility.

Edited on 8/25/2019 with DLC updates:

Since launch, We Happy Few has released two of its three DLCs, They Came from Below and Lightbearer. Both DLCs add a couple new mechanics that don’t impact the game’s Deaf/hoh accessibility. Even with the Lightbearer DLC introducing a music-based mechanic, the sounds are represented visually, so Deaf/hoh players don’t miss out on anything!