Deaf Game Review – The Division 2

Review copy of The Division 2 was provided courtesy of Ubisoft.

The Division 2 Deaf Accessibility
4.8 / 6 Reviewer
Pros
All dialogue is subtitled, multiple size options for subtitle text, accessible group chat (maybe, depending on whether players enable it), combat barks are subtitled, helpful visual cues
Cons
No visual indication for nearby gunfire, occasionally subtitle text isn't onscreen long enough to read it all, "full captions" pertain to player and NPC sounds only and not environmental sounds
Visual Representation of Dialogue
Visual Representation of Sound
Visual Cues
Controller Vibration
Player Communication

“Washington D. C. is on the brink of collapse. Lawlessness and instability threaten our society, and rumors of a coup in the capitol are only amplifying the chaos.”

Ubisoft

Believe it or not, this isn’t a real headline. It’s the description for The Division 2 coming March 15th from Ubisoft. As in the first game, in The Division 2, you play as a Division agent on a mission to save a city and therefore, save America. Personally, I’m kind of meh about the whole idea of saving the country but the new features in The Divison 2 make it a hell of a lot of fun to play.

Ubisoft took what they did well with Deaf/HoH accessibility in the first Division game, improved it, and added even more welcome features to improve the experience for Deaf/HoH players.

The Division 2 subtitle setup screen

For subtitles, players have four options: None, scripted dialogue, dialogue and barks, and dialogue and barks plus full captions. You get example text of what each selection will look like (something I found very helpful as I played and tried to figure out who was speaking). You can also choose your size for text from small, medium, and large (large is shown in the above image). On top of that, you can adjust the contrast of the subtitle background (I found it necessary to increase it a bit from the default).

Player character in cover, enemy proximity indicator shows enemies in the distance.
Player character in cover, enemy proximity indicator shows enemies nearby.

As in the first game, you’ve got the always helpful enemy proximity and approximate location indicator on your minimap/radar. The dashed red lines around the outside of the circle indicate that an enemy is in the distance, the solid bars filling in the circle indicate that the enemy is nearby. The red around the whole thing tells you you’re in a hostile area.

Player character in a gunfight, white bar on center of screen showing enemy fire direction and intensity.

Also essential for Deaf/HoH players is the enemy gunfire direction and intensity indicator (the white bar with the pointy thing in the center of the screen).

A very new feature we’ll be seeing in more games in the future is the text-to-speech and speech-to-text options for the group chat. The issue here (I imagine, as I’ve not played with anyone yet) is that Deaf/HoH players need to rely on others to have this feature enabled if they’re using voice chat. I assume this because of the description of the feature saying, “Send speech as text to group.” This description doesn’t indicate that if you toggle it on, you’ll receive all group chat as text, only that you can send your own speech as text.

Given my many poor experiences playing games with random strangers, somehow I doubt many will have this feature turned on unless you’re playing with friends. So, in my opinion, this shouldn’t be an option for players, it should just happen automatically and players should just be allowed to toggle chat on or off entirely. Somehow I just don’t imagine a Deaf or HoH player saying, “Hey, group, I’m hard of hearing, would you mind going into the accessibility menu and turning this feature on for me?” going well. At all.

Player character walking  down deserted street with three sets of subtitles on screen at once.
Player character walking up outpost ramp with three sets of subtitles displayed on screen at once.

One issue I ran into with the subtitles was in times when there was a lot of dialogue and barks and such going on, all of the text appearing onscreen at once didn’t stay onscreen for long enough for me to read and understand where it was all coming from.

Opening scene of game, player character standing near tree looking at rundown house.

Now for my nit picky accessibility+immersion issue. There is so much going on in the game world, sound wise, that creates player immersion. In the above scene, there were too many ambient noises for me to even list and even with the full captions setting turned on, there’s no caption for them, as captions are reserved only for character and NPC sounds. The sound subtitles from Far Cry New Dawn really spoiled me and I want to see them in every game forever.

All in all, when it comes to Deaf/HoH accessibility, The Division 2 is one of the most accessible online multiplayer games I’ve seen. Even with a few minor issues, Ubisoft has again set a standard for all games to strive. Deaf/HoH players will have a fair and equal experience (combat-wise) as our hearing peers.