Deaf Game Review – World War Z

World War Z Deaf Accessibility
1.9 / 6 Reviewer
Pros
Some dialogue is subtitled, helpful enemy radar
Cons
Subtitles are impossible to read and have no speaker labels, essential dialogue is not subtitled, chat is inaccessible
Visual Representation of Dialogue
Visual Representation of Sound
Visual Cues
Controller Vibration
Player Communication

I struggled quite a lot with this review. On one hand, as tired as I am of zombies, shooting, exploding, and hacking your way through a horde of zombies a hundred deep is satisfying. On the other hand, playing this as a hard of hearing person reviewing the deaf/hoh accessibility, it makes me want to uninstall it and never play again.

Game settings menu

The good news? There are subtitles you can turn on! The bad? There are no size options and they’re tiny, there are no speaker labels which for four person groups speaking in cutscenes seems like a questionable decision. Oh and the tiny subtitles are yellow which is never a good color choice and at times, the subtitle text appeared as entire paragraphs on the screen.

Four person squad standing outside dilapidated subway station. Illegible subtitles shown at bottom.

Here are the terrible subtitles. Somebody is speaking but I can’t tell you who or what they’re saying. Hope it’s not important.

Audio settings menu

You’ve got your usual volume sliders and since this is a multiplayer game, there’s a slider for voice chat volume. Is the voice chat accessible like it’s supposed to be in 2019? Nope.

Character looking down from atrium balcony, hundreds of zombies shown below.

Another thing completely absent from this game is any kind of sound visualization or captioning. In the above image, hearing players will be alerted to the presence of hundreds of very loud zombies that they will soon be killing. Is it necessary to include this? No. I didn’t die a million times because I didn’t hear the zombies below. But deaf/hoh players deserve immersion too and the lack of this makes it quite boring.

Horde of zombies attacking player character with directional damage indicator shown at the center of the screen.

One of the nice features is the directional damage indicator. Though since they’re zombies and not soldiers and attack in very big groups, it’s not exactly helpful because by the time you see it, you’re already taking damage.

A major feature missing from the game is the subtitling of your squad’s call-outs. They tell you essential things, like whether there is a creeper or a bull nearby (enemies that inflict high damage and sneak up on you). Your squad will always mention their presence but it’s never indicated for deaf/hoh players.

Player character standing in a dark hallway, red silhouette of a "screamer" enemy shown on the right.

The one kind of enemy given a visual cue even if you’re not within range are the screamers, which again seems like a questionable choice considering they just stand there and scream and don’t sneak up and attack you like the other two types I mentioned previously.

Lastly, there is your minimap/radar which will show you when the regular enemies are coming and from where. Very helpful, as it’s quite easy to be overtaken by enemies given the size of the hordes.

All in all, World War Z is a mess when it comes to deaf/hoh accessibility. Between the illegible yellow subtitles, the inaccessible chat, and the non-subtitled squad callouts, I can’t recommend this one for deaf/hoh players.

The rest of the settings:

Control scheme options

Controls aren’t remappable but there are several schemes to choose from.

Camera options menu
Control settings menu
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Co-founder and EIC of Can I Play That?, captioner of many things, occasional writer of fiction. Any pronouns. courtney@caniplaythat.com

Courtney Craven

Co-founder and EIC of Can I Play That?, captioner of many things, occasional writer of fiction. Any pronouns. courtney@caniplaythat.com