Deaf Game Review – Control

Game reviewed on Xbox One

Control Deaf Accessibility
2.9 / 6 Reviewer
Pros
Most dialogue is subtitled, subtitle text size options, speaker labels for subtitles, subtitle text background
Cons
No sound visualization at all in a game that really needs it, frequent dialogue references to in-game sounds with no visual indication of the sound being mentioned, no visual cue for enemies paired with their auditory cues
Visual Representation of Dialogue
Visual Representation of Sound
Visual Cues
Controller Vibration

I think I might be the only person in the world not fawning over Remedy’s newest game, Control. I’ve seen many people talking about its marvelous accessibility, while I’m sitting here dying for the 800th time because aside from its one notable Deaf/hoh accessibility feature — subtitle size options — the Deaf/hoh accessibility is nonexistent.

Jesse walking in a dark office area, image displays large subtitles.

Control is a game in which the entire story surrounding the enemies playable character Jesse will face is centered on the noise they make. The Hiss. Sounds cool, right? And I’m sure it is. I’m sure it adds to the immersion for The Hiss to be making their hissing noises and for NPCs to be talking about it around you. But if you can’t hear The Hiss? Well, you’re SOL because there’s no visualization for them whatsoever.

My time with Control is a series of these huge oversights. There’s a whole exchange early in the game between Jesse and Emile, one of the first nice people you meet, in which she asks you (in nice big subtitles), “Do you hear that?”

Nope, Emily. Nope, I didn’t hear it. I have no earthly idea what you’re talking about because the only reference to “that” is an auditory one.

There was another instance with Emily in which she calls to Jesse, “Hey! Over here!” in a room full of people and there’s no indication, save for the directionality of the sound hearing players will be aware of. So once again, WTF, Emily? Over where?

And these annoyances are only the beginning of the issues Deaf/hoh players will face. My biggest struggle in the game was knowing where the hell all the enemies were even coming from. Enemies who, thanks to Jesse’s minuscule amount of HP, all feel very overpowered, so players that can’t hear where they’re coming from will die over and over and over again, until you’ve died enough times to memorize where the enemies will appear. Another problem? While their gunfire directionality is visualized, it’s done so in such a minimal way that if you blink, you miss it.

Jesse standing in a large red tinted room.

The only visual tell that there will be enemies somewhere is the red glow that fills areas. Visual indicators for enemies don’t actually appear until you have spotted them and by the time you’ve done that, they’re shooting at you and you’re probably dead. There’s no minimap to aid you in this either, so playability for Deaf/hoh people really does come down to dying enough times to memorize a location, which for me, is just not a fun way to have to play a game.

Jesse standing in an office area with an enemy approaching from a red tinted hallway.
Visual indicators appear for enemies only once you’ve actually seen them.

All in all, unless Deaf/hoh players want to have to play in the very specific manner of hiding behind objects and picking off enemies one by one as they come at you (and this isn’t a Sniper game so it’s not as though your gun was designed to be used in this way) they might find themselves having a very hard time due to the complete lack of sound visualization. The story may very well fall flat too because the world of Control is so fleshed out through sounds — like I mentioned, the enemy you spend your time fighting is named for its sound — and none of it is visualized.

While Remedy may have included some fantastic accessibility options in general, they failed to achieve Deaf/hoh accessibility in a big way. Subtitles are far from the only part of Deaf/hoh accessibility that need to be taken into consideration when trying to make a game accessible.

See menus and settings images below:

Gameplay options
More gameplay options
Control options
Interface options
More interface options