Deaf Game Review – Gears of War 5

Review copy provided courtesy of Microsoft, game reviewed on Xbox One.

Gears of War 5 Deaf Accessibility
6 / 6 Reviewer
Pros
All dialogue is subtitled, size options for subtitles, background for subtitles, sound description in subtitles, visualization for all important in-game sounds
Cons
Not a single thing!
Visual Representation of Dialogue
Visual Representation of Sound
Visual Cues
Controller Vibration
Player Communication

Readers, you are about to see something I don’t think we’ve ever been able to do before in all of our years of Deaf/hoh accessibility reviews. What follows isn’t so much a review as it’s a series of “Look at all the things they got so very right.” Because what they got right is everything. There’s not a single thing I can say needs improving in terms of Gears 5’s Deaf/hoh accessibility.

If you’ve been reading our reviews for a while, you may have noticed we tend to sound like a broken record in our critiques of games. So if you’re a Deaf/hoh player, here is proof that there are devs who listen and are actively working to make games playable for everyone (there are many but it can often seem like we’re shouting into the void). For devs who want to learn how to make the most Deaf/hoh accessible game ever, here’s a guide.

So here we go. Look at all the things Gears 5 nails in Deaf/hoh accessibility:

Game start settings menu

Upon launching the game, you’re presented with these essential options. You can toggle subtitles and select the text size before you see any sort of gameplay or cutscene.

How are those subtitles, you ask? Amazing. Just amazing. They may very well be the most information-inclusive subtitles I’ve seen in any game ever.

Gameplay scene with large subtitles and (on radio) shown to indicate from where the person is speaking.

They tell you from where you’re being spoken to, like above, Kait is not who knows where speaking to you, she’s on the radio. And there’s nice use of ellipses to indicate pauses in speech.

Subtitles illustrating what the voice sounds like. <distorted> shown here.

They describe what the speaker sounds like when they’re speaking to you!

Subtitle text describing the sounds a character makes.

They even tell you exactly what non-speaking sounds the characters make.

But best of all is something that SO many games overlook:

<music settles> subtitle text.

You know how most games pair music with fighting scenes and the end of the music is how hearing players tell that scene is over and they’ve killed everything that needs killing? It’s never ever depicted to Deaf/hoh players. UNTIL NOW!

I couldn’t get a screenshot of it because I’m playing with one hand this morning thanks to a bad arm injury, but your robot buddy, Dave/Jack, has a ping ability from the start of the game that you can activate and you’ll be shown an outline of all nearby enemies within range. On top of that, when you’re zoomed in aiming at an enemy, there’s a little dot that will display above their head, even when they’re in cover, so you can keep track of where they are.

Sound visualization of both damage intensity and direction and gunshot direction.

It’s also made very clear from where you’re taking damage (that bloody outline of the gear shown at the top center of the screen) that indicates directionality and the intensity of said damage. Also made abundantly clear is where gunfire is coming at you from. Those two yellow lines show you precisely where enemies are shooting at you from.

One last thing I was unable to get a screenshot of is the ability to tag enemies. When zoomed in to fire at an enemy, you can tap a button to tag them and a handy red circle will be displayed over their head, even when they’re off-screen, so you don’t ever lose track of them.

I didn’t play it (because I hate playing games with other people) but for multiplayer, the chat function has both text to speech and speech to text. Both can be toggled in the accessibility menu.

And so you see, dear reader, Gears 5 is essentially a masterclass in Deaf/hoh accessibility. Everything we’ve been harping about games lacking and therefore made more difficult for Deaf/hoh players to play has been implemented and in the 6 years I’ve been doing these reviews, damn it feels good to feel like, hey, people have been listening.

See below for all settings/menus:

Face trigger control scheme
Default control scheme.
Game options menu.
Accessibility options 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