However, as time went by and I had the chance to actually try these games first hand, I realised that there were ways around some of the navigational issues I thought would be encountered.
Now, over a decade on, with the Xbox One X available to consumers providing 4K content, I thought it'd be a good idea to explore what the first person shooters of now and the future could do to improve their accessibility as a player with no sight. It goes without saying that the simple addition of Microsoft's newly released Speech Synthesis API for Xbox One, allowing for spoken menus and in-game UI elements would help enormously for those without sight and other disabilities as well. However, given that no commercially available titles have used this yet, there's nothing to compare it to.
As a result of a lack of concrete examples of Speech Synthesis UI implementation on a console platform, this accessibility review focuses on the audio side of things, as well as ease of use in terms of menus and CoPilot during campaign.
Now, with that small introduction out of the way, let's get into what would need to be tweaked to make this game more accessible and, by the same token, more enjoyable without sight.
As a result, not being able to hear these cues, even when very little is going on in-game is problematic to varying degrees.
In a 3d title like Titanfall 2, footsteps can indicate where enemies are in rough proximity to you and, whilst it might not be foolproof, can allow you to more easily target specific opponents in an attempt to take them down. Titanfall 2's footsteps are unfortunately, very quiet and sometimes inaudible. However, oddly enough, there are times where they stand out but it seems to be relatively random, possibly relating to the level of action going on around the player and not accounting for it and adjusting the volume accordingly.
This means that even if you think you might be moving freely around the corridors, pathways and higher points of a map, you could just as well be stuck up against a wall and very much in danger of being shot from a vantage point invisible to you by a sniper or an AI opponent who can eliminate you with little effort.
Solving this issue is just a matter of turning up the footsteps in the mix so that they're audible, but not overpowering. This would likely be best achieved by user testing with blindfolded candidates who have sight anyway or, better yet, with gamers with no sight. That being said, the detail in the footsteps is noticeable and does give a sense of speed to the character as well as what surface they are walking on.
Given that wall-running is a large part of Titanfall 2, it would be helpful to be able to tell when you're wall-running as well. Only one loadout seems to have an easy way to get up to higher points without sight, namely the grappling hook, which unfortunately suffers from the issue of activating when there are no grapple points nearby. WHilst this might not seem like a big problem, it's frustrating when you are stuck just pressing the button and hoping there's a higher point to get to in the vicinity.
If there was less of a need for reliance on the grappling hook, there is potential for a larger degree of experimentation with other weapons and loadouts in general.
With games like this, the most important thing, understandably, is to line up an enemy, pull the trigger and make sure they're down without any chance of getting up. When you can't see, you're basically stuck at the first hurdle partly because of a lack of a way to reorient your weapon so that it's not pointing either straight down at the ground or up into the air.
Both of these positions aren't great to have a weapon pointing in, whether you can see or not. Having a button (left stick click, for example, or even the left trigger to combine with aiming down sights) would be a partial step in allowing players without sight to be on a more even playing field.
As mentioned above, having your weapon in the roughly correct position is one part of the well-oiled FPS machine of neutralising a target. Being able to make sure you've locked on to an enemy so that your shots won't miss is a whole other ball game without sight. Titanfall2, whilst it does have some lock on-enabled weapons, doesn't actually give you these as part of the standard loadouts.
Instead, when you're in the Tone titan loadout (which has access to a lock on-compatible weapon), you have to first fire 3 tracking rounds that will, if all successfully connected, allow you to utilise this targeting system.
I understand the argument that a locking system would be considered as cheating by some, though if it's an option that doesn't break gameplay or has a balance to counteract it, it definitely has potential.
There is, however a different solution, namely using both an auditory and haptic cue to indicate proximity to a full targeting solution. This means that when you're targeting an enemy, there would be an auditory indicator, which could, for example, increase in pitch as you get closer to a direct line of sight with your current weapon, with vibrations starting slowly and getting quicker to serve similar functions.
Briefly returning to footsteps as well,, having footsteps that were easily audible to players would make the process of targeting AI and human opponents easier. With the frantic pace of gameplay, anything that can be done to decrease the skill gap would be appreciated.
But when everyone's human, apart from titans that will take a massive beating before going down, the problem is magnified by the fact that there are no distinct vocal cues to indicate friendly from enemy players or AI-controlled grunts.
Given that, in the first Titanfall, you could simply tell who the good and bad guys were via their accents, it's almost a shame that this method seems to have been lost in this latest instalment. That being said, having any kind of method of telling enemies from friendly units would be of great help. This could take the form of haptic and audio cues that play when in the proximity of an enemy, indicating direction and height, though I understand that these might seem complicated to implement at first.
Any additional accessibility options should be easy to enable and disable so that users can get a customised experience in a videogame, Titanfall 2 or otherwise.
The cutscenes are well put together and definitely allow you to feel involved with the characters and the story even if, at times, it gets a little strange and clichéd. If you're playing via CoPilot and you have a good speaker setup, use it and you won't regret it as the blockbuster sound of this game, which did have an unfortunate launch window, blasts away.
If you have sighted assistance and enough controllers though, Titanfall 2 is certainly an experience worth engaging in, due to the sheer scope of the combat and the story which, whilst it might seem a little clichéd in places, really does work well even as a simulated co-op experience.
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