Deaf / Hoh Game Review – Ghost Recon Breakpoint

Ghost Recon Breakpoint is the new game from Ubisoft. It’s a tactical shooter taking place in an open world system. This is our review for Hoh gamers.
Game Accessibility Nexus

Review copy provided by Ubisoft.

I’m Alexia, born with progressive hearing loss (at the moment, profound loss on left and moderate-severe loss on right ear) and even though I call myself deaf nowadays, I have been living more under hard of hearing perspective for most of my life, but in games I usually play without sound of the game, I just plug my headphones into my iPod, however, with Breakpoint I did play both hearing (with hearing aids and without) and just no sound from the game at all. Obviously, with sound is easier to play with, but there are still areas to improve.

I’ll start with the settings that I think it’s relevant for deaf/HoH players: audio. In some of them, I’ll also mention the gameplay aspect that relate to the setting. As you can see below, the settings are duplicated in three tabs, Interface, Audio and Accessibility:

Language menu with subtitles options for size, background opacity and speaker name.
Accessibility menu with subtitles options for size, background opacity and speaker name.

There is no Always or On option for the Subtitles and Speaker Name as the other games would have. I would love for it to be implemented later with a patch, but I’m aware that it might not be possible or happen so soon, but it’s still great there are at least subtitles. Since the enemies are always chatting with others, and your character is also talking quite a lot to themselves, which makes me wonder if they are commenting something about the environment or just reacting vocally to pain, tiredness, etc., it doesn’t show up in the subtitles.

I only knew they were talking if I was playing with sound, which is a gameplay problem for me, because it’s harder to immerse myself in the story and understand what is going on with my character. Not to mention the NPCs that are talking that might say something relevant or interesting, that I won’t have access to that information because it doesn’t show up in Dynamic subtitles, while someone hearing will have access. But as I said, that’s a gameplay problem for me, and it might not be for someone else. It’s perfectly fine to play with the Dynamic option, because it’ll show up when you are interacting with NPCs and characters for main story or side missions.

Being Dynamic, it means that it’ll only show Subtitles or Speaker Names according to the context (there are characters that I have absolutely no idea what is their name because their speaker name never showed up).

Below is an image taken from Ubisoft’s site, about accessibility features in Far Cry New Dawn (I don’t own it, but I have heard great stuff about it). This is where you can see why the options for Breakpoint felt a setback.

Far Cry New Dawn options for subtitles including speaker name on and sound subtitles.

There is no Sound Subtitles in Breakpoint, as you can see when you compare the menus for Far Cry New Dawn and Breakpoint.

Sound such as animals, explosions, choppers, etc, is missed in the Dynamic option, which is relevant in this game, because there are crafting and hunting elements to it (similar to Far Cry series, where you have to hunt animals to harvest their skins and harvest fruits and plants  to craft something or even upgrade certain items), so not knowing what is the sound or even that there is an animal with me in that area can be frustrating at times (and lead to jump scares). You can even spend minutes trying to figure out what exactly is that sound and if you are about to die or not, or unknowingly walk by animals that you need for crafting something.

Unfortunately, the sound directionality/localization is a mess all over the place.

There were numerous moments I got scared by loud voices, which led me to think that I had someone right by my side, but looking at the minimap, they were actually at least 50m away. It’s also difficult to pinpoint where the sound is coming from, as sometimes they seem to be coming off only ahead or behind you and never from your sides. I also had moments where a guy was very close by me, but it seemed like his voice was very far away from me. So because of those inconsistencies, it’s hard to rely on it. I’m not sure if it was improved with the recent patch because I haven’t played yet. 

Despite no Always option for subtitles, the freedom of customizing the size and background of subtitles is impressive. It also surprised me they changed the background between Closed Beta and the release. Originally it seemed to be a kind of striped background, while now it’s solid black with blurry edges, which in my experience is much better (since I also have astigmatism, the stripes can be headache-inducing since each eye has a different axis for astigmatism, which can lead to situations of conflicting images in the brain and I definitely experienced a bit of this while playing).

Now the settings for the text chat:

Text chat options including text chat size, background, auto-display, expanded view and profanity filter.

Which again, it’s extremely customizable, however, I do miss having a preview option for the Text Chat Background option, the default option is somewhat transparent and you can easily miss messages, so I had to put in a number, close the menu, test the chat, then open again, try another number and so on until I got a number that worked for me.

Something that I appreciate is having the option to customize completely the HUD (I didn’t put screenshots of the settings here because it’s a massive list), however, I took a screenshot while playing coop to show how it can be overwhelming having all the information all the time. I have changed the settings so only some of the info is constantly on my screen while the others are in the Dynamic option, which means it’ll disappear according to context (for example, if I’m running or sitting while looking around with the scope to check for enemies and so on). The second screenshot shows how it can become minimalist. You can make it even more minimalist than I made.

Character crouching with the HUD customized to show mission objectives, health, ammo, stamina, minimap and teammate markers.
Character crouching with the HUD customized to show health, ammo, and teammate markers only.

For example, the way the enemy presence is highlighted in the minimap is a blessing for me, since I don’t need to be constantly worrying if I’ll find an enemy right in my front. If you haven’t identified them in some way, it’ll appear as red blurry areas, so I can just avoid it or search those areas with my sniper scope and try to find all of them (and the red will disappear once all enemies have been identified/marked). 

Another thing that was disappointing for me, due to how misleading it can be: the Speech-to-Text option. I thought it was a feature also aimed for deaf and HoH players, because of how the function is described (pictured below):

Accessibility menu showing options for Text to speech and Speech to text in chat.

However, after researching, I found out that actually it’s just the typical Speech-to-Text: it’ll write down what you are speaking. So, yes, it could have been described better to diminish the confusion (and I wasn’t the only one confused by it from what I saw on Twitter).

I have noticed there is a weird bug going on with it, because even though my mic was muted, it was still typing down some words while I was typing in the chat. Maybe some interference from the game or voice chat? It was also not working that well when I was playing in coop.

Another feature that was disappointing, at least for me, was the Ping. I’m very used to the Rainbow Six Siege ping system, in which you can ping something/somewhere and the ping will be clearly distinguished from everything else (because it’s bright yellow) and stay a bit longer, while in the Breakpoint, it doesn’t seem to stay more than a couple of seconds and it isn’t easily recognizable because it’s blue, very similar to the icon of teammate. So it can be easily lost in the action. In R6, it’s part of a communication system with my friends (so they can quickly warn me if they heard or saw something), but I don’t see how it would be possible to use as a communication tool in Breakpoint. I’m hoping they improve this feature so it can better be distinguished from the background and other icons.

Now being a bit of a nitpicker, I wish there were more visual cues for the non-combat moments, such as an indication of the sound direction of cars coming by or the presence of animal sound and so on. So far I only noticed visual cues of direction of gunfire, which are big red arrows flashing (as you can see below), and in the middle of action with lots of gunfire and grenades, having the red arrow constantly flashing in different areas led me to some confusion and even made me think it was actually a grenade warning. It can also be easily missed if you have the red area on the ground (which signals the mortar impact area) at the same time.

The enemy shots indicated by red arrows flashing while the character runs away from them.

I also think that the choppers, drones and planes don’t have adequate visual cues (which apparently, Far Cry New Dawn had visual cues of the sound direction and a brief description of them), I would only realize there was one because of the visual cue of being detected/seen by them. Even playing with sound, I would only realize a bit late that there was one flying above me, because as I mentioned, the sound localization is a bit confusing and not that reliable.

Conclusions

Despite all those points (and me sounding a little bit negative about the game), they are very specific and most of them is me being a nitpicker. The game is great in many senses, because it still offers accessibility, it isn’t a game that doesn’t offer absolutely nothing. There were improvements and a bit of setback compared to Far Cry Dawn. And what helps a lot in games such as Breakpoint is the fact that you can play it however you want, so if I want to play as a sniper and have an assault rifle for close fight, I can. But it also offers the possibility of playing in stealth, or just full on assault and so on. This helps immensely the gameplay, since I don’t have to adapt my gameplay to the game, not to mention that you can select the difficulty level and still opt in or out of having the guided mode. I absolutely loved Breakpoint exactly because I can customize as much as possible of the HUD and difficulty and still play the way I want to.

Deaf / Hoh Accessibility Review - Ghost Recon Breakpoint

OVERALL SCORE - 7.4

7.4