A lot of games can, if we’re being honest with ourselves, be pretty impenetrable. If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably got years of DualShock practice under your belt, and so utilising both analogue sticks in order to line up perfect headshots feels organic. It can be easy to forget, however, that not everyone finds the majority of PlayStation 4 titles quite so pick-up-and-play.
The answer isn’t simply to “git gud”, as you’ll no doubt have read on forums before. Naughty Dog’s brand of cinematic action has attracted an entirely new audience to the industry, but these people may not be particularly well-versed in the language of traditional AAA game design. How do you allow them to enjoy titles such as The Last of Us: Part II, then, without putting them off?
The Californian developer’s response has been to make practically everything in the anticipated sequel customisable. There are multiple difficulty levels, ranging from the story-centric Lightest all the way up to the hardcore Survivor, and these can be tweaked entirely to your tastes. You can adjust sports game-esque sliders to determine, for example, how much damage you take or how alert enemies are.
Then there are the comfort options. It all starts relatively straight-forward: you can alter the size of subtitles, enable colour-blind filters, and resize the heads-up display. But these are just the basic toggles: you can also have the title automatically switch your weapon or completely reprogram the control layout to your personal preferences.
And then we move into the area of accessibility: you can play practically the entire game using sound. Naughty Dog has implemented a range of audio triggers which will allow blind players to survey their surroundings, discover items, and eliminate their enemies. An incredible text-to-speech option means that any collectibles or interface items will be read aloud by the title.
For those with partial blindness, or other sight impairment issues, there’s a high contrast mode that colour codes the world, making the geometry grey while enemies are shown in red and allies in blue. You can also use the touchpad to zoom in on particular elements on the screen, similar to how you would on a smartphone.
There’s even an option to slow the action down, so if you don’t have the motor function required to react quickly to intense encounters, you can enable slow-mo to make the aiming during combat more manageable. It’s an incredible suite of options, carefully divided into a series of preset categories, and totally customisable.
Naughty Dog allows you to mix and match the things you want to use, so if you need the additional audio cues but still feel comfortable with a high difficulty – that’s totally fine. Even as “veteran” gamers who were practically born with PlayStation controllers in our paws, we’ve been using the font options to make the text more readable.
There’s a message when you dig into the accessibility interface that says Sony is capturing data on how players use the features, with the implication being that these options will eventually make their way into more first-party games. And so they should: gaming is for everyone, and the more barriers that are removed, the better.
Everyone will be able to enjoy Ellie’s sophomore outing, and considering how good the sequel’s shaping up so far, that’s a net positive for the entire PlayStation community.
Will you be using any of The Last of Us 2's accessibility options? Are you excited to see further iteration on these ideas in the future? Customise the experience in the comments section below.