Exploring The Last of Us: Part II’s Accessibility Options
You might think that accessibility options in videogames exist for others. However, the ease with which many of us access games is very much taken for granted. Issues such as colour-blindness or the inability to use part or whole of your arms or hands can make games almost impossible to play for some people. It’s therefore great to see Naughty Dog providing a whole raft of options in this area to help players enjoy The Last of Us: Part II in their own individual ways.
Naughty Dog has gone beyond just assisting those with a disability. They have also provided customisation options that open the game up for all manner of potential new players. Got a partner who finds these games too hard? There’s an options combo here that will have them ripping through clickers like a pro. Suffer from motion sickness with games? There are tweaks to help. Let us dive into each option screen available and talk about how it might affect gameplay.
The big option here is the ability to completely remap the controls. There are some pre-sets available, but you can absolutely go to town with whatever control map you want. There are also options for boat controls, rope/ladder movement, having to aim for melee and how the controller accepts your input for strumming the guitar. The guitar is one of the coolest things in the game – using the touch-pad, you can play individual notes or strum chords, moving up various neck positions. I can see people recording song performances using this mode. The options available for this will help them to gain the right feel for “playing” the instrument.
Also here are options that relate to holding or pressing the buttons to make them active, such as listening mode, aiming and sprinting. I used sprint quite a bit in the game and those moments when it is necessary to run for long periods of time would certainly lend themselves to the character being locked into sprint mode as you escape danger.
Magnification and Visual Aids
This menu is not just for the hard of seeing. Here, you can make everything you see on the screen a comfortable size and colour. You can change the HUD scale and colour (including colour-blind mode), whether the HUD flashes or not, activate a screen magnifier and turn on translation prompts. Not all of us sit right in front of the screen, so I think the option to enlarge the HUD and tweak everything else around it is great.
I am fortunate to not get motion sick with games, but for some it can be a real issue, causing them to miss out on playing some titles entirely. These options give you sliders for the likes of camera shake, motion blur, camera distance, field of view and full-screen effects. You can even put a persistent dot in the centre of the screen to help keep your brain at ease.
Navigation and Traversal
There are heaps of options available here and they can strongly affect how you experience the game. Note that all of these are turned off by default. Firstly, the option for navigation assistance allows you to press L3 to get the camera to face the direction that you should follow. This can be combined with enhanced listen mode – which scans for items and enemies while in listen mode – to direct you to the most recently scanned enemy or item. The design of the game is such that I often found myself wanting a bit of assistance in the direction that I should be going. After a while, there’s usually a prompt to press L3 which then moves the camera towards your objective. However, having it available whenever you want would be quite handy.
Traversal assistance simplifies the input needed for difficult jumps. It also lets you climb ledges, vault obstacles, sprint in certain encounters and squeeze through gaps without needing to press a button. If you have this turned on, you might also want to activate ledge guard, which gives you audio and vibration feedback when you are getting close to falling off ledges that will kill you.
Enhanced listen mode, as mentioned above, can be further tweaked to increase or decrease its scan range and time. This would be a good option for those who take their time to slowly move through games. You might want to see every interactive option available inside the game’s massive environments before you methodically move through and pick off enemies.
Rounding up this section of options is infinite breath and puzzle-skipping. In general, the underwater sections are over quickly and not difficult to get through. However, some people can get disoriented and feel frustrated when underwater, so I can understand the appeal of turning this on. I’m not so sure about skipping puzzles. There are only a few physics-based puzzles and I found the solutions almost straight away. But still, the option is there, and this is the whole point of opening the game up in this way. Not everyone is a games reviewer or full-time controller junkie, so I need to consider these options from the point of view of someone who is interested in the game but feels left out or alienated when it comes to accessibility.
Text-to-speech and Audio Cues
This enables narration of on-screen text. You do this by touching the touchpad to request a text-to-speech update of your current status. You can adjust the volume of this. The audio cues aren’t just for text either. The environments are busy and complex, so it’s not always clear which areas can be traversed. With traversal audio cues turned on, you can have a sound play for jumpable gaps, climbable ledges and squeeze-throughs (aka sneaky loading places).
This option goes even further, playing cues for pick-ups, breakable glass and whenever you lose movement control. There is also an additional ledge guard option available, which will play a sound when you are in danger of falling off an edge. Although the character often does a little skittish animation when on an edge, this would be handy for players slow to react or who find it difficult to read character movement.
The combat audio cues might be good if you can’t read the animations well. For example, you can turn on an audio cue for whenever you land a shot on the enemy. Conversely, you can have a sound play whenever you are impaled by an arrow. Perhaps most useful is the cue for enemy grabs and strikes, as I often found these difficult to time. My approach was quite heavy on the dodge spam, so a sound that plays whenever an enemy is about to grab me would help a lot.
If a sound cue is not your bag, you can choose to have the controller vibrate a warning instead. This can be turned on for incoming melee attacks, aiming at an enemy and when you land a shot. Further vibration options extend to whenever you strum a correct note on the guitar to progress the story.
Even if none of the above appeals to you, here is where you can really customise your experience. Enemies in The Last of Us: Part II are nasty, quick and hard to kill. Every bullet counts. With the options on display here, you can choose everything from a hardcore run through to aids that will make you a stealth-kill master.
The first option here is Hostages Don’t Escape. I can’t say that I held a hostage long enough for them to escape in my playthrough, being keen to pop a couple of shots at other enemies before finishing off the one I’ve got hold of. However, if this becomes a frustration, there is the option here to stop it happening.
Next is Allies Don’t Get Grabbed. Here’s one that might be worth turning on. During my Survivor+ run, I encountered one section where my companion got grabbed every time I tried to get through, which required reloading the checkpoint quite a few times. Allies getting grabbed reduces your ability to flank, as you must come to their aid, so this is an impactful option.
Enemies Don’t Flank and Reduced Enemy Perception are next. These aspects of enemy AI are generally linked to the overall difficulty level you choose, so if you’re on Easy and still having trouble, then that would be the time to dive deeper with these kinds of options. Having said that, enemies flanking can be a right pain and might frustrate certain players, so it’s good that the option is here for them.
Reduced Enemy Accuracy is a much handier option to toggle. This will give you more breathing time to line up shots, as I found enemies very accurate and deadly, pretty much hitting you as soon as you peek out from cover. Reduced pressure in this area would help conserve ammo.
Another option here that grabs my eye is Invisible While Prone. Let me tell you, there are a lot of moments in this game when you think you’ll be right, lying in the grass, only for some asshole guard to wander right up to your position and alert the whole bloody area of your position. Yeah, yeah, it’s realistic, but I must admit I’m tempted to toggle this one on.
The Power is Yours
And there you have it – a suite of accessibility options that are some of the broadest we’ve seen from any AAA game to date. Not only do they open the experience to those with disabilities, but also people who don’t game very much in general and for whom the complex control scheme and systems presented would be overwhelming without some guidance and assistance.
We hope this range of options becomes the norm, a first step for future releases to take note of. Not only does this approach invite a broader potential audience, it gives everyone an appreciation of the complexity of modern gaming and highlights the importance of allowing players to drive their own experiences whenever possible.
Whichever way you decide to play, the intent is clearly for everyone to gain joy from it. Perhaps you will find something within these options that greatly enhances your time with the game.
It is said that Dylan Burns has no shadow, or if he does that it portents a shifting of the elder signs that govern the floating curses of the universe, gathering their power and directing ill intent and misfortune to all game developers that enact post-release patches. Consequently, Dylan’s shadow curse finds itself working overtime, permanently engaged, thus the propagation of legend. When not guiding the swirling forces of evil, Dylan enjoys writing (evil) fiction, taking menacing walks, and lurking behind bus stops with a general demeanour that suggests malevolence.