After one successful round of the Back 4 Blood beta, it’s back ‘4’ more with a second stint running from August 12th to the 16th. The first dose of beta access brought in a huge swathe of gamers with Steam almost racing to 100k concurrent players at its peak. With so many people checking out the game, it’s imperative that the game’s accessibility features are up to scratch.
Luckily, that’s a huge focus for the team at Turtle Rock Studios. In our recent interview, Lead Game Designer Brandon Yanez told us about the team’s philosophy when it comes to accessibility:
‘When we hear of a new feature that can help somebody else experience our game, we do our best to try and include it. Even if it’s not perfect at launch, moving forward we want to ensure that everybody can play our products.’
Here’s a rundown of the accessibility features currently available in Back 4 Blood’s Open Beta:
Text to Speech and Speech to Text
When you first launch the Back 4 Blood Open Beta, you’ll be met with the accessibility feature screen. It’s great that this menu is the first one that players see. When accessibility menus are buried behind several screens, it can be difficult for impaired players to access the settings that are supposed to assist them in the first place. Back 4 Blood places them front and centre.
You’ll also be met with the Text to Speech filter turned on by default. This is another great touch that means visually impaired people will be able to navigate the menus from the get-go. Leaving this setting on will translate all menu text into spoken word, assisting those with reduced visual capacity who might struggle to read menu text.
If you like, it’s possible to swap the text to speech between male and female voices depending on your personal preference. Text language settings are also on offer and can change between a variety of localised dialects.
Going the other way, there’s also a speech to text feature. Enabling this setting will convert players voices coming through the in-game comms into readable text. It’s especially useful for those who are hard of hearing. While the feature is included, we haven’t yet had a chance to test how accurate the conversion is.
Across all of the text settings, there’s a profanity filter that can block out a list of censored words. This is especially useful if there’s young ones around in the room, but it can also be a good peace of mind feature. Afterall, games are meant to be fun – we can sometimes do without the negative expletives crowding our screens at the end of the day.
Visual Effects and UI
Moving on to visual effects, Back 4 Blood includes an accessibility setting to adjust the strength of the camera’s motion. It’s set to maximum by default, but reducing it will make the first-person camera much more still as you move through the world. The slider goes from 0-100% so you can dial in an exact setting that works for you.
The camera in Back 4 Blood can get quite active when the action starts to get busy. Big explosions will knock your player character model back considerably, which can make the game hard to keep track of. The camera motion strength setting might also help to reduce motion sickness. A wide field of view selection is available, too.
Next up is Waypoint Opacity. Another 0-100% slider, this one customises how transparent or opaque the 3D UI elements are. It’s set to 100% by default which will mean the waypoint markers are always 100% visible. This can be helpful for those that are visually impaired, however some players may wish to reduce this setting. With so much action happening on the screen, reducing the opacity of the UI might help some players to more easily interpret what’s happening in the game.
Another visual implementation is the colourblind modes. There are five different settings to choose, including the default mode. These settings will change the colour gradients of the game’s UI and weapon reticles. The Back 4 Blood interface occasionally uses colour to convey gameplay information, so it’s important that the game properly supports colourblind profiles.
As would be expected, there’s robust closed captioning functionality here. You can customise the font colour as well as the font size.
There’s some assistance here for those who experience muscle fatigue. Gameplay actions like sprinting and aiming can be changed from a press and hold action to a toggle. Another great implementation is that you can set semi-automatic weapons to fire automatically. Pressing the same button repeatedly for actions like this can prove difficult for those with motor disabilities, so it’s great to see thought put into settings like these.
In addition, there’s a comprehensive button rebind menu which allows you to completely remap the control scheme to something more suitable. The rebind menu is available across both PC and Console platforms, too.
When loading up a campaign for the first time, you’ll be asked what sort of difficulty you’d like to play on. There are three options to choose from which range from Easy to Hard. Easy sees enemies with relatively low health pools, a reduced number of total enemies, and no friendly fire. It scales up between the Medium and Hard modes with each step increasing the difficulty dramatically.
The difficulty offerings have caused some uproar in the Back 4 Blood community. Some players think that the Easy mode is a bit of a cake walk while the step up to Medium is quite the jump. I’d have to agree – after breezing through a campaign run on Easy, playing on Medium takes considerably more effort. We’re obviously still in the Beta phase and so Turtle Rock might still have some game balancing to do.
However, it would be nice to see some more customization when it comes to difficulty. Separating out aspects like enemy damage and friendly fire would let players curate an experience that works best for them, rather than being tied into three arbitrary options.
Those are the big accessibility options available in the Back 4 Blood Open Beta right now. While there are some great offerings, we would like to see improvements made in some areas.
How do you rate the accessibility features in the Back 4 Blood Open Beta? Let us know across our social channels.
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Featured Image Credit: Turtle Rock Studios/WB Games