Horizon: Forbidden West: Still Forbidden to the Blind: A Review

I have no doubt in my mind that Horizon: Forbidden West is amazing. You can tell right from the beginning, as the story opens, that this is going to be something special. The voice acting, the general audio design, the haptics, all these things tell me that, if I could play this game, I would not be disappointed. However, unfortunately for those among the blind community, it is not playable by the totally blind… At least not alone. We’ll get to that in a bit. What follows is my official accessibility review for Horizon: Forbidden West. As always, the game was provided to me by Playstation.

Horizon: Forbidden West absolutely does contain a prominently featured accessibility menu, which is awesome. I was going through its menus using OCR, and still had no trouble locating it. Furthermore, the accessibility features listed are indeed quite good. Aim assist seems to be full, and there are even settings to make certain types of interactions easier. For example, there is a setting which allows you to automatically use a healing item if your health is below 50 percent. And yes, there’s a setting to automatically complete quicktime events. There’s even a setting to automatically activate your shield when available. I have no doubt all these settings would serve to create a more user-friendly, less stressful gameplay experience, and I definitely respect that.

Of course you have your subtitles as well, and your button remapping, all features that have become staples of accessibility these days, and I love them for that. There is, however, one accessibility feature that shines above all the rest.

Helming this game’s list of accessibility features is co-pilot. To my knowledge, this is the first time ever this feature was specifically built into a game. Basically, it allows a second controller, using a separate profile, to mirror the movements of the first, allowing, for instance, a sighted player to take care of the inaccessible bits like navigation, and a blind player to take care of the shooty shooty bang bang. This is just one potential example, of course. A motor-impaired player for whom even remapping may not be enough will still be able to recruit someone to handle all the bits they struggle with, and remain involved with whatever they’re feeling up to doing. It’s a great feature and, unless I’m mistaken on this, could even be utilized via Shareplay as well as locally, since shareplay does allow you to give the second controller to a visitor. I didn’t get a chance to specifically test this feature, so there is a chance that Shareplay wouldn’t work here, but at the very least, you have local co-pilot, which is still pretty awesome.

Now, I do want to address what I know a lot of my readers are thinking. I have said before that I don’t feel adding a co-pilot feature is enough. While it does have value, an ideal scenario would be that we blind folks would have the option of enjoying this single-player game solo, should we so choose. I still feel this way. I recognize that co-pilot does offer an experience to those who otherwise may not be able to experience the game, but at least in terms of blind accessibility, it is not where I want to settle. This game should have navigational assistance, at the very least. Heck, Spiderman: Miles Morales does, along with the remaster of the 2018 Spiderman game, and it’s really quite good. Not fully blind playable, but enough to give me a legitimate taste of what that would look like. This game, though, has nothing like that. No menu narration of any kind either. In that sense, yes, it is still a bit disappointing.

I cannot describe to you what it would be like if the totally blind could actually experience this game to the fullest. I can only direct you to look upon the majority of the blind gaming community’s insanely positive response to the Last of Us Part 2. I can only tell you that I still get thank you messages about that game. I can only tell you that the ability to enjoy a triple A game like it turned non-gaming blind people into gamers. It DID sell consoles. It DID sell games. It made blind gamers excited about the future. Heck, it contributed to some of those awards that game won. Games SHOULD be for everyone. Everyone should have a shot at enjoying a game to its fullest. I know that’s an ideal scenario, and I know it’s really, really hard to make games truly accessible for every single person, but the gap should be far, far smaller than it currently is. All this to say that yes, I still believe there should be more here, but also yes, the accessibility features in Horizon: Forbidden West are good ones.

Anyway, that’s essentially it for this review. Thanks again to Playstation for allowing me to do this, and allowing me to speak my truth about the accessibility of their games. It is definitely appreciated. And thank you for reading, and listening to all these things I have to say. I appreciate that as well. The more I can get folks to absorb this truth, that accessibility for all is the right answer, the happier I am. For now, though, the Forbidden West is still forbidden to us.

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