A little over a month ago, in late April 2020, Sony aired a State of Play presentation all about upcoming action adventure game Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. The presentation was largely focused on plot and gameplay mechanics, but at the end of the presentation we got a VERY short glimpse of the game’s accessibility settings menu, if you were willing to freeze frame through the video.
A couple of weeks ago, Sony sent me an early review copy of Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, allowing me to have a proper look through the game’s accessibility settings, and work out which ones worked well in practice.
So today, on Access-Ability, we’re going to talk about Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. We’re going to talk about which settings worked, which ones needed improvement, and which settings Sony has done better in the past, but is dropping the ball on here.
A quick heads up, all footage being shown during this Video Review was captured in the game’s Fidelity mode.
Let’s start off with one of Sony’s more visibly noticeable accessibility settings options of the past couple of years, High Contrast Mode.
For blind or partially sighted gamers, high contrast mode allows players to change the colours of in game elements, turning the game world greyscale, and selecting colours for regular enemies, boss enemies, collectable pickups, the player character, and a bunch of other UI elements.
The implementation of High Contrast mode in Rift Apart is pretty comparable to Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the settings are all there for players who need them, but are a little less immediately accessible for players who might want to turn them on and off during their play session.
In The Last of Us 2, the first Sony game to really push High Contrast Mode as a setting, players could turn the feature on and off during gameplay, or cutscenes, by swiping left on the touchpad. That functionality wasn’t in Miles Morales, and it isn’t in Rift Apart, you’ll need to pause and navigate several level;s of menus to activate or deactivate the setting.
Additionally, high contrast mode doesn’t function within cutscenes in Rift Apart, another area where it compares unfavourably to The Last of Us 2.
In terms of other visual accessibility settings, players can alter the size of in game icons and prompts, turn off UI parallaxing, and change the colour of certain key text elements.
I am still glad that the game supports High Contrast mode, the level of customisation available really helps the setting be useful to a wide range of players, but it’s a shame no Sony First Party game since The Last of Us 2 has managed to maintain that game’s use of the mode in cutscenes, and easy toggling via touchpad swipe. I am glad the feature is becoming a standard, but Sony has done it better in the past, and I hope we see them do so in future.
In terms of gameplay, one of the most impressive areas of accessibility is the settings available around aim and targeting assistance when shooting enemies. Aim Assist adjusts the speed the game camera moves to help keep enemies in the centre of the screen, auto aim turns the camera toward the nearest enemy when firing, and Lock On automatically targets and locks the camera onto an enemy when aiming. In combination, these can allow a player to essentially hold down aim, hold down the fire button, and automatically shoot in the direction of the nearest enemy.
In practice, you might lock onto enemies who are behind cover, or lock onto an enemy who isn’t your primary threat at that moment. If you need to switch which enemy you are targeting you can do so with a flick of the right stick, and you may need to move your character into a position where they can hit the enemy, but this setting does allow for making aiming at enemies a much simpler process.
All accessibility settings work on all of the game’s four difficulty modes, so if you are someone who might excel at dodging bullets, but struggle to aim at the same time, you can toggle on these settings to help assist in aiming, while still having to manage dodges and jumps in combat.
Additionally of note, the visual, audio, and rumble feedback in Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart are impressive enough in practice that it’s still a lot of fun to play through combat, even with these assists all turned on to their maximum settings.
There’s also a useful toggle for melee attacks, where rather than a single button press resulting in a single melee attack, you can instead set the game to keep doing melee attacks until you press the button a second time, which is great for anyone who struggles with repetitive button inputs.
While Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart makes amazing use of the Dualsense Controller’s haptic rumble and adaptive trigger features, some of the best use I have seen to date on the console, for players who struggle with those settings the game offers a few ways to customise those features. Experiential is the default setting, giving players every sensation from gun recoil to footsteps on particular surfaces, but the game also offers a much more simplified Functional mode, which only vibrates for gameplay important information such as damage being taken, or ammo being picked up. There is also a setting for turning rumble and the adaptive triggers off entirely.
The subtitle options in Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart are pretty robust, with size, colour, speaker tag, background colour and opacity settings available. The game allows you to preview changes to subtitle settings from within the menu itself, saving trips in and out of the menu, which is always appreciated.
While moving around the game world, simplified traversal mode allows players to map all traversal actions, from combat doges to swinging on mid air tethers, to the circle button. While this feature largely worked well, and did a good job simplifying the game’s control layout, I did once or twice encounter situations where pressing the circle button didn’t do what I expected, such as activating hover boots while trying to grab a tether mid jump. It’s not perfect, but if you’re someone who needs fewer buttons in your control setup, it works pretty decently.
As a frequently motion sick player, I found the game’s camera shake reduction setting really useful. I had a very overall smooth experience playing through the game, helped by the additional camera stability. Additionally, the game features the option for a centre screen dot, turning off motion blur, turning off depth of field, and reducing other visual and full screen effects, which I ultimately didn’t need to make use of, but are there if your motion sickness is more acutely impacted by this game than mine.
When traversing the world, some of the more useful settings in my experience included off screen ledge guard during combat, which allowed me to back away from enemies in fights safe in the knowledge I wouldn’t accidentally back off a platform while focused on shooting, as well as Hoverboot Autopump, which allowed me to get up to my maximum traversal speed without a series of adaptive trigger pulls to get there. While I could usually manage the hover boot pumps, a few times when the game gave very little room to reach max speed, this setting was a blessing.
Additionally, I really appreciated the look at waypoint feature which points the player, as the crow flies, towards their next major plot objective with a button press. It’s no equivalent to The Last of Us 2’s waypoints, which pointed the player in increments along the path to progress, but it was appreciated nonetheless.
For players who may struggle to hold down buttons, most held buttons in the game can be switched instead to either toggles, or automated functions.
Beyond what’s shown off in the game’s accessibility settings menu, there are also a couple of other in game features I want to highlight, which may end up being accessibility features for some players.
Firstly, the loading times in Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart are fast, and honestly, in many cases faster than the pre release trailers for the game suggested. Hopping through portals to other worlds takes less than a second, and narrative moments of planet hopping are very tightly paced. For players with conditions such as ADHD, who may find themselves distracted by lengthy in game loading times, the super fast loading on show here should help keep you engaged with the game, rather than distracted waiting to get back to playing.
Additionally, Rift Apart contains occasional puzzle solving sections involving reality shifting orbs. While these puzzle sections are pretty well balanced, if you find you struggle with them, there is an option to skip those puzzles at any time.
Having completed my first full playthrough of Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, and now well into my second, I have to say I am overall impressed with the game’s accessibility settings. Sony has clearly pushed their first party studios to standardise a bunch of settings across their games, and the result is that their first party titles are consistently hitting a decently high level of software accessibility.
It’s a shame that no Sony game since The Last of Us 2 has managed to capture some of that game’s little nuances, such as touch pad swipes to activate or deactivate high contrast mode, but Ratchet and Clank is still head and shoulders above what most of the industry is doing in terms of software based accessibility.
If you’re looking for a fun action adventure game where combat and platforming can be simplified, and the game world can be made more visible via contrast, then you can’t go wrong with Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart.
I had an absolute blast during my first playthrough, and I fully intend to finish a second soon.