You might celebrate a video game for its gameplay, graphics or its story, but let's briefly celebrate the excellent little things Batman: Arkham Knight does to respect the time of its players. Oh, if only more modern games did these things.
These ideas aren't all brand-new, but they have been implemented in Arkham Knight with a slickness that's rare even in big-budget games. Think of this stuff as quality-of-life improvements or, simply, of a big-budget game exhibiting the kind of user interface and user-friendliness that a multi-million-dollar production should always have.
Clean Menus, Back-Up Saves
It starts at the start with what looks like a standard screen for selecting your save file...
Look closely, though. Note the bottom tet: "L1 (Hold) Show Backup Saves". That's how it appears on PS4; the buttons will vary on Xbox One or PC. Regardless, hold it and you'll see this:
Tap L1 again and you'll see this:
What we have here are two back-up saves, tidily hidden until a button is pressed. We can roll back our progress to either one and resume playing from there. Is this a safeguard against glitchy saves? Maybe. More likely, though, it's a slick, smart way to give players a rolling selection of three saves to choose from without cluttering up a menu. Good save management and clean menus. A rare gift to gamers!
Some of us play video games while we are tired, drunk or high (not casting judgments!). Some take long breaks of days or weeks between sessions. Life can get in the way. And then we return to the game and wonder: what the hell was I doing?
Batman Arkham Knight, like many games, wedges some story recaps into its loading screens, but it also presents an expanding recap slideshow in its Extras menu.
You can go here:
You'll get a reminder of the first thing you saw when you started playing:
Did you already forget why you went to Ace Chemicals early in the game? Check the story synopsis!
Helpful. Just please no one tell me what happens in slide 56.
Radial Menus and Characters Who Mutter Mission Reminders
Arkham Knight has dozens of quests and sidequests and stars a hero who uses a plethora of gadgets. It is set in a large open world that has things to do from high among its rooftops down to its streets. It could have been an overwhelmingly confusing game. It's not, thanks to smart menu design and clever use of voicework.
The game's user interface presents most of the information that you'd wind to access while swooping/driving/punching through Gotham City with radial menus for weapon and mission selection. These are all activated with a push on a controller's d-pad and then navigated with a swivel of an analogue stick. Releasing the d-pad button locks in the selection.
The menus are easy to read, snappy and labelled with helpful information — namely whether a given questline is accessible and how close the player is to the starting point of the next mission in that quest.
What if you can't remember what a given quest line is about? What if you've been so busy chasing Riddler trophies you forgot what is happening in the game's main quest or just can't recall where the serial killer subplot left off?
Lucky you, our hero (Batman!) and/or his butler will mutter a little something about whatever questline you select. They will even have something to say if you can't currently proceed in the quest or if the game designers want you to find the next activation point for that quest by exploring the game's big world. In those cases, they will just remind you what the general idea of that quest is about.
Check that out in action from a point about halfway through the game:
Even the biggest and "best" video games are filled with clunky menus or don't seem designed to fit into our busy modern lives. This game bucks those trends smoothly and smartly.
None of these small touches will win Arkham Knight any awards. They should still be celebrated.