The Ten Commandments Of Video Game Menus: Sinners And Saints

For lo, we did climb to the top of Video Game Mountain. We spoke with the burning GameCube, and we did return with The Ten Commandments of Video Game Menus. And they were good, even if the games weren't always.

But our work has only just begun. With these new commandments, we must now turn to the difficult work of judging. Of the high-profile games that were released this fall, which are sinners and which are saints? Which games break the most commandments? There is only one way to tell: Dive into their menus and let our sword of justice flash.

The games below were judged on their PC versions, with the exception of Halo 4 and Assassin's Creed III, neither of which are currently available on PC. Here we go.


10. Thou Shalt Allow Players To Skip The Splash Screens

For while players are no doubt excited about the Unreal Engine, Dolby Digital and Speedtree, they shall doubtless be less psyched about them after the hundredth time they watch the opening splash screens.

Sinners:
XCOM
Dishonored
Halo 4
Assassin's Creed III
Need For Speed: Most Wanted - Technically. But the splash screen is so fast that it doesn't really matter.

Saints:
Borderlands 2
Torchlight II
Sleeping Dogs

Special Hell:
Darksiders II - This game lets you skip the initial splash screens, but then buries the load-game screen behind another "press start" screen, and in between those, it inserts ads for downloadable content. Special Hell for you, Darksiders II.

The Ten Commandments Of Video Game Menus: Sinners And Saints

9. Thou Shalt Make "Continue" The First Option In The Main Menu

For lo, many players art excited to play their game, and so they press the A button repeatedly to skip through the splash screens (provided thou art obeying commandment #10), and therefore shall likely press 'A' straight through the main menu.

Sinners:
XCOM - No continue option at all, goes straight to "New Game" and doesn't even ask if that's what you want.
Sleeping Dogs - New game above the continue option! How many different people do you think use my PC, United Front? At least your menu music is really good…
Halo 4 - So close. But the "Resume Campaign" option takes you to another sub-menu, where you have to stroll to the right to actually resume your campaign. Settings to the right, activation button to the left, guys.

Saints:
Dishonored
Borderlands 2
Torchlight II
Assassin's Creed III

Special Hell:
Darksiders II, for reasons listed above.

Special Heaven
Need For Speed: Most Wanted - For having no opening menus at all, and throwing players directly into the game in the smoothest way possible, Most Wanted gets to the door of Video Game Menu Special Heaven. Too bad the rest of the menus are such a mess.

8. Thou Shalt Not Place A Montage Video Before The Main Menu

Looketh. We art all excited to play the game in question, but we already bought it, and there is no reason to play a hypey montage video before the menu even loads.

Sinners:
Darksiders II, for placing a long, narrated loading screen before letting anyone get to the menus.

Saints:
Need For Speed: Most Wanted
Assassin's Creed III
Dishonored
XCOM
Borderlands 2
Torchlight II

7. Thou Shalt Automatically Save Settings Once They Are Changed

For it is known that players like to tweak settings in the options menu, and shall become irate if they have to enter every menu twice to make sure that whatever settings they just implemented actually stuck. Again, this is known.

Sinners:
Darksiders II
Sleeping Dogs

Saints:
Assassin's Creed III
Dishonored
Borderlands 2
Torchlight II

Purgatory:
XCOM - Makes you confirm your changes, but also makes it very clear that you need to do so.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted - Similar to XCOM.

The Ten Commandments Of Video Game Menus: Sinners And Saints

6. Thou Shalt Quit Reminding Us That The Game Auto-Saves

While it is known that this is a requirement put in place by hardware manufacturers and publishers, it is also known that every single person who has ever played a video game is now aware that video games quick-save, and furthermore, if one were to turneth off the console in the middle of saving, it would somehow be detrimental to the system.

Sinners:
All of 'em. Life isn't fair.

Saints:
Torchlight II

5. We All Shall Agree Where Everything Goes

For there are but a few basic types of menus, and we shall agree on what goes where. Subtitle toggling shall forever go under audio, not video video, not audio. (Okay, we art convinced.) Y-axis inversion shall forever go under controls, not gameplay. Difficulty and violence filters shall be placed under gameplay, however. PC games shall condense the "video" and "graphics" menus into one menu called "video," because we think we can all agreeth that we do not need two menus for video options and "graphics" is a silly term.

Sinners:
XCOM - Subtitles is under "Interface," as is input device. "Video" and "Graphics" are separated into two tabs. Gameplay doesn't allow you to switch difficulties.
Darksiders II
Need For Speed: Most Wanted - What is going on in these menus?

Saints:
Halo 4
Assassin's Creed III
Dishonored
Sleeping Dogs
Borderlands 2
Torchlight II

4. Thou Shalt Giveth The Option To Invert The Y Axis Before The Game Begins

Sinners:
Darksiders II

Saints:
Assassin's Creed III
Halo 4
Dishonored
Sleeping Dogs
Borderlands 2
XCOM

N/A
Need For Speed: Most Wanted

3. Thou Shalt Agree To Use 'A' To Advance And 'B' To Go Back

Whatever the menu or the function, the 'A' button shall move players one step forward, while the 'B' button shall move players one step back, eventually landing them in the main menu.

Sinners:
XCOM
Sleeping Dogs

Saints:
Assassin's Creed III
Darksiders II
Halo 4
Dishonored
Borderlands 2

2. Thou Shalt Not Bury The Map Behind More Than One (1) Level Of Menus. In Fact, Just Anchor The Map To The Select Button Because Come On Already

Lo, it is understandable that there are a great many functions to assign to the various buttons on the controller, but the map is always one of the most important aspects of a game, and shall be easily accessible.

Sinners:
None!

Saints:
Need For Speed: Most Wanted
Sleeping Dogs
Darksiders II
Borderlands II
Torchlight II
Assassin's Creed III - Though being tied to the select button is the only "saintly" thing about that godawful map.

N/A
Dishonored
Halo 4
XCOM

The Ten Commandments Of Video Game Menus: Sinners And Saints

1. Thou Shalt Always Allow The Player To Quit To Desktop

In every menu, there shall be one option called "Quit." Upon selecting that option, the player shalt be given one (1) pop-up menu that lets them either quit to the desktop (or dashboard) or to the main menu.

Sinners:
Borderlands 2
Torchlight II
Darksiders II
Sleeping Dogs
Assassin's Creed III

Saints:
Need For Speed: Most Wanted
Dishonored
XCOM

Special Hell:
Halo 4, for putting a loading screen between you and the main menu, and for not saving your progress if you quit to dash with the Xbox button.


There you have it. What have I learned by running these games through the commandments. A few things: For starters, the opening montage video isn't as much of a problem as it used to be. Secondly, a lot of games still have issues letting you quit them easily. Third, most every game with a map has figured out that you have to tie it to the select button (I'm still sore about Red Dead Redemption on that front). Fourth, the commandment about the auto-save warning is totally unfair, but it's cool that PC games don't have to abide by it. And hey, since we just judged these games, let's give out some sort of award.

Special Spot In Video Game Menu Heaven:

It's a split between Dishonored and Borderlands 2, both of which make it a cinch to tweak options on the fly, skip splash screens, and figure out where everything is. If only Borderlands 2 let you quit straight to desktop. Still, well done Gearbox and Arkane.

The rest of you: You're getting better, but there's still work to do. And stop feeling sorry for yourself, Darksiders 2. Hopefully everyone learned a lesson from you, and can all focus on getting it right next time.


The Ten Commandments Of Video Game Menus: Sinners And Saints

The Ten Commandments Of Video Game Menus

A good video game menu is like a good roadie: It stays out of the way. But still, far too many menus waste far too much of our time. People want to play games, not mess around in menus!
We've gone up to the top of Video Game Mountain in search of answers, and have come down with ten rules all video... More »