If you’re one of the gamers who waited anxiously for the PC release of Batman: Arkham City yesterday, and you have a reasonably high-end PC, there’s a good chance the initial experience caused some serious concerns. Originally launched last month for the PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles, PC gamers have waited for what they hoped would be the superior version, complete with DX11 support. The game released on Steam yesterday, and like many we were in line for the download. 16GB+ later, I fired up the game and decided to see what it could do—as a benchmark, of course.

Now, a bit of background information on my PC: I have a GTX 580, 12GB RAM, an overclocked i7-965X processor, and plenty of storage, all hooked up to a 30” LCD. Gaming in general isn’t a problem on this system, even at the native 2560x1600 resolution. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim for instance launched a couple weeks back, and after poking around at the settings for a bit I settled for 2560x1600 and the “Ultra” defaults, and I still get >30FPS throughout the game, and typically >60FPS. Batman: Arkham Asylum was a great game, but it wasn’t particularly taxing on PC hardware, easily pulling 60+ FPS even on moderate systems. So, with that in mind I decided to go for the glory and set everything to maximum quality.

Upon launching the game and playing through the intro, it became readily apparent that the settings were too much. FRAPS was showing 60+ FPS in some areas, but with frequent dips into the single digits, and averages of around 30FPS. Ouch! I decided to dial it down a notch, since 1.5GB of video memory might not be enough for 4xAA and 2560x1600, right? Off went AA, with almost no difference in performance. Hmmm. Then I dropped to 1920x1200, still with very little difference in performance: single digit minimums remained in the built-in benchmark, with averages around 35 FPS. I tried disabling PhysX, which helped a bit, but the choppy performance remained. Then I tried turning off DX11 Tessellation (nope, it didn’t help), Ambient Occlusion (again, nope), and eventually I disabled the DX11 features entirely. Bingo!

Without DX11 features enabled, my setup is able to max out all the remaining settings (including PhysX) and still pull >60FPS in most areas, with dips to around 30FPS in scenes with a ton of PhysX eye candy (e.g. the pellets from the ice gun in the built-in benchmark). Turn off PhysX and minimum frame rates are above 50FPS with averages above 85FPS. So at least on NVIDIA, there’s a serious problem with DX11 right now, but what about AMD hardware? Additional testing confirmed that the extreme choppiness with DX11 features enabled extends to AMD hardware as well; on an HD 6950 DX11 mode got 22FPS average (and 0FPS minimum) while disabling DX11 bumped it up to 70FPS. The problem is also confirmed by this Batman forum post (for those who likely missed it).

So for now, disable DX11 support for the game and you’ll be fine as far as performance goes, but there’s a bigger question: why did this happen? I don’t think it requires a mathematics degree to put things together:

Thanksgiving Break + Black Friday + New Release = Profit!

There’s no way this didn’t get caught in validation testing, particularly since DX11 support was one of the new features added for the PC version of the game. Sadly, not only do we get second-hand treatment but we also get broken enhancements. We’ve heard a fix is in the works and should come within the next week or so, at which point we can add Batman: Arkham City to our revised benchmark list and move forward. Still, after the delayed DX11 support for Crysis 2 this sort of thing doesn’t leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling. On the bright side, if you liked the last Batman game, Arkham City picks up pretty close to where things ended and is so far looking to be another intense and entertaining outing for the Dark Knight.

PS: As if the above doesn’t already show the PC version was shoved out the door, Steam Cloud, Games for Windows Live, and/or Batman apparently overwrote my save game when I ran it on a second PC, wiping out my progress. Probably some combination of the three, but regardless I’m a bit ticked that several hours of playing just went poof. Consider yourself warned.

Source: AnandTech Testing

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  • lyeoh - Sunday, November 27, 2011 - link

    OK, you get your geek card back, but you're on probation now... ;) Reply
  • maxgrax - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - link

    Sigh, another sad case of consolitis. I was hoping Batman was not going to get hit with that even after the delays, but its becoming quite clear that any non-PC Only game will suffer from inherent issues like these on launch, and you just have to suck it up and wait for that glorious first patch.

    back to my heavily tweaked version of Skyrim for now :)
    Reply
  • userone - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - link

    OnLive FTW. Seriously. Reply
  • B3an - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - link

    OnLive is shit. And the PC games are still going run on ... PC's. Just at their end. So now you get the bugs and lower quality graphics from streamed video, not to mention lag.. Reply
  • Pensive - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - link

    They don't just run on "PCs" but run on super computers. and if you have a decent connection there will be no lower quality nor lags. So basically either you have a good high-end PC, or only a good internet connection. Reply
  • UpSpin - Thursday, November 24, 2011 - link

    But those super computers are also just a bunch of computers using the same components your PC uses, except that they have tons of them installed. They also have to use x86 processors and NVidia or Ati graphic cards with DX11 support.
    So if the game has a graphics bug (which it has with DX11) OnLive will suffer from the same issues, except they turn DX11 off.
    And the video stream gets compressed, thus you lose quality. They also don't set the settings to the highest possible probably (waste of ressources on their end), so quality loss. And in the end you have a lag. Measure the ping from your PC to google. Multiply it with two (up/down), and add a few ms for the OnLive servers to process your commands. So you get?
    Reply
  • arjuna1 - Thursday, November 24, 2011 - link

    Onlive?? you mean you are comfortable with streaming content? Congratulations on supporting the death of gaming as we know it. Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - link

    Since Crysis DX11 was brought up, I wonder what was the better option: release first and patch later a la Batman or hold and release when it's done a la Crysis 2? Launching with DX11 in time for Thanksgiving was probably a big motivation, but I'm sure checking that DX11 box to avoid getting slammed by PC gamers and PC reviewers was also a motivation. It would be nice to see DX9 vs DX11 comparisons to see how much visual difference DX11 adds. Reply
  • MarkLuvsCS - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - link

    I wish companies would do a fleshed out PC build on launch but that seems unlikely. I would have preferred a release on time with the consoles and just having dx9 support until dx11 patch. The benchmark is definitely absolutely horrible with the number of dx11 glitches, but in the start of the game the rock bottom FPS wasn't common. I have still switched over to dx9 until they fix their problems. Batman is too fun to pass up. Reply
  • erple2 - Friday, November 25, 2011 - link

    As a software developer, the "right" answer is "release now, patch in DX11 later". One thing that I have learned over the years is that customers appreciate more a product that does 90% of what you promised now, then patch in the last 10% in 6 months, than a product that does 100% in 4 more months.

    As weird as it sounds, that's been my experience with every customer I've ever dealt with. Now, my customers aren't really the "general public", so maybe my view is skewed. I think that dumping in something that doesn't work (ie DX11 capabilities) was a mistake, and they should probably have patched it in later. However, given that this is a general public release, and given that Thanksgiving is a substantial time for sales, there are other forces at work. Generally, if that's the case, the release date should probably have been targeted for July, with a few months of slack to fix these odd optimization problems.
    Reply

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