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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  • MarkLuvsCS - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - link

    I was going crazy trying to figure out what part of my system was causing me problems with Arkham City. I'm (semi) glad it's not just me! Using 2x 470s + amd x6 @ 4ghz I had the same problem where the benchmark would in a few spots always drop to like 0-1 fps and the avg fps was around 35-40. The Lion head first glimpse chops a ton, but panning around the side the FPS resolves. I REALLY hope they fix this release because it is a pretty fun game, but I want to enjoy DX11!
  • B3an - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - link

    Why do people always assume it's the game, and the same with this article. It could just as likely be graphics drivers. DX11 is new to the UE3 engine.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - link

    Considering the problem is exactly the same on NVIDIA and AMD GPUs, I'd say it's far more likely to be the game code. It's as though the engine is parsing objects and loading them/compiling them as you rotate. Stand still and frame rates are fine; turn quickly and they'll often tank.
  • gplracer - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - link

    The sad part is that this game was delayed 1.5 years. I think they had enough time to get it right.
  • hadphild - Thursday, November 24, 2011 - link

    Just think Duke Nukem Forever. Now that is what I call a delay.
  • Leonick - Monday, November 28, 2011 - link

    Delayed 1.5 years? Arkham Asylum Came out two years ago...

    Your not saying they've only done half a year worth of work to get to Arkham CIty are you?!
  • B3an - Thursday, November 24, 2011 - link

    Other games have had similar problems and it's been drivers. But it seems it might be an actual Unreal Engine 3 DX11 problem rather than the game itself... but my point is it's not 100% certain it's a game problem, but the article makes it seem like it definitely is. Other bugs like the cloud problem should definitely be the game though.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, November 24, 2011 - link

    One: If the drivers were such that performance sucked, then performance sucked regardless of the drivers and the game should have been debugged/optimized to address the problem.

    Two: There's no hotfix driver from AMD or Beta driver from NVIDIA that improves performance.

    Three: The DX11 mode is for PC only, thus put in as an enhancement, and thus not given the same amount of testing and debugging.

    Four: DX11 is hardly new at this point; the first DX11 cards came out back in 2008 I think (or early 2009), and the DX11 software launched with Windows 7 two years ago.

    If this is predominantly a driver problem, I'll turn in my geek card.
  • pc_void - Friday, November 25, 2011 - link

    Jared appears to be quite logically correct. He must be Volcan!
  • pc_void - Friday, November 25, 2011 - link

    Vulcan. doh!

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