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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  • jabber - Saturday, November 26, 2011 - link

    Whatever happened to just getting it right first time?

    Other products manage it so why not software?

    One word - Laziness.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - link

    I'll wait and see if they can patch things up then. I have a similar 2560x1440 setup with SLI GTX 460 cards. Either way, between Skyrim, BF3, the DOTA 2 beta, and laddering in Starcraft 2, I have more games than I have time. I can wait. :)
  • MWink - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - link

    My experiences the last few years has convinced me not to buy games near launch anymore. Now I wait at least a few months for reviews to come out, the game to get patched, the price to drop, and possibly for nasty DRM to be removed (in patches). Game companies today are really screwing themselves. I have completely lost faith in them. If they can't deliver a quality product they don't deserve my money. If they want to release a game riddled with nasty DRM, they won't be getting my money. If people stop paying top dollar for garbage the game companies will have to listen. Or maybe they will just blame it on pirates.
  • vectorm12 - Thursday, November 24, 2011 - link

    Unfortunately if recent history is anything to go by iDRM is just going to get more invasive. BF3's HDD scan is way over the line not to mention all the crap Ubisoft is up to. I've been running all games from a dedicated partition on my computer keeping my productivity system encrypted just in case.

    However at this point I'm not interested in jumping through all the hoops just to keep my productivity system clean and just stopped buying these games to begin with.

    I'd rather not play the game than risk compromising my system with all kinds of crap publishers riddle their software with. Too it's sad though since many talented developers will never see a dime of my money because of it.
  • eddman - Thursday, November 24, 2011 - link

    "BF3's HDD scan is way over the line"

    AFAIK that's the anti-cheating mechanism, punkbuster, not the DRM. Besides, it's not like what you're saying. It just checks for some cheating related stuff not your photos or videos or anything else.
  • chrnochime - Thursday, November 24, 2011 - link

    I guess your work PC needs to have that powerful GPU/CPU to crunch rendering stuff, but for me I just use my laptop hooked to the LCD screen to do work, and the gaming/HTPC to do everything else. Much less headaches.
  • Tarvaln - Thursday, November 24, 2011 - link

    "Originally launched last most for the PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles,"
  • TerdFerguson - Thursday, November 24, 2011 - link

    FYI, Steam pushed a patch last night. I was going to finally launch the game around midnight last night, after downloading it for two days straight, and instead found that Steam was pushing a 1.5GB patch. I don't see any release notes or evidence of a version change, and I can't compare what I have to the original release.
  • Sunrise089 - Thursday, November 24, 2011 - link


    Not trying to be contrarian, but I'm a bit surprised at some of the wording in the article. Isn't this behavior (running poorly until graphics are dropped down) typical of many new games? No one said Crysis was bugged when some folks had to play it at DX9 settings.

    I get there's probably more to it, and maybe things shouldn't be night and day switching from DX11 to DX10, but to you where's the line between broken implementation and just plain demanding game?
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, November 24, 2011 - link

    It's the massive fluctuations in performance in DX11 mode, plus my contacts from the GPU guys say that there's a "known issue with DX11" and Rocksteady is working to get it patched.

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