Earlier this year, Batman: Arkham City released to much acclaim on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. PC owners were forced to wait a little bit longer to get their Dark Knight fix, but upon release, the game was plagued with technical problems, especially when running DirectX 11 effects.
We initially did not encounter any game-crashing moments, but they began to occur after we sunk a lot more time into the game. A fix was recently released, which corrected most of the issues for those running the 64-bit version of Windows 7 and we were able to complete our review. So how does the PC version shape up? Read on to find out.
The PC version of Batman: Arkham City is substantively the same game as the console versions, but without the console’s Catwoman DLC issues – as these missions were included with the main game. For the purpose of this review, we focused on the graphical performance of the PC version, including the 3D effects. For more on the gameplay and story, check out our console review of Batman: Arkham City, where we awarded the game five out of five stars. For our PC analysis, we played Arkham City with the following setup:
- Intel Core i5-2500K @3.30 GHz
- ASUS, P8P67-M PRO Rev 3.0
- Corsair, 8GB (2 x 4GB) XMS3 PC3-10600 DDR3 1333MHz
- EVGA NVIDIA GTX 580
- Intel, 80GB 320 Series SSD, MLC
- Western Digital, 500GB WD Caviar Black (Install Drive)
- Windows 7, 64-Bit Professional Edition
- Samsung PN63C8000 63-Inch 1080p 3D Plasma HDTV
- NVIDIA 3D Play
- Wireless Xbox 360 Controller
With a sufficiently powerful PC, this is the definitive version of Arkham City. With an open cityscape to traverse and explore, pop-in was virtually nonexistent and loading times were minimal. Clipping was very rare, but it did happen occasionally. Using the maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080 on our Samsung HDTV, we were able to obtain a consistent frame rate of 60 FPS throughout our playthrough with all of the highest in-game graphics settings turned on, including DirectX 11’s effects and NVIDIA’s PhysX technology.
With a complex palette that often included snow and mist effects and numerous baddies onscreen at one time, this was a rather impressive achievement. Keep in mind that we did experience some nasty lag prior to the most recent patch, and this issue is still unresolved for DirectX 11 users who are not running Windows 7, 64-bit edition. Therefore, those running a different OS may want to hold off until the next patch is released.
Not surprisingly, textures are sharper and more detailed than those found on the consoles. The pores and freckles on the characters’ faces can be clearly seen, especially in close-ups. When the Batsuit takes damage, rips and dirt will appear on the uniform, making the impact of each fight that much greater.
For those who play their games on a TV screen smaller than 42 inches, these little details won’t make a big difference, but the impact is huge when using a larger viewing device. PC gamers using a monitor over 20 inches will also benefit from these high-res textures.
Arkham City makes great use of NVIDIA’s PhysX support as well. With PhysX turned on, small particles fly from enemies, fire, and weapons when appropriate. In addition, cloth, paper, and other flexible materials (such as Batman’s cape) move in a more realistic manner. When walking Batman or Catwoman over a rug, it would slide and bunch. Handbills and money would kick into the air when impacted by physical touch or the wind. Sometimes these effects were a little more pronounced than reality, but the overall effect was still more immersive than static objects.
If we do have one complaint about the visual presentation in Arkham City, it is that we didn’t get to see enough of it. The game is a visual feast, but because it requires the use of detective mode (see below) so often, much of the graphical prowess on display can go to waste. In this mode, all of the incredibly detailed high-res textures disappear and we’re left with a much less impressive view. With that caveat, what Rocksteady Studios has accomplished artistically should be commended as the company has developed the most aesthetically pleasing superhero game to date.
As if Batman: Arkham City wasn’t pretty enough in 2D, Rocksteady Studios worked in conjunction with NVIDIA to include support for NVIDIA’s 3D Vision kit and 3D Play. If ever a game was meant to be played in stereoscopic 3D, Arkham City fits the bill. Using the grapnel gun and Batman’s cape as the main form of travel, the distance between structures becomes much more pronounced, giving the player a better idea of how to best navigate Arkham City’s landscape. Gaining a better perspective while aiming at distant targets with the Batarang is an added plus. Cutscenes are also rendered in 3D, creating a more immersive experience when shown from either Batman or Catwoman’s point of view. Arkham City is definitely one game that deserves to be played in the third dimension if you have the capability to do so.
For those who own a full HD monitor with 3D support, you’ll be able to play in glorious 1080p. Unfortunately, NVIDIA’s solution for 3D televisions, 3DPlay, will only display at a maximum resolution of 1280 x 720. This is not much of an issue for smaller televisions, but on larger displays, the overall quality of the image often looks muddy and washed out. In those situations, the tradeoff is not quite worth it. With Batman: Arkham City, however, the the visual drop off was much less noticeable and the 3D looked incredible. Likely due to the lower resolution setting, we did not suffer from any frame rate dips even with all of the other graphics options tuned to their highest settings.
Batman: Arkham City got off to a rough start on the PC and still does not execute DirectX 11 effects efficiently on all PC setups. That being said, the game still looks amazing even with DirectX 11 turned off, and the in-game 3D effects offer one of the rare instances where the tech is an actual selling point versus a tacked-on feature. This simply is one of the best-looking games of 2011, and if you have the horsepower, the PC version is the way to go.
Batman: Arkham City is available now on PC, Xbox 360, and PS3.