Batman: Arkham Asylum & PhysX Gameplay Review

In Batman: Arkham Asylum, the Dark Knight pummels an endless stream of thugs, but will the game deliver the same two-fisted brutality to your video card? Find out as we examine gameplay performance and image quality on nine of today's video cards. Extensive testing of NVIDIA's PhysX and what it means to your gameplay experience!

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Highest Playable - 2560x1600

The resolution of 2560x1600 has been the domain of the high end performance enthusiast, though it is certainly not exclusive to that group with the tremendously power GPUs showing up in the sub-$150 market place recently. Gaming at this very high resolution requires a strong video card, a fast and powerful CPU to feed that video card, and a robust system memory bus.

The rampant increase in GPU power over the past 2 years coupled with a shift of focus from PC-first to Console-first games has changed the outlook somewhat. Quite a few games are now playable with very high settings at 2560x1600 on a wide variety of relatively inexpensive video cards.


Enthusiast

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The GeForce GTX 285 stole the show at 2560x1600. It allowed us to play with the highest available in-game options as well as Normal PhysX effects and 4X MSAA. AMD’s ATI Radeon HD 5870 and ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 also both allowed 4X MSAA at 2560x1600, but without native PhysX support, there was just no way to enable PhysX effects without a crippling performance hit. Surprisingly, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295 performed worse than the GTX 285, and we were not able to utilize PhysX features. The GTX 295 still allowed 4X MSAA at 2560x1600, but the apparent lack of multi-GPU scaling hurt performance to the point that even the Normal PhysX setting was out of reach.


Performance

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The GeForce GTX 275 just edged out the Radeon HD 5850 at 2560x1600. Both video cards were easily capable of running the game with 4X MSAA, but the GTX 275 did so while producing framerates about 10% faster. The Radeon HD 4890 lagged behind, offering only 2X MSAA, and then with lower framerates than what the GeForce GTX 275 and Radeon HD 5850 both were able to produce with 4X MSAA.


Mainstream

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At 2560x1600, the NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250 exhibited clear performance advantages over AMD’s ATI Radeon HD 4770 in Batman: Arkham Asylum. The Radeon HD 4770 was not able to play at 2560x1600 with all of the effects enabled, to say nothing of AA and PhysX. The GeForce GTS 250 couldn’t handle AA at 2560x1600 either, but we were able to enable all of the graphics effects except for PhysX, and the game was quite playable. On the Radeon HD 4770, we had to disable the Distortion effect and Ambient Occlusion lighting.


Life At 2560x1600

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285 takes the performance crown in Batman: Arkham Asylum at 2560x1600, but the best value may be the GeForce GTX 275. It couldn’t handle PhysX effects at 2560x1600, but it did allow 4X MSAA, which makes it competitive with the new and more expensive Radeon HD 5850 and Radeon HD 5870 in this particular game which has had a lot of coding done by NVIDIA itself.