Batman: Arkham City Performance Preview

Batman: Arkham City is upon us, and we wanted to give you a preliminary look at how performance is stacking up. We've found some issues running in DX11 that seem to be a detriment to gameplay. DX11 may not be the best option, at this time, for this game, our performance data and feedback explain why.

Introduction

Batman: Arkham City was released just yesterday, this much anticipated game supports DX11 and has some unique features. This article today serves as a preview of performance, after playing Batman for just a few hours. We will have a much more in-depth look at performance and image quality later on. For now, we are going to run a few apples-to-apples tests and show you what we found upon first running this game.

Batman will use DX11 if you turn it on. The features utilized under DX11 are MVSS, HBAO and Tessellation. You've probably not heard of MVSS before. This stands for Multi-View Soft Shadows. This is a soft shadow 3D affect created by NVIDIA which you can read about. These three features are only enabled under DX11. Otherwise, if they are "Off" the game will run in DX9 mode.

These are the drivers you should be using right now for the best possible performance out of Batman.

NVIDIA - The latest drivers possible right now are still ForceWare 285.79 and are the best to use for Batman at this time.

AMD - AMD recently released Catalyst 11.11a Performance drivers, which have improvements for DX11 performance in Batman. These are the best drivers to download for this game at this time.


Apples-to-Apples Performance

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Since Batman is based on a modified Unreal Engine 3 graphics engine, by default Frame Smoothing is enabled, and the values set keep the framerate between 24-62 FPS by default. The only way to bypass this FPS cap is to manually set a higher FPS. If you go into "..\\Steam\\steamapps\\common\\batman2\\BmGame\\Config" you will find a file called "DefaultEngine.INI". It is this file you will want to open, and scroll way down until you find [Engine.GameEngine]. Under there, you will see that bSmoothFrameRate=TRUE, you can leave this enabled. What you want to change is MinSmoothedFrameRate to 0, then change MaxSmoothedFrameRate to 999, and this will allow the game to fall anywhere between 0 and 999 FPS for true unlocked performance.

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In the first screenshot above you will see the configuration menu for graphics settings in Batman. The first one shows you DX9 mode. All you have to do is turn off DirectX 11 Features, and the game will run in DX9. In the second screenshot we have turned on the DX11 features, MVSS And HBAO. This then allows Tessellation to be set up to High quality.

For all of our apples-to-apples testing we had every other in-game feature turned on, and tested at 2560x1600 No AA. For this first round of tests, we have DX11 turned on with MVSS, HBAO and High Tessellation. We have PhysX disabled.

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Right off the batman, GeForce GTX 580 holds about a 37% performance advantage over the Radeon HD 6970. However, everything was not rosy on either video card. While the framerates were higher on the GTX 580, the experience was the same on both video cards, and it was not good. It appears that with DX11 enabled the game has some severe hitching and stuttering as you play. With both video cards the game stuttered and paused in exactly the same places, indicating it is more of a game issue with DX11. The experience was rather dismal, and not what we would call a fluid gameplay experience, even on the GTX 580.

This solely seems to be related to DX11 being enabled. Once we turned off DX11, and played in DX9, all of this hitching and stuttering went away and the game was fluid. We have a long thread in our forums of many other people experiencing the same stuttering in DX11 on both NVIDIA and AMD video cards. It is a rather bad gameplay experience at this point.

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When we tried out GTX 580 SLI and Radeon HD 6970 CFX we did not see much improvement to performance in DX11. The GTX 580 SLI performed the best, and had the most improvement with SLI, but Radeon HD 6970 CFX lagged behind quite a bit. There were areas where it had big improvements, but other areas where it just didn't seem to work at all. Both SLI and CFX need a lot of work in DX11 in this game. We are simply not seeing the kind of performance we should be with either in this game with DX11 enabled.