Batman: Arkham City DirectX 11 Performance and IQ Review

Days after our Batman: Arkham City Gameplay Performance and IQ review was published, the game was patched. The patch was ostensibly reported to fix DirectX 11 performance problems plaguing the game, but does it really do the trick? Where do our DX11 video cards stand now?

Introduction

In our first look at Batman: Arkham City, we had a lot of trouble with DirectX 11 performance. As it turned out, so did everyone else. DX11 support was broken at launch, and it wasn't fixed in time for the article to be published.

On December 7th, the patch everyone had been waiting for finally hit Steam, and was posted on the official game forums. While the stuttering issue is fixed and the stability problems we experienced are fixed, the performance impact has not been changed. The patch notes also state that users under Windows Vista 32-bit or Windows 7 32-bit should still run this game in DX9 mode. This patch will only help 64-bit OS users under DX11 currently.

"Users running Windows 7 32 bit or Windows Vista 32 bit should ONLY use DX 9 settings until a future patch that addresses this specific issue is released. We are actively working to address the remaining issue tied to DX 11 for users running 32 bit versions of Windows Vista or Windows 7."

Thankfully, for you 64-bit OS users, you can benefit from this patch and play under DX11 with the stuttering issue being fixed.

"Performance / hitching issues have been greatly improved for running in DX 11."

For this follow-up article, we're going to take a look at DX11 support in Batman: Arkham City with the new patch applied.

We're using a smaller sample size of video cards today. We've limited retesting to the dual-GPU NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 SLI solution, the single-GPU GeForce GTX 580, the dual-GPU AMD Radeon HD 6970 CrossFireX solution, and finally the single Radeon HD 6970. The reason for this is simple: performance is dramatically reduced under DirectX 11 in Batman: Arkham City, and we felt that gamers with GeForce GTX 570 and Radeon HD 6950 and below are still best-off running the game in DirectX 9. Yes, there is some loss of eye-candy, it's not at all obvious, and second, it's not worth the performance loss.

First, we'll see how our Highest Playable Settings have changed in DirectX 11. Then we'll look at some apples-to-apples performance comparisons, including DX11 pre-patch and post-patch performance. Finally, we'll revisit tessellation in Arkham City.


Test Setup

For our test system platform we are using an ASUS P6T6 WS Revolution motherboard with an Intel Core i7 920 overclocked to 3.6GHz, and 6GB of Corsair DDR3-1600. For the power supply, we will be using a CoolerMaster Real Power Pro 1250W.

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We're using the same drivers for this follow-up as we did for our original evaluation. For the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 video cards, we are using NVIDIA's ForceWare 290.36 Beta package, dated November 28th, 2011. For the AMD Radeon HD 6970s, we're using the Catalyst 11.11b Performance driver package dated November 25th, 2011, as well as the Catalyst Application Profiles 11.11 Cap2. All drivers are indicated for use with Windows 7 x64.


Testing Batman: Arkham City

To test Batman: Arkham City, we first played all the way through the entire game, looking for scenes, levels, or areas which produced lower framerates than others. The first thing we noticed is that performance is that performance is the most challenged in the open Arkham City "world". In the mission-specific areas (such as the Steel Mill, the Museum, the GCPD Building, and the Courthouse), performance was very high. We routinely observed framerates as much as 2X as high as we saw in the open world. Further, we found that the more densely packed western residential side of Arkham City was more demanding than the eastern industrial side. For testing, we lined out a path around western Arkham City. It features rooftop grappling and gliding as well as ground-based traveling and plenty of hand-to-hand combat with as many as eight enemies at a time. The test procedure takes about 8 minutes to complete.