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?

continued...

Tessellation

Arkham City makes use of Tessellation in DX11. If you look very carefully, you can find it all over the place in the environment. It's in Ivy's lair, it's in some buildings, and it's in the patches of wet slush that blanket parts of the city. Before we look at what it looks like, let's see how it performs. The following tests were performed at 1920x1200 with AA and PhysX disabled.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580

Article Image

(Click Graph for Larger Image)

In this series of tests, we saw absolutely no performance difference at all in performance when tessellation was disabled compared to when it was set to "Normal". When we then increased the setting to "High", performance was reduced by about 6.4%.

AMD Radeon HD 6970

Article Image

(Click Graph for Larger Image)

Here, performance was again virtually unaffected with tessellation set to "Normal" as opposed to "Off". There was a small difference, about 2.2%, but it is practically negligible. But then, when we set tessellation to "High", we suddenly lost about 18% of our average framerate.


Tessellation and Image Quality

We looked briefly at Tessellation in our gameplay performance review, but we wanted to revisit the subject here. Tessellation is used more extensively than we originally though in Batman: Arkham City, but its implementation leaves a lot to be desired. In some places, it is plainly visible. In most places, however, its subtle to the point of useless. The following screenshots were all taken on an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 at 1920x1200 with AA and PhysX disabled. The only change we made here is the tessellation setting. Arkham City lacks an on-demand saving system, so these screenshots don't line up perfectly. Exact alignment is not important, however, as the differences are still visible.

Article Image Article Image

(Click Thumbnails for Larger Images)

This comparison depicts the lion statue found at the top of the entrance of Penguin's Museum. In the left-hand image, we can see that the lion has a far "lumpier" surface than in the right-hand image. The difference is especially visible in the silhouette. The tessellated lion has a very jagged silhouette, while the non-tessellated lion is blocky.

Article Image Article Image

(Click Thumbnails for Larger Images)

Here we see an abandoned alleyway. In the image on the left, the slush on the ground looks like actual slush. It is lumpy and it sticks out from the ground. On the right, it is barely visible at all, and looks like a painted-on texture.

Article Image Article Image

(Click Thumbnails for Larger Images)

This comparison shows a tree. With tessellation enabled, the tree is gnarly and twisted, and the bark looks like it's actually coming out of the tree. With tessellation disabled, it looks like an entirely different mesh. By comparison, it looks like there is no detail in it at all.

Article Image Article Image Article Image

(Click Thumbnails for Larger Images)

This comparison shows a sewer into which Poison Ivy has directed her plants. On the left, the vines are nicely rounded, and the pustules on the vine protrude from the surface in a lifelike manner. In the middle image, tessellation is disabled and the vines are flat and blocky. The image on the far right shows what happens when we take a few steps back with tessellation enabled. The vines are still nicely rounded, but the blistery surface has returned to its flattened appearance. In this scene, tessellation is at its greatest effect up close.

Article Image Article Image Article Image Article Image

(Click Thumbnails for Larger Images)

This last comparison shows a brick wall on the side of a building, about halfway up from the ground to the roof. The first and third images are shown with tessellation on High, and the second and fourth images are shown with tessellation disabled. When walking next to and very close to the wall, tessellation is visible in the form of depressions between individual bricks, and channels between layers of bricks. Without tessellation, the brick wall looks like a flat surface painted with a brick texture (which is exactly what it is). So up close, tessellation makes that wall look a lot better.

But what happens when you aren't staring at the wall at point-blank range? That is what the last two images show. But for the differences in angle, the wall looks the same in both images. It doesn't necessarily look bad. The texture is nice, and the shading is adequate. In both images, there are highlights on the ends of some bricks thanks to normal mapping. But there is no difference in quality. We are looking at the same wall that we see the first image above, but tessellation is no longer evident when looking at it directly on as you usually do while gaming, and thus, it is easy to miss.