The Arkham Knight rises (finally)

The return of Batman: Arkham Knight on PC sees a game whose presentation is polished enough to be played as Rocksteady originally intended.

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The Arkham Knight rises (finally)

It’s an understatement to say that the PC port of Batman: Arkham Knight was terrible. At launch, it was clear that it was a shoddy console port, and it wasn’t long before PC sales were suspended, as PC copies of the game were pulled from shelves. My first thoughts of the game weren’t terribly glowing, while Bennett Ring’s full review mirrored the myriad of performance drawbacks and Bat-bugs.

Rocksteady released an interim patch in June, but it wasn’t until the end of October that Arkham Knight was officially re-released on PC. While there are people reporting that Arkham Knight is still crashing for them on PC (just read the Steam reviews), that certainly isn’t the case for me as I put it through the motions to see how it fared against the original, crippled release.

As it turns out, Arkham Knight fares quite well.

I can fully appreciate that several NVIDIA driver updates have been released since the last time I played Arkham Knight in June, so that may be a contributing factor as to why performance has improved a whole lot, but the game looks and plays great. I’m running a single NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980, and was understandably gutted when I bought Arkham Knight in June and found that it was poorly optimised and, to add insult to injury, running at 30fps by default.

Fast-forward to today, and there’s now a menu option to raise the frame-rate cap to 60 or 90. Despite what Rocksteady said about the 30fps restriction at launch, I can’t see why you’d want to play Arkham Knight at anything under 60fps. Sure, the stealthy Predator missions can play out slowly at times (depending on how aggressive you are as a player—for the record, I play particularly aggressively), but the other three core gameplay pillars—driving/fighting in the Batmobile, gliding above Gotham and punching goons—are best played at pace, and work well at a higher frame rate.

While I used an .ini workaround to boost the frame rate earlier this year, there were terrible frame-rate drops across the board, most noticeably while gliding (which you do a lot), or even more so when taking the Batmobile for a spin. As far as my tests have revealed, this has all been fixed. Whatever memory leaks that some users were reporting that would impact frames over longer gameplay sessions appear to have been mended, too.

In fact, I shifted Arkham Knight to my SSD during its buggy days to improve performance, but playing it now on a regular HDD installation, it plays great. Sure, it takes a little while to start up the game (and for some reason, it now starts minimised), but those initial performance breakdowns because of an HDD installation are a thing of the past.

During the performance test with everything maxed out, but with NVIDIA GameWorks eye candy disabled, the test ran at a smooth 60fps throughout (60fps being my restriction). With the NVIDIA GameWorks options enabled, the frame rate dipped to low 40s in parts, but still managed an average of 53fps by the end, with most of the test running at just under 60fps. In the past, as soon as the Batmobile section happened in the test, the frame rate would be impacted significantly, but that’s no longer the case.

It’s worth nothing that there’s a running tally of how much of your GPU memory will be used when activating/deactivating or increasing/decreasing graphical-fidelity options in Arkham Knight, but for some weird reason, when I activated Enhanced Light Shafts (one of the NVIDIA GameWorks options), the total memory requirement dipped. Go figure.

In-game tests reaped consistent frame-rate results that tended to hang around the high 50fps mark, even with dozens of enemies on screen and a whole lot of eye candy in frame. There’s no denying how beautiful Arkham Knight is on a high-end PC, and it finally has the performance to back it up so that PC is now undeniably the best and most beautiful place to play the end of Rocksteady’s Arkham trilogy.

I still find that I’m disappointed by the lack of Paul Dini’s masterful touch in the narrative department, as Scarecrow isn’t a particularly compelling lead villain, and the whole Arkham Knight subplot leaves a lot to be desired. The Batmobile still feels more like a back-of-box feature than a truly organic to the Arkham universe, but there’s something so right about the culmination of the other familiar Arkham features that the gameplay loop is a hell of a lot of fun and something that fans of the series simply have to play.

If you’ve managed to hold out for this long, Arkham Knight is well worth purchasing for PC. You may not be able to grab it at a reduced Steam sale price, but at $49.99USD on the Valve’s digital distribution platform and with scores of hours of gameplay in a rich world, you’d have to have a bat in your belfry to pass up on Rocksteady’s final Arkham game, especially if you’ve got the kind of rig that can run Arkham Knight on full settings.

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