Batman: Arkham City PC Review
The definitive version of Arkham City... eventually.
With console reviews claiming that Batman: Arkham City is one of the best games of the year, the extra five week wait for PC gamers has been interminable. Being spoon-fed details of the PC version's enhancements hasn't made things any easier, but the wait is finally over. Now that we've finally played the PC version, I'm happy to report that it will be the definitive version of Arkham City... eventually.
So then, Arkham City on the consoles is very, very good, but what about the PC version? Obviously, the first difference is that it can be played with a mouse and keyboard, but you'd have to be an absolute joker to do so. This game has been carefully crafted to be played with a control pad, and plugging in an Xbox 360 controller provides a vastly superior experience than the PC's default control scheme. Combat flows perfectly with twin analog sticks, but turns into a drunken brawl when I'm wrestling with a mouse-controlled camera. The focus on fisticuffs means we don't need the precision of a mouse to pull off 1,000 yard headshots, so put that mouse to the side and get comfy with a control pad.
Those of you packing DirectX 11 hardware are in for even more of a treat, with advanced lighting techniques that make this game look almost pre-rendered. Smoke and fog swirl around character's feet, while Batman's cape flutters with the authenticity of a real piece of material, but his arm spikes still jut through. Tessellation is used extensively to bring surfaces to life, with once flat surfaces now bristling with bumps and spikes. When it's running well, everything purrs by at 60 frames per second, making combat exponentially more responsive. Playing on hard, this increased control allowed me to blaze through sections that proved to be frustrating roadblocks on the console. Simply being able to see the animations more clearly due to the high resolution made it easier to anticipate what the circling thugs were about to do.
Considering that this is arguably NVIDIA's flagship technology title of the year, alongside Battlefield 3, these performance woes are nothing short of a major embarrassment. The solution is to disable DirectX 11, removing the advanced lighting and tessellation that we were told would make the PC version so special. Rocksteady has already publicly admitted there are performance issues but that didn't stop them from releasing the game in this state. When it's running well -- which is about half of the time -- Arkham City is the best looking game of the year. When it's not, it's a series of pretty screenshots running in a slideshow.
Those of you without DX11 cards are sure to enjoy Arkham City, as you're still getting an attractive HD version of the console game, albeit one that doesn't look anything like the spiffy NVIDIA video above. For the rest of us packing serious DX11 hardware, it's going to take some patching or driver updates before Arkham City lives up to the amazing potential that we know it has, so we recommend holding off on your purchase until everything has been fixed.