Batman: Arkham Knight Final Verdict PC Update
Well batman has returned, at least to the PC community now freshly patched and updated from Rocksteady with some more options to allow a broader range of PC's to run the game. It must be stressed that this game is very,very power hungry coming from UE3 that has never been shy on its power requirements and performance, more specifically its love of CPU resource (Powerful cores)and as great a job as Rocksteady have done that requirement has not changed here, this game needs a decent CPU to run anywhere near well.
It is the only engine that I am more surprised to see no tearing than tearing in. The first thing I like to eliminate is tearing as it really, truly ruins a games presentation, IQ and enjoyment to me I absolutely detest it and I am very good at picking it up even minor, top quarter tearing stands out a mile to me, so with this engine it has to be a tolerated level unless you have much hardware headroom or do not mind a 30fps cap. On the console release luckily this is not a huge issue, it only really presents itself in driving/bat mobile moments and outside of these it pretty much holds a rock solid 30fps with some very minor tearing when loading, so long as no streaming is needed (the engines big Achilles heel with far to many games to mention that demonstrate this) and Rocksteady should be applauded for how far they pushed the engine and performance on PS4 and XboxOne no doubt greatly helped by the unified RAM allocation not an option on PC. It is also one of the best multi threaded engines this generation, again tipped hat to the team as it would have been needed to squeeze performance as good as they got from the Jaguar cores and it uses all 8-cores extensively on my 8350 machine and takes no prisoners. But check out my detailed Head 2 Head at launch to learn more.
Here we are taking a further look at the now updated PC release across my range of PC specs to give everyone a fair idea of how it will run on each Machine, I tested the A10 7850K APU last time and it really struggles to run this game, even dropping to 1280x720 and all settings on low it could run around the 10-15 range so completely unplayable most of the time, now you can at least get a 20ish level so it can be played but really I cannot recommend this game for anyone with that spec of machine or around it.
Moving up to my entry level gaming machine of a quad core A10 APU paired with 16GB of DDR3 ram and a Nvidia 750Ti, being a game works game it could outperform my mid range machine but here this is not the case and the Nvidia machine suffers more. The first thing for all these machines is you have to set textures at Low, consoles run at least normal which needs 3Gb of VRAM on cards and here that is not a lie. High asks for 4GB and this really bumps up mipmaps/specular and Normals further away from your view, if consoles run this it is very hard to spot and the difference is negligible between them. Low does suffer from lower quality that can be seen in close view and the games RealTime cinematics but not a showstopper and worth the sacrifice to stop the still unplayable stuttering that comes with these higher quality textures that need to be streamed from Harddrive/system Ram to VRAM. The buffer method and bandwidth needed is far more than it receives here and the result is long stutters down to single digit performance on both machines. Normal to high really needs a 3GB or more card as we can look at with my high end machine of the GTX970.
With all other settings at the same as console (leave off all the Nvidia extras as aside the fog (particle based volumetric smoke) they really add no great benefit aside huge performance dips for no reason and on these machines we have no room to spare here . With these all set we can test out how it performs and comparing to PS4 running at the same 1080p and XboxOne which runs all the same visual settings only at the reduced resolution of 1600x900p we can see that in like for like interior moments with no heavy action both PC's can run at the same aside the lower textures at a stable 30. Unlocked and vsync off allows the 750 machine to hit around 40 at points but these are rare and the cap to 30 as shown with my AMD machine is the better option. But once we get into more action and driving we see both PC's still do not hold at a stable 30 with dips down to low 20's for prolonged period and eve sub that on the 750 machine. To be clear this is a CPU issue mostly on this machine as the game will use all 8 cores when it can (loading is a good example) but when we see these dips in cutscenes they are all GPU related with the usage staying at 100% on both and even the A10 has room to spare on CPU, here with a particular bandwidth heavy scene we see the 750 lock to 20 for a period before returning, (note this is vsync on, I tested again with it off and you only gain 1-2fps more with pretty much every frame torn. These constant dips under 30 and for prolonged periods in action and cutscenes does still effect the enjoyment on this machines at times but when inside it can be more stable with the cap to 30 better implemented from the menu or chosen driver panel suiting these more, but if you have a choice the AMD rig is slightly better than the Nvidia one but I cannot recommend that over both console releases still I am afraid if you have the choice, the AMD machine is around the same level as the PS4 so this machine with the same 30 cap should be fine now. The game can be picked up on consoles for around £20 it is even more of a bargain and is still as enjoyable as before and such a absolutely stunning looking game, the PC release can be picked up for a few pounds less which helps.
But All is not lost on PC as we still have my high end 4690k paired with Nvidia's GTX970 which even at launch put in a better showing ( as it should ) than both consoles. You can also add in the volumetric fog and set textures to match consoles now and also increase resolution over 1080 if you desire and keep at the 30 rate. Or leave as is and run a near 60fps game now that does not suffer from the stutter or heavy dips as the textures are all safely steamed into the bigger pool of VRAM (3.5GB of GDDR goodness ) with time to spare stopping these stutters from other machines and delivering a pretty solid performance with some dips to low 50,s high 30,s but these are not as regular as before and do not distract greatly from play. Again the same cutscene stresses the GPU here also.
As it stands if you have a machine of this spec so around R290 or R280 or GTX970 or better it is still the best option than both consoles and can be picked up for around £15/$25 on a PC legitimate key site so it is worth it and certainly performs better with all effects now instated ( although these where mostly added back within the first week of release) it performs far closer to expectations but does highlight one of the biggest gaps so far in performance, but with the engine now pretty much laid to rest its replacement should not be such an large consumer.
If you have a machine weaker than these and around both my entry and medium level machines then it is not the case, both consoles outperform these machines or equal them still and although the options and tweaks help, IMOP turning off nice features like the DOF with a superb confusion/focal zone bokeh, Per Object motion Blur and even AA is too much of a sacrifice in delivering a presentation that still only just achieves console levels but feels far less smooth due to this.
I do not think anymore can and will be done to this, the level it is at now is a reflection of how much the team had to work to achieve this level of performance as well as it does on consoles and the larger disparity in hardware/API and development methods shows that here for PC as has always been the case, brute force helps. But at least if you where holding out picking up on console or PC you should now have a much better view and informed opinion to make on what and if you want to swoop into Gotham one last time, just bring your raincoat as that particle rain never subsides.