A look at Batman: Arkham Knight's launch day issues

AK Texture Issue 2

We got access to Arkham Knight when it launched on Steam this morning. I've now played two hours of the game—enough to progress a reasonable distance, with multiple gadgets and the Batmobile unlocked. In that time I've encountered many of the technical issues already reported throughout the day: framerate loss being the most noticible issue, with incredibly low-res textures a secondary concern.

The specs of our test PC are as follows:

  • Intel i5-2500K @ 3.3GHz
  • 16Gb RAM
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 970
  • Windows 7 Premium 64-bit

Before launching the game, I performed a bunch of general PC housekeeping and made a fresh reinstall of the latest GeForce drivers. I'm running the game with everything set to max (although the texture setting doesn't appear to go above 'normal') at 1920x1200.

It's locked to 30 FPS, but that's not actually the biggest problem

I played the first hour of the game using default settings and found it playable at 30 frames per second. The cap is a major disappointment in its own right, but I was able to progress through the game without too much of a problem.

There is, however, a noticable stutter whenever you enter the Batmobile and particularly when you use Batman's Batmobile remote to shift your perspective abruptly. This leads me to suspect that the framerate dip is actually to do with a texture streaming issue, which I'll get back to.

I then tweaked the BmSystemSettings.ini file located in Batman Arkham Knight/BmGame/Config/, changing Max_FPS=30 to Max_FPS=9999.

This change initially resulted in a steady 60 FPS, but I quickly found that it'd dip to 40 or so during Batmobile sequences. While driving in the spotlight of a police helicopter, the framerate returned to 30 FPS. I've since reversed my changes to the ini file because, personally, I find these constant shifts in framerate more distracting than being stuck at 30 FPS. I suspect the lock might be in place for that reason.

Nvidia-specific effects don't seem to impact framerate one way or another

I tried disabling and re-enabling the various PhysX/dynamic smoke/clutter effects exclusive to Nvidia cards but didn't find that this had much of an impact on performance. It may help on less powerful PCs, but I don't think it's the root of the general problems with the port.

AK Texture Issue

I am not convinced these are the textures I'm supposed to be seeing

There are serious problems with quality and consistency. Sometimes, I didn't encounter any issues at all—and, anecdotally, issues seem to get less frequent after the game had been running for longer. At other times, I'd run into enemies with low level-of-detail clothes on, signs with no text, and environmental objects that were clearly supposed to load more detailed textures as I got closer to them. Major characters, Batman and the Batmobile were all consistently fine, but everything else is a bit of a crapshoot.

This PC doesn't have a big enough SSD to support Arkham Knight's 40Gb install, but if yours does I'd thoroughly recommend it. This texture streaming issue may well be the root of the performance problems elsewhere, so the more you can do to allow the game to get textures into memory quickly the better.

It is playable, but these problems are unacceptable

I'm playing and enjoying the game despite these problems, but there's no way a PC that is powerful enough to comfortably run GTA V with everything cranked up should be struggling here. It's also bizarre that the game runs better on consoles. WB have already acknowledged that the PC port was done by an external studio, but this result isn't good enough.

For the time being, I would advise treating Arkham Knight as a game that is still in development. It may well be that it needed an extra week or two to iron out these problems—and, in a week or two, a patch may have made them a thing of the past. Until this happens, however, be aware of what you're getting into if you choose to invest. Steam's new refund feature is your friend, here: if the game isn't working well for you, withdraw your support for it until it does.

One way or another, our full review of the game will be available on Friday.

Chris Thursten

Joining in 2011, Chris made his start with PC Gamer turning beautiful trees into magazines, first as a writer and later as deputy editor. Once PCG's reluctant MMO champion , his discovery of Dota 2 in 2012 led him to much darker, stranger places. In 2015, Chris became the editor of PC Gamer Pro, overseeing our online coverage of competitive gaming and esports. He left in 2017, and can be now found making games and recording the Crate & Crowbar podcast.