Written by Mark Del Rio Tuesday, 06 December 2011 06:00
I’ve just completed Batman: Arkham City PC. I take that back, I just stopped playing Batman: Arkham City PC. Let me explain.
Batman: Arkham Asylum was perhaps my favorite game of 2009. This surprise hit from a relatively unknown company – Rocksteady Games – instantly captured my heart at E3 that year. Six long months later, it was in my house. I played the hell out of Arkham Asylum and eagerly awaited its sequel. Two years later that game arrived at my house – it is now officially beaten!
Batman: Arkham City dropped on the Xbox 360 and PS3 on October 18, 2011. The PC version released on November 22. Rocksteady attributes this delay to the “enhancing" of the PC version. Yeah, right. We all know that the PC version was delayed in an effort to maximize sales on the consoles. With piracy being a serious problem on the PC, WB Games (the publisher) allowed five long weeks to pass before the “unscrupulous” has their version to play with. Be that as it may, the PC version is now available for purchase everywhere.
In this short review I will skip over the basics – storyline, gameplay, and audio – suffice to say that they are most excellent (“Game Of The Year” worthy in my opinion). Compared to its console counterparts, the PC version is identical in these areas. Instead, I will focus on the “PC” specific related experiences. Let us begin.
My copy of Batman: Arkham City arrived in a trilingual amary case – English, French, and Spanish. Two things instantly catch my eye before I open the box. 1) The game is “Games for Windows LIVE” enabled (the Steam version also includes Steamworks integration as well). Some people may have biases against GFWL, I personally love GFWL. 2) The Catwoman DLC is included in the game (the console version has a one-time use unlock code). It was unknown before its release how this would be handled on the PC.
Inside, the package includes 1) 3 separate 1-sheet manuals for each language (strangely mine included 2 English versions). 2) A product catalogue of merchandise inspired by the game. 3) 2 DVD game discs.
Installing the game was simple - insert the disc, follow the instructions. Waiting for the game to install was not so simple. The actual install process took over 20 minutes and required a tremendous 17 GB of hard drive space! On top of that I had to wait an additional few minutes for GFWL to download and install a short patch before playing (though I believe that was for the client and not the game). Regardless, it was a good 40 minutes before I got to any gameplay.
Before launching the game, I made sure my Xbox 360 Controller for Windows was plugged in and working. A game like this plays best with a gamepad instead of a keyboard and mouse. With all of the insane button combinations it was easier to follow the onscreen prompts with a gamepad. I’m sorry to say that I never even tried using a keyboard and mouse to play this game and I recommend that you don’t either.
The PC version sports enhanced resolutions over the consoles. I played the game on my 46” Samsung LCD television at 1080p. That’s full HD quality. The console versions claim to run at the same resolution, however, they are rendered at 720p and upscaled and output to 1080p. On top of that, textures are much sharper on the PC. You can see every freckle and pore on the character’s faces. Details such as dirt on clothing or the scars of battle on Batman’s suit are much more visible and realistic here. Looking into the city you can see for miles out of Arkham City and into Gotham (sadly you cannot access it). From some of the higher buildings you can even see the headlights of cars in the distance. The Unreal engine really shines in this game, even more so than in Gears of War 3 on the Xbox 360. With all of its grime and dirt, Arkham City is a beauty to behold.
Batman: Arkham City gives you a host of graphical options to switch on or off depending upon your computer’s capabilities. Exclusive to the PC version is Direct X 11 and nVidia PhysX support. Sadly, Direct X 11 is broken and generally unplayable in its current state even with the most powerful of graphics cards running under the hood. A patch to fix these issues is scheduled for release soon (further proof that that five week delay was not for performance improvement). I ended up playing the game under Direct X 9 (same as the consoles) and was still wowed.
nVidia PhysX adds realism to environmental effects. Glass shatters and spreads across the floor realistically when broken. Fog and smoke get pushed aside as your character moves through it. Sparks from machinery bounce off and away from objects they land on. Papers and dust scatter all over the place during a fistfight. It’s truly a sight to behold. PhysX is only available to users of nVidia Geforce graphics cards (8xxx series or higher). I ran the game under a single Geforce 260 with PhysX turned to “medium.” Performance was smooth as well. The Unreal engine is perhaps my favorite game engine and Unreal games always run smoothly on my system.
Other graphical settings include V-sync, detail level, dynamic shadows, motion blur, distortion, lens flares, light shafts, reflections, and ambient occlusion. I played with all of these setting set to either “very high” or “yes”. Anti-aliasing is also available but I had it turned off. Maybe it was because I was playing 11 feet away from the screen that I didn’t even notice a difference with it turned on or off. I kept it off to save a few frames. There is even an option to play with stereoscopic 3D. Not owning a 3D screen, this feature was useless to me.
Should you buy it?
YES! Console port or not, Batman: Arkham City is an amazing game experience on the PC. From a very beautifully written story to a graphically realistic city, everything here screams “Game of the Year.” Like its predecessor, this is a gaming event that every PC gamer should experience. There is absolutely nothing about Batman: Arkham City that bothered or annoyed me. It’s essentially a perfect “10 out of 10” game. I can’t recommend this game enough. If you don’t own it already, go out and buy it NOW!
I personally have logged in over 30 hours into Batman: Arkham City, completed the main storyline, and all of the side missions (with the exception of the collectibles). I have completed all of the Catwoman challenges. I have fought some of the optional Riddler’s Revenge challenges and I still want to go back to Arkham City! If that means restarting the campaign from scratch to get there, then so be it! As I said at the beginning of this review, “I just stopped playing Batman: Arkham City.” It’s time to go back! Somebody’s got to stop the Riddler!