Batman: Arkham Knight: How bad are the issues? Pretty bad.

After playing this game on several PCs, it's obvious why WB Games decided to suspend sales.

PC gamers, we should have expected this.

Despite this year being our year, with our own dedicated PC-gaming show at E3, Batman: Arkham Knight is an unkindly reminder of where we stand with game developers: Console gamers got a brilliantly crafted game while we're stuck with a standard-issue, glitch-filled port.

At least that's what nearly 8,000 and counting people on Steam are saying about this brand-new game. The torches and pitchforks became numerous enough by Wednesday night that WB Games made the nearly unprecedented decision to indefinitely suspended sales of the PC version of Arkham Knight until its problems can be resolved.

As one of the hottest games of the season, Batman: Arkham Knight had big marketing dollars behind it and a strong Metacritic score of 89 filling its sails. Every one of those critics, however, reviewed the PlayStation 4 version. No reviews of the PC port were published before the game was shipped.

With thousands of people who purchased the PC version filing complaints about texture flashing, crashing, stuttering, and terrible frame rates, Batman: Arkham Knight is what's technically called a hot stinking mess.

To find out just how bad it was, I fired up Batman: Arkham Knight on the most powerful gaming PC I had on hand: a 4-way SLI GeForce Titan X rig with a Core i7-5960X overclocked to 4.5GHz, RAIDed SSDs, and 16GB of DDR4/2666 RAM. What does $11,000 worth of fire-breathing, meat-eating metal get you? How about 30 frames per second? (insert needle-scratch sound).

And no, that's not at surround 4K or straighforward 4K resolution. WB Games decided to lock Arkham Knight down to 30 fps no matter what hardware you're running. Whether it's a GeForce GTX 960 or a four-way GeForce Titan X setup, this game will max out at 30 frames per second running on a PC.

The good news is there's a workaround, but you'll need to dig into an INI file rather than, oh, use an in-game switch.

Backup your game first, and then dig into C:\ProgramFiles(x86)\Steam\ steamapps\common\Batman Arkham Knight\BMGame\Config, and then open BmSystemSettings.ini in Notepad and look for the line that says MaxFPS=30.000000. Changing that to either 60 or 120 will allow the game to run at higher frame rates.

But then there's crashing too

On my 4-way system, I initially ran the game at 1080p to see if issues would crop up; but once I'd changed that .INI file, I decided to let it run in its full 4K glory: I was immediately greeted with the game crashing as soon as I tried to run it in benchmark mode. After that crash, it never went back to working without mucking around. Even setting the .INI file back to a maximum of 30 fps didn't help.

Through this mucking around ,I determined that the only way to get it to run was to follow WB Games' advice to dedicate one of my GPUs to PhysX to help "performance." It didn't help performance in my experience, but it at least made it so I could play the game. All of my issues, mind you, were with the recommended Nvidia 353.30 GameReady driver that technically supports SLI. More on this later.

Letting the Nvidia driver automatically select the GPU to run PhysX on would cause a crash. And in the bizarre column, depending on which GPU you ran PhysX would limit your SLI support. Run PhysX on GPU number one or two and you get no SLI support whatsoever. Run it on GPU number four and you get SLI or two GPU's only. Running it on GPU number three though, would get you tri-SLI at least, with only occasional crashes to the desktop.

One reliable way I could get the game to run on all four GPUs, at least according to the Nvidia control panel, was to runn PhysX on the CPU. But that turned off the game's Interactive Smoke and Paper Debris settings. And as controversial as GameWorks and PhysX are to gamers who run AMD video cards, the effects in Batman: Arkham Knight are beautiful.

It's only after seeing Batman: Arkham Knight with the smoke and paper effects on and off that you realize what you're missing. It's almost enough to make someone who doesn't like proprietary technology forgive the game for using those Nvidia-only features. I mean, that smoke is wondrous. Watch the video and you can see it curl as the Batmobile peels down the street.

The game's performance is another a head-scratcher. Let me remind you, I'm running the game on an 8-core Core-i7 rig with four water-cooled Titan X cards. This rig pushes Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, with its HD textures at 4K resolution, at 100 fps. It plays Tomb Raider at 4K on Ultimate at nearly 170 fps. With Batman Arkham Knight, the in-game benchmark reported a dismally low framerate in the 40s. Even crazier, I wasn't seeing any SLI scaling at all. One Titan X, two Titan X, or four didn't move the needle. All of my performance tests were in the mid- to low 40s. I tried the latest GeForce Experience optimizations and multiple reboots with nary any difference.

What's up? I spoke with Nvidia officials who said they're trying to figure out what my problem is, because they are seeing scaling internally. I'll report back once we figure it out.

What about AMD?

Remember, this is the game running on Nvidia hardware, which traditionally has a leg up in performance and stability over AMD GPUs for this franchise. Many AMD users have also reported issues running the game. Even worse, the section of WB Games' FAQ that discusses running the game on both AMD and Nvidia hardware reads like the fine print for a prescription drug that hasn't yet passed FDA trials.

The craziest part of Batman: Arkham Knight is that when it does run, it seems to run fine. In addition to running it on that Big Bertha Titan X system, I also ran it on Asus' new ROG gaming laptop, which is outfitted with a GeForce GTX 980M. It ran just fine, with frame rates on the single card in the 60 fps range. That's at 1080p resolution, mind you, but it makes it even more puzzling that the game ran so poorly on a desktop PC with a single Titan X.

Bottom line: WB Games made the right move in suspending sales.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags gaminggamese3Steampc gamesGaming PC

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gordon Mah Ung

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?