Revisiting Batman: Arkham Knight on PC: Is the Game Now Worth Purchasing?
There’s no question that when Batman: Arkham Knight originally released for the PC last summer, it became one of the most disastrous and reviled launches in PC gaming history. Performance problems plagued the vast majority of users, and the game’s Steam reviews pummeled Warner Bros. Games faster than Batman could beat down Bane. The game was so terrible that only days after its launch, the game was completely pulled from sale to all PC gamers; it could only be purchased on consoles. The game did not return until October 2015, when many players reported similar issues; some who did not previously have issues began reporting them. Later on, Warner Bros. Games announced that it was scrapping support for multi-GPU setups and even scrapping all plans to bring the game to Mac and Linux users. In essence, Warner Bros. disappointed its PC user base in just about every way conceivable, even as it continued releasing patches to try and bring the game up to par for Windows users. Which begs the question: Did it work?
I originally reviewed the game after taking advantage of an incredibly generous offer made last fall, when it was announced that anyone who requested a refund on Steam would get it, regardless of the length of time a customer had played the game. Since I knew I could effectively try the game risk-free until the end of 2015, I decided to do so just to see if it would run on my system. To my surprise, the game ran reasonably well on my computer, despite the GPU being below Warner Bros.’ recommended minimum specs. However, as I neared the end of the campaign, the game began crashing frequently. This was possibly due to overclocking the graphics card, but I never confirmed this 100% as there was still some crashing even after removing the overclock.
So fast forward to now. During the Humble Store’s recent spring sale, Batman: Arkham Knight was featured for 50% off, meaning I could get the Premium Edition for $24.99. The Premium Edition includes most of the game’s DLC, including additional villains and side quests thrown into the main campaign. I purchased this edition so that I could get the “full” Batman experience, if you will. To my surprise and delight, my save files and achievements on Steam were fully restored, despite the game having been completely removed from my account for several months. So what I want to do now is explain my experience with the “new and improved” version of Batman: Arkham Knight.
On a stability level, it seems that all of the previous crash bugs have been fixed, at least on my own system. In finishing off the remaining missions, including the excruciatingly long Riddler challenge (you have to solve 243 different riddles and puzzles — 243!), I spent approximately another 40 to 42 hours on top of the time I had already spent with it completing the main campaign and ultimately unlocking the game’s first ending. I never experienced a single crash. The game’s overall stability is infinitely better than it was even after its initial rerelease. Needless to say, this helped tremendously with immersion in the game’s content.
Performance-wise, I also saw a number of improvements. I still have to keep my settings in the Low to Normal range and anti-aliasing down to 4x, but I can bump up the frame rate cap to 60 FPS with no ill effects. I initially kept it on 30, and the game still seemed silky smooth for the most part. Yes, there are very brief (two or three seconds at most) instances of stuttering when the game has to render large sections of cityscape during gliding sessions or lots of rioters and buildings all at once, but these are so brief and infrequent that they do little to impact the overall experience. Keep in mind that this is running on an aging Radeon HD 7850 with only 2 GB of VRAM. I have 12 total GB of system RAM and a 3.9 GHz hex-core processor, which I’m sure help performance. I am also running the game on Windows 10. First, here are the settings at which I am currently running the game:
While capturing this, I decided to run the in-game benchmark, which historically has been representative of my true performance in-game:
So the big question is whether or not the game is worth purchasing. This is still not an easy question because it’s dependent on a number of things. If you’re a true fan of this series and have a PC similar in specs to mine — especially if it’s a slightly beefier GPU — then the odds are it will run fine, and it’s likely worth purchasing. But a lot also depends on how you feel about Warner Bros. Games and their ability to deliver a quality product. The company has botched many of their major game releases, including the previous entry in this series, Arkham Origins. Warner Bros. has lost an awful lot of goodwill from consumers with the choices they made in releasing Arkham Knight.
So approaching it from a moral standpoint, one can say that the game should be boycotted until Warner Bros. does something pretty extraordinary to gain back their users’ trust. However, now that the game is about a year old and all refund and promotional offers expired at the end of 2015, it appears less and less likely that they will offer anything more. Yes, the game’s price has finally been lowered to a slightly more reasonable level, but the mea culpas seem to be over.
Unfortunately, the answer to this question comes down to whether or not you personally can trust Warner Bros. and are comfortable with giving them more of your money. If you are primarily worried about whether the game will perform will on your system or if you’re just throwing your money away on a botched PC port, then I believe those fears have mostly been allayed. But if you also want to show solidarity to all of the PC users who feel they have been cheated by the elimination of multi-GPU support and the cancellation of the Mac and Linux ports, then the answer is still an emphatic “no” as there is nothing to suggest Warner Bros. will change their minds and go back to working on them.
For those willing to chance it and have systems that are comparable to my own, Batman: Arkham Knight is essentially the ultimate Batman simulator. The amount of tasks to complete, especially in the expanded Premium Edition, rivals that of even open-world games such as an Elder Scrolls game. Having spent over 80 hours finishing everything — minus the individual character pack DLCs — I can say that the price I paid for it is more than fair. If I had decided to pay even another $10 for what I’ve experienced, I still would not feel ripped off even after the original launch debacle. So judging purely on those merits, buy it.
But if you don’t trust Warner Bros. or simply want to make the point that PC gamers will not tolerate the sort of shoddy workmanship the game exhibited at launch, then I would not recommend purchasing it. Even though I ultimately made a different decision just based on my personal experience, it’s not wrong to want to make that kind of statement to a company which historically releases poorly optimized PC versions of its biggest blockbusters. Given the quality of the previous Arkham games — even Arkham Origins is a pretty solid entry in my mind — it still pains me to remain critical of Arkham Knight as it concludes the PC saga not with an explosive finale, but in a soiled, bug-ridden mess that even Edward Nygma couldn’t fix and whose reputation Warner Bros. could not restore. In the end, Jim Gordon’s statement from the Batman: Arkham Knight story may very well be true: This is how the Batman finally died — at least on the PC.