Batman Arkham Knight Interim Update PC Nvidia Gameworks Graphics Frame Rate Analysis

Written by Jon Sutton on Tue, Sep 8, 2015 4:30 PM
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In case you missed it, the Batman: Arkham Knight Interim update dropped last week. Rocksteady’s open-world brawler based on DC’s most beloved hero still isn’t on general sale having been pulled, but the mid-way update does at least bring a semblance of a playable state to some users.

One of the biggest talking points surrounding Batman: Arkham Knight was the partnership with Nvidia. This isn’t the first time Nvidia has buddied up with a developer and it won’t be the last, but the combination of Nvidia exclusive GameWorks effects and giving away copies of the game with select Geforce cards led to an expectation Batman: Arkham Knight would at least work on Nvidia GPUs. We now know this wasn’t the case, and Batman: Arkham Knight was a shocker at launch three months (3 months!) ago. With the interim update installed, we thought it was about time to head back in and look at just what these Nvidia GameWorks effects bring to the table, and just how demanding they are when enabled.

In Batman: Arkham Knight there are four different Nvidia GameWorks features; Interactive Smoke, Interactive Paper Debris, Enhanced Rain, and Enhanced Light Shafts. In the video below we’ll be taking a look at just when and where these graphical effects take place, and just what what the frames per second hit will be when enabled.

The Batman Arkham Knight PC Gameworks Graphics Frame Rate Analysis is being performed on an MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G. We reviewed this graphics card a month or so ago, and it’s a reasonably performing entry-level graphics card.

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Gameworks Effects Breakdown

GameWorks Effect FPS Disabled/Enabled FPS Cost Frequency Impact
Interactive Smoke & Fog 30 / 18 10-15 Often Heavy
Paper Debris 50 / 50 0 Never Pointless
Enhanced Rain 50 / 44 4-7 Rare Medium
Enhanced Light Shafts 50 / 46 3-5 Rare Low

Interactive Smoke & Fog - A cursory glance at the video will let you know this is an impressive and attention-grabbing effect. The demonstration of the smoke spewing out from the Batmobile tire spin is thick and voluminous, shifting dynamically as the car moves back through it. It's an effect that crops up plenty in Batman: Arkham Knight, thanks to hissing steam pipes, gaping manholes,and the aforementioned Batmobile. It's the strongest of all the Nvidia GameWorks features, but it's also the most demanding. In the benchmark you can see a drop of more than 50% at times, depending on how much smoke is filling the screen. Luckily it tends to sort itself out fairly quickly, but you're looking at a heavy frame rate drop at peak load. 

Paper Debris - Now Nvidia made a big song and dance about this feature ahead of Arkham Knight's launch, and during the GameWorks trailer it almost looked as if there was too much paper debris being whipped up and whirled around during combat. Felix spent hours, and I really do mean hours, looking for an example of Paper Debris is action, but he couldn't find any. In the clip you can see paper on the floor, but it remains static whether the feature is enabled or disabled. Because we couldn't find any instances of it happening, it has zero impact on performance. Overall it's a pointless feature, but it may have been disabled entirely with the Interim 1.02 update. 

Enhanced Rain - You have to look really closely to see this effect in action, but Enhanced Rain comes into effect when Batman unfurls his cape. During the first slow motion clip it's easiest to spot. Individual rain droplets splash off his cap as it whips open. This is a very brief, incidental effect that you will have a hard time seeing during normal gameplay. When enabled the MSI GTX 950 Gaming 2G saw a drop in frame rate of 6 FPS, equivalent to 12%. The drop only occurs when Batman opens his cloak however, rather than during normal gameplay. 

Enhanced Light Shafts - Once you spot it, this one's really obvious. The usage of the helicopter's beam is to highlight to the player where clusters of enemies are. The problem is, it's difficult to decide whether Batman: Arkham Knight is better with it off or on. With Enhanced Light Shafts on you can see the spotlight cast from the helicopter is pretty much invisible. From the ground level it appears to illuminate, but from the air you can see there isn't much of a beam being cast. Conversely, if you look closely when Enhanced Light Shafts are on, you can see when it shines directly on AI they actually disappear from view. This works against the entire logic of having a light beam, and actually makes it more difficult to locate enemies. I should stress it's quite difficult to see in this render of the video which is a bit of a victim of YouTube's compression, but the soldiers are just about visible on the balcony where the beam is shining, at about 3:12. 

In total, you're looking at an average of 22 frames per second lost when all of the Nvidia Gameworks features are activated and in use. This is a 44% drop in frames, which is an absolutely massive impact for the visual game you're getting. For point of reference, this is not far off the difference between playing 1080p and 1440p, you're just choosing to spend your graphics performance on additional features rather than additional pixels. I know which I'd prefer.

Of the Nvidia GameWorks features on offer, the Interactive Smoke & Fog is undoubtedly the best, but it's also the one capable of brining systems to their knees. For now this a luxury option, only afforded to those with excess performance, but we're still hopefully WB Games, Rocksteady and Nvidia can work out something a little more reasonable once the next patch rolls around. 

Ultimately, Batman: Arkham Knight still isn't a fantastic performer even with the interim patch installed. There's some fundamental problems with stuttering that don't even bear fruit in the frames per second benchmarks, and from the few hours I've played it with a GTX 970, I'd still suggest waiting on another update. 

The problem with this scenario is this June release already feels old hat, and it's about to be snowed under by the deluge of holiday releases. It's difficult to avoid thinking this was released in such a terrible state there's really no way back now. I recently started up Mad Max, another Warner publisher title, and its performance is excellent. It also scratches the same itch the Arkham games do, leaving me wondering where its place now is. 

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16:19 Sep-09-2015

I was one of the lucky ones. Nevertheless I am sad for others and disappointed that the pc release has left a stain on the series of a generally great character

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12:58 Sep-09-2015

so when does it come back to steam then?

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13:03 Sep-09-2015

No date yet, unfortunately. Very late this year or early 2016 is my guess.

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14:38 Sep-09-2015

The next patch has DLC support for PC. So whenever they release that. This is still the interim patch.

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15:47 Sep-11-2015

If you really still want the game, it is still available to purchase on some online retailers

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11:16 Sep-09-2015

This game is ruined for pc. They "cannot" fix it.
Most of the people have already played it on consoles etc.

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08:02 Sep-09-2015

Incidentally the Paper Debris thing is only applicable in the exact location they demoed it in. With Nightwing and Batman fighting together inside a Penguin weapons cache. Something like the money debris in the Catwoman missions in City which couldnt be observed on any other level/location.

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09:23 Sep-09-2015

Ahhh great share Mukulgupta.

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10:27 Sep-09-2015

That seems like the daftest implementation possible.

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14:36 Sep-09-2015

They just had to get it in there.

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07:28 Sep-09-2015

The only reason I see for getting this game now is to just to finish up the "Trilogy" (Arkham Origins really should be considered part of this set though) and to enjoy what has been a strong storyline from the franchise. Other than that I have nothing but disappointment in the developers, publishers, and Nvidea. I'll wait for a GOTY version and a Steam sale that'll put it at under $15.

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06:21 Sep-09-2015

Still waiting for the full patch before I play through it. I started the game and played a few hours just to see how my system performed. It played really well. Never stuttered or froze in my short time with it. Hope they do the community right in the end.

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06:11 Sep-09-2015

game debate admins posts are on time from 12pm to 6 pm every day

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06:36 Sep-09-2015

I beg your pardon?

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22:55 Sep-08-2015

so basically any game with nvidia gameworks turned on is just a piece of crap

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01:26 Sep-09-2015

So far nVidia Gameworks is fine for me in every game that I have tried it, but I haven't tried this Batman game yet. I won't buy this game until there is a complete edition on sale for like $25 or less. Too many bugs from the developer's side reported by gamers since launch for my taste. ;)

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10:14 Sep-09-2015

well am not sure which games you refer to but take the witcher 3 for instance, u are getting a huge fps drop with gameworks on and is not as if you see big difference with it turned off. Tressfx in tomb raider on the hand though also had an fps impact but minimal has a great difference on Laura's hair and it's nice

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14:23 Sep-09-2015

Are you freaking kidding me? Tress FX in Tomb Raider actually hits performance harder on my rig than Hairworks in Witcher 3 does. Both work fine though. I lose 20fps from Tress FX & 15fps from Hairworks. Neither one cripples my performance though. Yes I take a big hit, but both are still staying in playable fps range.

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04:58 Sep-09-2015

In a low budge card like GTX 950 yes.

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20:47 Sep-08-2015

Still looks terrible. I'm glad that I didn't bought this game. First two parts was awesome :-)

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18:24 Sep-08-2015

Performance may be better but SLI despite them adding support for it results in crazy colorful lightshow until the vram fills up and the game just completely freezes even with all settings low with newest drivers glad I didn't pay for this.

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01:28 Sep-09-2015

Which version of Windows are you using? Just curious...

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18:07 Sep-08-2015

The smoke effect is pretty cool, barely noticed a difference with the rain effect, the lights shaft doesn't look that impressive and is not worth the fps cut, overall great performance considering its a GTX950, would like to see GTX970.

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02:40 Sep-09-2015

I have a 970 ftw/ 4690k. I still have random freezes, but overall, it's definitely good enough to play to completion.

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17:36 Sep-08-2015

Console users get 6 months of new DLC contents. PC users get 6 months of new patch fixes. :P

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17:33 Sep-08-2015

Who will play game with nVidia things with a Card lower than a 780/970...

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19:12 Sep-08-2015

maybe i can

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20:15 Sep-08-2015

Its wast of time...

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17:05 Sep-08-2015

For interactive smoke and fog, why is it 30 fps when the feature is disabled but other gameworks effect has 50 fps when disabled?

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05:09 Sep-09-2015

Because rain and light need just a few thousands of instances(drops, rays) but fog and smoke need ten of thousands of dynamic particles(gravity, air flow) to make a realistic effect.

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23:55 Sep-09-2015

I think you didn't understand his question. He asked why there is fps drops between the tests when all the gameworks are disabled, for example, no gameworks fog test vs no gameworks rain test.

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16:58 Sep-08-2015

Money was the biggest killer in this game life, Never should a game dev release a game when informed to do so by those that only view the money side of it its just silly and stupid and most worst of all was greedy

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16:52 Sep-08-2015

Not gonna lie, you can bash the game all you like for the technical problems it had, but once you get past that, the storyline is just incredible! Brilliant way to end the Arkham series despite the technical problems it had! :D

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22:51 Sep-08-2015

No one thought that it was a horrible game, everyone just hated the devs and communication between companies for such a god awful port.

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08:04 Sep-09-2015

I didn't say it was a horrible game. I said everyone was bashing it due to the technical problems it had :)

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22:22 Sep-09-2015

It does deserve to be bashed for that though. Never before did I think something could turn out worse than Watch Dogs at release.

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16:37 Sep-08-2015

I didn't have any issues to begin with, except for texture popping in and not loading. Now, I have zero issues with the game completely.

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16:32 Sep-08-2015

I dont like the enhanced light shafts, they look worse if you ask me, same with smoke and fog, i prefer those off

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17:56 Sep-08-2015

I agree,those light shafts look really bad

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Can They Run... |

| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-10700 8-Core 2.90GHz GeForce RTX 2060 6GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
Core i5-9400F 6-Core 2.9GHz GeForce GTX 770 DirectCU II 2GB OC Edition 16GB
0% No [2 votes]
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0% No [2 votes]
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Athlon II X2 245 GeForce GTS 250 4GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
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Core i5-2400S 2.5GHz Radeon R5 340 (OEM) 4GB
| High, 720p
Core i5-2400S 2.5GHz Radeon R5 340 (OEM) 4GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
Ryzen 5 3500U 4-Core 2.1 GHz Radeon RX Vega 8 8GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 30FPS, Medium, 720p
Ryzen 5 3500U 4-Core 2.1 GHz Radeon RX Vega 8 10GB
| 30FPS, High, 1080p
Core i3-8100 4-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1060 3GB 16GB
100% Yes [4 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Ryzen 7 5800H 8-Core 3.2GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile 32GB
100% Yes [5 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 7 5800H 8-Core 3.2GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-4770K 4-Core 3.5GHz GeForce GTX 980 4GB 32GB
100% Yes [3 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 7 5800H 8-Core 3.2GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile 16GB
100% Yes [2 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Core i5-10400F 6-Core 2.90GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Ti MSI Ventus 2X 8GB 16GB
100% Yes [8 votes]
| 60FPS, Medium, 1080p
Core i7-10700F 8-Core 2.9GHz GeForce GTX 970 Gigabyte G1 Gaming 4GB Edition 16GB
100% Yes [3 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i5-11400F 6-Core 2.6GHz GeForce GTX 1650 Super 4GB 16GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-3770 4-Core 3.4GHz GeForce GTX 1650 Super 4GB 16GB
0% No [1 votes]