Arkham Knight Launch Disaster: Performance Issues Abound
[Updated: Warner Brothers has suspended all further sales of Batman: Arkham Knight until further notice. See this post for further details. It has also been updated to provide an editors note on Denuvo storage related issues being isolated and issues with it being misattributed to Denuvo instead of poor game dev programming.]
It is coming to light that those who have pre-ordered the highly anticipated Batman: Arkham Knight on PC are coming away with a sour taste in their mouths. Several hundreds of users — primary AMD users but not limited to them — are experiencing a host of problems at launch.
Micro-stuttering causing general un-playability from visual slowness and the game’s omnipresent DRM Anti-Circumvention Software Denuvo are ruining gameplay, enjoyment, and hard drives — in that order.
Were this only an issue on AMD graphics cards, it would be easy to say this was the result of NVIDIA GameWorks™ and use of proprietary code in Arkham Knight itself. However, it is reported in the Steam forums that users with cards as powerful as the Nvidia GTX 980 are facing the some of the same performance issues, making the game unplayable.
Another issue that has come up is that Arkham Knight is locked at 30 FPS. This can be fixed via an INI tweak, but this shouldn’t have been capped in the first place. This already pushes the player experience in favor of the PS4, with evidence that there were absolutely zero PC copies of Arkham Knight provided to anybody before launch for review. Other graphical issues, such as textures loading improperly, massive frame rate drops, and other performance issues are being reported, again across both AMD and Nvidia platforms, prompting Rocksteady to issue a statement to turn off SLI as this was reportedly adding to the performance issues, rather than helping to fix them as advertised.
It’s looking like Iron Galaxy, a PC Port specialist was chosen to handle the PC port, as they are listed in the credits as “PC Support and additional engineering.”
So why is Batman Arkham Knight Such A Heaping Mess?
Were a basic PC review copy provided before launch to any outlets, this may have allowed the consumer to make the decision to not to buy the game. However, there was a general blackout across media platforms which favoured a PS4 Exclusive review system wherein Warner Brothers Software did not give any journalists a PC review copy.
The Denuvo DRM, or Anti-Circumvention Software as they prefer it to be called, is infamous in the gaming community for constantly read/writing the hard drive for games under their dubious protection. This can to hard drive deaths, as the disk or — heaven forbid — an SSD has their lifespan reduced by the constant read/writes. This system isn’t displayed in the store page details on Steam either, where it normally should be listed. As of this writing, Denuvo DRM has yet to be added to the store listing as a “feature.”
An attempt by Gameworks™ to obfuscate, and indeed, lock-out AMD users was noted as well. Arkham Knight’s store page originally had only the Nvidia preferred cards available for its requirements. This has been changed in the last Steam page update, and can be corroborated by an archive of Nvidia’s Arkham Knight page here. What’s worse, is the requirements for AMD’s cards jumping quite high, due to the veritable blackout Nvidia has on new games using Gameworks™.
General performance issues are being corroborated across the Steam platform, from the forums to the, now thousands, of bad reviews placed on the page itself, including but not limited to the following
- Huge Stuttering
- Unplayable Frame rate
- Locked at 30 FPS (A work around exists here in the .ini file)
- Graphical Glitches, Textures not Loading
Judging from how this game was handled, there very well may be more issues cropping up in the future. This is a shame for Iron Galaxy, a console and PC port specialist company with many ports under their belt. A shame because they have handled other ports quite excellently in the past. [Note: This is a Wikipedia link, take with salt.]
There are so many problems with this launch, it’s difficult to figure out where to begin: Proprietary tech from NVida blocking out AMD driver devs until after launch, Denuvo DRM Anti-Tamper Technology, no PC review copies before launch, and Arkham Knight’s PC port being handled by a porting company normally well known for their console ports. It is likely with all these issues combined, that ended up grounding this much anticipated launch.
Thankfully, someone at WB has their head on their shoulders and it seems that the company is aware of all these problems. Community manager CODA release a statement on their forums which will be reproduced verbatim.
We’re aware that some users are reporting performance issues with the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight. This is something that Rocksteady takes very seriously. We are working closely with our external PC development partner to make sure these issues get resolved as quickly as possible.
We’ll update this thread when we’ve got more info to share.
What This All Boils Down To
Pre-orders are increasingly for those with too much money and/or terrible planning skills. With each new game that comes out pre-ordering becomes a hit or miss affair, where one may receive some in-game trinkets in exchange for being a late beta tester for the developers. What is worse, these trinkets often become part of the Game of the Year copy released several months later. It is becoming clear one must be patient in this market and hold out until those brave (or perhaps foolish) users help out the developers in ironing out all the kinks and breaks present in the game itself. Iron Galaxy will have a lot to prove after this mess of a launch, with them slated to run Killer Instinct Second Season.
It is also becoming clear that Nvidia is becoming anti-consumer, blocking out their erstwhile rival AMD from working on drivers for new games, as well as attempting to use their new monopoly to become lazy. Proprietary technology locks out competitors who may be able to do better, and Gameworks™ is just a transparent attempt to capitalize on a pre-launch monopoly to push Nvidia technology such as the Titan (which still cannot run Arkham Knight properly as of this writing). While AMD are made fun of for having no drivers, they are at the very least open sourced, and have the fastest turn-around for drivers despite the disadvantage they have when they are locked out of code pre-launch.
[Editors Note: Since published, it appears that issues with storage degradation can be attributed to either poor implementation of earlier versions of Denuvo, poor programming of the game in question, or a combination of the two. We can find no other reports of games excessively performing storage operations since publishing this piece.]
Also, the DRM Anti-Tamper Technology Denuvo added a third tier of problems, requiring constant reads/writes of the HDD to make sure that the game itself was not pirated while it is being played. Despite having been broken already months ago, Warner Brothers still insisted on its use. This hardware based DRM adds yet more complexity to an already busy, hardware intensive, and technologically vibrant game.
Where is stands now, we feel it would be best to stay away from this game for a while on PC, at least until all the determined — and justifiably angry — consumers help the game devs out of this mess. Which could be a while at this point.
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