The Arkham Knight Re-Release Isn’t Going Down Well

Last night’s re-release of the troubled PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight [official site] tries to fix two things: one is the misbehaving technology, and the other is the reputation. The game was pulled off Steam in June after a torrent of complaints, refund requests and negative customer reviews. No doubt its makers had hoped the Steam reviews would turn positive come this much-anticipated update, but it seems the opposite is happening – the new version has new problems, and the negative reviews are pouring in once again.

A question mark had long hung over what would happen about the thousands of original negative Steam reviews once the game was restored to sale, and now we know: they’re still there, and the game’s reception is currently labelled ‘mixed’ on Steam (with 9,600 negative and 8,400 positive at the time of writing). Initially, Steam stuck a big yellow button on any reviews posted prior to yesterday declaring that they referred to a ‘Pre-Release’ version of the game. Um, no.

Mercifully that misleading label has now been removed, which means ol’ Bats is back to being adorned with thousands of negative reviews. And, unfortunately for publisher Warner and developer Rocksteady, quite a few of those are brand new. There is a steady stream of new positive reviews too, but right now the balance appears to be more towards the nays.

While there is very probably some degree of kicking a man when he’s down going on, Arkham Knight’s re-release is most certainly not in the robust shape it should have been after all this time. As I wrote yesterday, there’s some sort of issue with paging which means the official advice is to restart the game if it stutters under Windows 7, while Windows 10 players are advised to have at least 12GB of RAM. No other game, to the best of my knowledge, has that requirement. On top of that, there’s no official SLI or Crossfire support, and people without ridiculous systems are reporting all sorts of other issues too, including crashes and low frame-rates. This does seem poor form after three theoretical months of fixing – especially when the new release has made a point of putting a ton of paid DLC up for sale. Shouldn’t the base game have been sorted out before being nickel’n’dimed?

At this point, it’s almost impossible to separate out the righteous grievances from the purely vengeful – all in the negative mix together are people with noses still out of joint about the initial borked release and the long wait, people who got fed up with all the Batmobile busywork, people who are annoyed that many of the most desirable paid Batmobile DLC skins only work in the racing mini-games and not the main game, and people who have decided that Warner offering free copies of all previous Arkham games as an apology is insulting. There’s a lot of anger in the reviews, even by Steam’s oft-shouty standards, and for my money at least a portion of it is driven more by offended principle than fact.

That said, the new version of Arkham Knight is not exactly a revelatory experience on my PC. I’ve got a Windows 10 system running a GTX 970, a 4GHz i7 and 8GB RAM, and oh boy, the stuttering is no fun. I wouldn’t actually call it deal-breaking, but it is extremely distracting, and the new graphical options sadly haven’t reinstated enough eye-pleasing goodness to take the sting away. I’m not about to go out and drop £30-odd on upgrading as I will see quite literally zero benefit from it in anything else I use my PC for, and frankly I’m finding this particular game increasingly tedious anyway.

In any case, 12GB (and the restart advice in Windows 7) simply doesn’t seem like a reasonable ask: no other game needs it, the stuttering/paging issue doesn’t exist in the console versions of the game, and those boxes certainly don’t have 12GB. (However, it must be said that Xbone and PS4 use RAM in a very different way to PCs, especially as they don’t have a honking great version of Windows chewing up a portion of it).

We’ll have to see how the dust settles in a few days, as more and more folk get their hands on the game and whether the game receives more updates. Even if the storm of negativity continues, I can’t imagine Warner pulling the game for a second time – surely they’d just decide to call it a write-off were that the case?

More positively, Arkham Knight is now $10 cheaper than it was at first launch. I would argue that it needs some rapid patching to justify charging even $50, however.

67 Comments

  1. haldolium says:

    “At this point, it’s almost impossible to separate out the righteous grievances from the purely vengeful”

    Yes. That is very sad, given that Rocksteady did some truly amazing work in many areas on Arkham Knight. Animations, environenment design and even visual appearance of many interface elements are outstanding and I personally fell in love with the subsurface shader they’re using for the water simulation. Just from the utilization of technology, Arkham Knight is a wonderful experience.

    I haven’t had much issues with it after the first patch so I just went through it (sadly 30FPS, but it worked okay with controller). It’s not the greatest Batman game (actually, none is in my opionion. All have ups and downs and non mixed the best parts of them together) but it sure is beautiful.

    “On top of that, there’s no official SLI or Crossfire support,”

    SLI/CF have always been problematic in many games. To mix that with failures clearly on the development side (such as the apparent memory problems) is unfair.

    • king0zymandias says:

      Subsurface scattering isn’t used on water in CG. It’s only used on materials like skin, wax, paper, milk and the likes. Even then most realtime renderers rely on various cheats to create the illusion of subsurface scattering as it’s still very very expensive to calculate. Instead a combination of reflection and refraction is used on water materials.

      • haldolium says:

        “king0zymandias says:

        Subsurface scattering isn’t used on water in CG. It’s only used on materials like skin, wax, paper, milk and the likes. Even then most realtime renderers rely on various cheats to create the illusion of subsurface scattering as it’s still very very expensive to calculate. Instead a combination of reflection and refraction is used on water materials.”

        Right, usually it isn’t. It sure looks like it though, but I could be wrong. Still looks amazing when the thunder flashes. I haven’t found anything in-depth about that shader, other that it’s nVidias work for the fluid simulation. If you have anything on that matter, I am happy to get some reading material.

        Otherwise don’t mistake offline rendering with realtime rendering, which still works very different due to rasterization. Everything in games is “fake” so to say. Even though it’s getting closer to model more physical accurate conditions, its still vastly different to classical offline methods (which too, of course, rely on a variety of tricks so rendering time is kept as low as possible). And in both areas SSS shaders are getting constantly more performance friendly. With people like Jorge Jimenez pushing the boundaries for realistic realtime rendering, you see it in most bigger games implemented today for skin shaders at the very least.

        • king0zymandias says:

          Ok.Just took a look at the water you are talking about. Can guarantee there’s no subsurface scattering going on there. Subsurface scattering is a method used to approximate the scattering of light after it penetrates the surface of an object and then exists at irregular angles after the scattering. But here no light is penetrating the water surface at all. It’s all reflection and the shader is a very basic reflective water shader. Just with a nifty foam shader added on top. It seems the foam is being calculated using the velocity of the underlying liquid mesh.

          I suspect what you are impressed with is the movement of the water or the pseudo liquid simulation. Which does look pretty cool, but I doubt it’s an actual liquid simulation. Seems like the water mesh is being tessellated and displaced using some dynamic highly turbulent noise/flow map. With a bunch of even lower frequency noise layered on top of it. A proper liquid simulation wouldn’t be so uniform and would spalsh around collisions much more dynamically.

          Read up on subsurface scattering a little and I suspect it will seem obvious to you why it isn’t being used in this particular case.

          • Timbrelaine says:

            Actually, it looks to me like they’re modeling sub-surface scattering too- during lightning flashes the water glows a distinct green, particularly at the wave crests.

          • king0zymandias says:

            Doesn’t look like SSS to me. I am fairly certain the greenish tint is the screen space reflection of the pier or other surfaces close to the waterbody. The surfaces are too dark for their reflection to be clearly visible on the water, however during the lightning flashes everything brightens up considerably which is why the reflection of these non-illuminated objects can be observed more clearly. The fresnel effect makes sure they appear at certain viewing angle relative to the mesh surface hence the concentration of the tint on certain parts of the water. And the water surface is so turbulent and rough that the reflection is never sharp and is always fully diffused.

    • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

      In some older games maybe, but crossfire support in modern games is excellent, and I always see nice improvements in higher spec games when I play them. The only game in recent memory I had any issues with was The Witcher 3, with some mild shimmering on ground textures in Novigrad, which has since been fixed.

      For a game not to have ANY official multi GPU support months after its release is unacceptable really, it’s not like the technology is new, or they haven’t had time to work on it.

      • waltC says:

        The thing is that some games use engines that simply don’t allow Crossfire/SLI because they won’t allow AFR at all. Up to now Crossfire, etc, has been a pure crap shoot and those who invest in it do so knowing the caveats (hopefully.) Up to now, Crossfire/SLI hasn’t been supported in D3d11 & <, or OpenGL 4.3 & <. It's strictly done on a per-game basis and it *has to be done* by the IHV (AMD/nVIdia) in their drivers or it simply won't happen.

        It's not something that game devs can directly support because, again, it isn't supported in either API. D3d12 changes that completely–now multigpu support *is* a part of the D3d12 API, and so developers will be able to support it in their upcoming D3d12 games. But until then, criticizing any game for not offering multigpu support is certainly off the point because until the D3d12 games start showing up that support it, the part the game developer plays in multigpu support is very small.

        If I'd criticize anything about this game it would be the decision to use the U3 engine to make the kind of game they wanted–it's just not up to it, imo.

        • sweenish says:

          That’s a load.

          Saying that any pre-DX12 games shouldn’t be expected to have decent multi-GPU support is just plain wrong.

          Arkham Knight is an Unreal game. It should be working fine. I just want to know what kind of sad state the other dev house left this game in on PC. And how seriously WB actually wanted real fixes implemented.

    • EvaUnit02 says:

      Trust the first comment in this thread to be by a Warner Brothers corporate apologist.

  2. Matt7895 says:

    I played and completed Arkham Knight a few months ago when they released the performance patch.

    I managed to get somewhere between 30 and 45 FPS on my system. Win 10, GeForce 960 4GB, 8 GB RAM, but an old processor (Core 2 Quad 9660 3ghz).

    The most important thing about Arkham Knight is not often discussed. The biggest problem is not performance, it is that Arkham Knight just isn’t a very good game. It is nowhere near the quality of the games before it, Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. I think it is mainly because of the sodding awful Batmobile sections, which have to be done constantly and aren’t skippable. There aren’t as many stealth sections either, which were something I really liked about the series.

    • anHorse says:

      Yeah

      Rather amusingly the total shitfest of a pc release has covered up the fact that this is much weaker than any other arkham game. Hell thanks to all the problems it still has on pc AK’s even managed to be buggier than Origins

    • icarussc says:

      I must disagree with you, sir. As an enthusiast of all three previous Arkham games (including the weak Origins), I find this one the most attractive, the most combat-complete, and possessed of the best story.

      • PsychoWedge says:

        really? gameplay-wise the strongest point of the Arkham games was always the comabat, the exploration and the nicely paced mixture of those two. AK tuned those down so much that I barely remember any memorable fight parts. instead you’re constantly driving around in that fucking batmobile. and it seems they were so in love with that thing that they made it the center of 80% of the game. but the Arkham games are not racing games. which would be okay if the racing game they made were good. but it’s not. it’s aweful.

        and then there are a lot of other problems with the game of course… xD

  3. Dwarph says:

    Whilst I’m not trying to defend Warner Brothers, I played Arkham Knight on my pc with next to no issues after the initial patch. Admittedly I haven’t tried the new patch, but the bugs are still quite system specific.
    :-) (I was running a 970, i5 @3.6 GHz and 16Gb of RAM. Maybe it was the RAM that made the difference?)

    Shame that such a fun game has been overshadowed by a crappy crappy port. :-(

  4. Solidstate89 says:

    So you’re saying I finally have a game so gloriously unoptimized that I can actually throw my 32GB of RAM at it?

    • Belsameth says:

      This is almost reason enough for me to buy it! More games should go down that route! :D

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      What!? 32 freakin’ GB RAM? That’s insane! That’s “The Joker”-insane. Or perhaps I’m insane gaming on my laptop with 4 GB RAM, but I have my reasons and perhaps so do you.

      • Solidstate89 says:

        Those reasons are:
        1) Because I could
        2) Because I run one or two VMs on my machine and I wanted to be able to give them a nice heaping dose of RAM without slowing down my host machine.

      • Hobbes says:

        What’s wrong with 32GB ram? I consider that perfectly normal.

        Then again, I consider a 980Ti normal…

    • DrZhark says:

      Yay finally! a use for my 32GB of ram. But I’ll wait until the game is around $20 (most likely for X-mas sale).

  5. Spacewalk says:

    What a shemozzle.

  6. Phinor says:

    I have a very similar setup to yours (Windows 10, GTX 970) etc. but I do have 16GB of RAM and the game is completely stutter free now based on a 15 minute flyby-drivethrough through the city. Previously I definitely had stuttering issues, although I did play the main story through back when the game was released so it wasn’t unplayable by any means. So while they do suggest 12GB RAM for a good experience, the game actually does work very well if you have enough memory (and GPU/CPU). GTA5 is another game that struggled on my machine with 8GB memory, which is why I decided to upgrade to 16GB and that pretty much fixed the little stuttering issues I had with that game.

    8GB was standard for a long time but time moves on and because the new consoles also have 8GB (of which some isn’t usable), running those same games on PC with (much) higher settings, I don’t think 16GB (or 12GB) is an unreasonable expectation if you want the best experience.

    • mike2R says:

      It does seem a bit more than similar games are requiring though. 16GB for me (with an SSD for a system drive admittedly) gives a completely smooth experience – alt tabbing to and from games with no delay at all, even with lots of other applications loaded on a machine that hans’t been restarted in a week. I don’t think I’ve noticed the thing paging once.

      Needing that just to run a game that isn’t doing anything special compared to other titles… does seem a bit excessive.

    • Unclepauly says:

      Lol everytime a game comes out that pushes absurd hardware req’s due to un-optimized horsecode there’s always one or two guys with the hardware to do it that say “eh, get with the times people”. It’s the opposite of buyers remorse.

  7. Sinjun says:

    Most of the negativity is bullshit and hyperbole. The game not only runs fine now, but it’s the best in the series right next to Origins (and IMO even better). This is just internet dogpile mob mentality at it’s finest, not much more.

    • Matt7895 says:

      I disagree with your opinion on Arkham Knight, but it is nice to see someone who liked Origins as much as I did. I have no idea why people are so vitriolic about it (and the Oranges meme is frankly stupid). I can’t really see where Origins put a step wrong, and it did some things (like the detective bits) that were later used again by Arkham Knight.

      • PancakeWizard says:

        For me it’s Asylum>Origins>City. I have no idea what Arkham Knight is like.

      • icarussc says:

        I’m a big fan of Knight, but felt Origins was much weaker than City, primarily for three reasons:
        1. There was a big huge city, but many of the tall buildings couldn’t be grappled onto. What’s the point of Batman, then?!
        2. Maybe I imagine it, but the combat model felt a touch spongy. I 100%-ed City, but I kept dropping combos in Origins.
        3. Most of all, there was a big huge bad bug that (A) stopped my progress for two months until it was patched and then (B) ate my savegame — my whole savegame! — right at the very end of the story.

        But the ninjas and the fight grades were very cool.

    • Solidstate89 says:

      How in the hell do you think Origins is the second best in the Arkham series?

      That game is in the basement compared to Asylum, City and – probably, though I haven’t played it – Knight.

      • Sinjun says:

        The writing. The gameplay was probably a notch down or so from Asylum/City, but I don’t give much of a shit about gameplay if the story and characters are great and the game doesn’t treat me like an idiot.

        • Matt7895 says:

          The story does feel more mature and less comic booky than the other Arkham games. My favourite is still Arkham Asylum because of the slick presentation and the tight focus, but I think Arkham City is probably the best ‘game’ of the series in terms of systems.

          • Mokinokaro says:

            If Rocksteady had handled the gameplay side of Origins it probably would have been the best in the series. WB Montreal’s effort on that side wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t as slick as Rocksteady’s games.

          • thekelvingreen says:

            Less comic-booky?

            It’s Batman!

    • Apocalypse says:

      I raise my hat before you dear Sir. A masterful troll you played on us.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Neurotic says:

    Arkham Aliens: Colonial Knights

    In the Batcave, no-one can hear you fart…

  9. Henjin says:

    “However, it must be said that Xbone and PS4 use RAM in a very different way to PCs, especially as they don’t have a honking great version of Windows chewing up a portion of it.”

    Xbone does have an OS based on Windows, and both console systems have to reserve a portion of their 8 GB RAM for the OSes and other background functions. According to some information, both consoles have only about 5 to 6 GB RAM available to games. And that amount of RAM is shared between CPU and GPU, not dedicated for CPU as on PC.

    • Dev says:

      Why let facts get in the way of a good story?

    • AvatarIII says:

      I was just about to say the same thing! I’m beginning to think they hardly touched anything during this fixing period and just did more testing to find out why it run poorly, and then modify the recommended specs accordingly!

    • mattevansc3 says:

      There’s a huge difference between running a full on Windows install and running two pared down OS’s where only the non-game running OS is Windows based.

      Both consoles do handle RAM differently too. The PS4 runs everything on a fixed amount of GDDR5 while the Xbox One also uses additional high bandwidth memory.

      • Mokinokaro says:

        The PS4 in particular is a weird beast.

        A bunch of the OS functions are actually offloaded onto a dedicated CPU that has its own RAM not shared with the rest of the system. It also uses one of its eight GBs for the OS and streaming/recording.

        And its normal RAM is actually 5400 MHz GDDR5 which is a lot faster than typical PC RAM. I’d suspect that’s where some of the memory leak issues are originating from. If the PC port is based on the PS4 version it’s going to be expecting a much higher memory bandwidth than most PCs provide.

      • Solidstate89 says:

        You realize Windows 10’s system requirements can run on extremely tight hardware rather smoothly, right? I have a tablet with only a maximum of 2GB of RAM and Windows 10 shines on it.

        Windows 10 – when required to by system applications – can par down its memory usage like no other version before it. The consoles reserve somewhere between 2-3GB of RAM for the system OS. That’s no more or less than what Windows 10 can shrink down to when applications require more RAM and Windows lets go of its cached memory.

        • mattevansc3 says:

          That’s not quite what’s happening.

          The console OS’s don’t use 2-3GB of RAM. They reserve that much RAM for OS and app usage. Opening up the media player or social media features uses up that 2-3GB of OS reserved RAM.

          Windows 10’s lower RAM usage is also artificially lower. Tasks that would have been done in Windows in earlier versions are now their own apps with their own RAM requirements.

          • Solidstate89 says:

            Windows 10’s lower RAM usage is also artificially lower. Tasks that would have been done in Windows in earlier versions are now their own apps with their own RAM requirements.

            Lolwat?

            No they’re fucking not, they’re system processes same as they’ve always been. Every since Vista was released, every proceeding version has had lower TOTAL RAM usage than the one that came before it. There’s no “artificially lower” bullshit you’re talking about.

          • mattevansc3 says:

            And people here suggested I was the MS shill.

            Prior to Windows 8 the vast majority of services and tasks were part of the OS and enabled by default whether they were being utilised or not. With the release of Window 8 Microsoft started moving services and tasks away from the OS and turning them into apps. This was largely superficial but son services and tasks were only enabled when the app was opened.

            With Windows 10 Microsoft has gone full hog for this ideal. The Start Menu is a Universal App. The settings menu is a Universal App and the control panel we all know will be decommissioned.

            The background services and tasks needed to run and support the Universal Apps will generally not be enabled until the app is “switched on”. This means that Windows is not technically needing the RAM, the Universal Apps are, which then gives the impression that Windows 10 is needing less RAM than it actually does.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        That doesn’t matter for RAM consumption though: both consoles still dedicate 2-3gb of RAM to their core OS. This is not a variable either: it’s a fixed, preset value because both consoles run hypervisors to have the front-end OS and the “game” OS (essentially a small bootstrap and wrapper on the hardware) be available simultaneously without interfering with one another.

        So the correct thing to say is that consoles run the game on about 6gb of RAM and that includes video RAM as well. Some inefficiencies can be eliminated by the shared memory pool, but 12gb is absurd.

  10. neotribe says:

    Arkham Plight, amirite? I just upgraded to specs that could probably brute-force this bug-ridden pile to acceptable performance but at this point I could hardly be less interested.

  11. LionsPhil says:

    A hard drive paging issue with some GPUs on Windows 7 may occur after extended gameplay sessions. If you encounter this, simply re-launching the game will resolve the issue.

    Translation: it leaks like a bitch and will start ravenously consuming virtual memory, but we can’t be bothered or are too inept to do our jobs properly, so just restart it every so often.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      To be fair to Rocksteady they’re trying to fix something that’s now a horrid mix of Iron Galaxy’s publisher-rushed code and their own.

      That’s what happens when the publisher only gives three weeks to make a port. You end up with code that’s not only terribly optimized but an absolute bitch to understand since I doubt documentation was a high priority.

      • Premium User Badge

        Risingson says:

        Been there. You leave the project without looking back and wishing to take a plane out of the country.

  12. jon_hill987 says:

    What a shame.
    It was a good series… what a rotten way to die.

  13. rumtotinggamer says:

    “The game not only runs fine now”

    Did you even read the block of text above?, or half the Steam reviews, even Angry Joe couldn’t even get the game to run and imagine what monster PC he has.

    Even though I haven’t and won’t be playing this this stuff has to be called out, its like saying the VW emissions scandal doesn’t matter because I don’t drive a VW or my VW drives fine anyway.

    And I sure as hell aren’t throwing money at a game to get it to work, in 1995 I did as PC games were young but not now.

  14. MortyDice says:

    Completed it on its first version with a 720p/80fps experience. I have upgraded my rig since and thought I could get a little more whizzbang. That did not happen though and my NG+ run is still MIA.

  15. ninenullseven says:

    Nah, they are just trying to get away from bad publicity.
    1) 12Gb requirement on Win10 is not game’s itself issue. It’s bug in Win10 related to memory leak in SuperFetch process which affected quite a number of PCs (and whole lot of other games, some devs just upped the RAM requirements recently). They are just saying that to avoid more crap slapped in their face. But mob of angry internet warriors are back on track with their crusade to ruin the day about smallest things in universe without research. Pack mentality. I mean yeah, first world problems, but the game is in a lot better shape right now than it ever was. If MS fix their new windows (which has ton of bugs still) it’d be all smooth and dandy. MS said they’ll fix the issue asap by the way. It’s not like your life now is extra miserable because you can’t play the game you’ve bought for 10 hours of work, don’t overreact.

    2) Memory leak thing though is true and it’s all up to developers. You’ll have degrading performance over time in Win10 too, but at whole bigger margin due to previous point. Not just after some hours like on Win7 but on Win10 – right from start. It’s not actually leaking (it’s not going to use more than 7-8Gb), but when it hits 8Gb on 8Gb system over some time – expect stuttering because OS needs some too all the time. It won’t be stuttering at all even after hours of playing if you have a lot of ram. Devs should work around level streaming a bit more, it’s more of an engine issue actually.

    • anHorse says:

      Yeah the “smallest things in the universe” like being able to play a game with the system specs that were recommended by the fucking people selling it

  16. kevmscotland says:

    It’ll make enough money from new people picking it up and those that like it unable to resist the DLC that Warner Bros will pat themselves on a job well done and all will be well with their Share Holders.

    What’s going to happen now from my perspective is I’m not gonna buy anymore of their shit. I’d given them the benefit of the doubt, now they can wave goodbye to any more of my cash.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      Never preorder WB games on PC. They’ve got a fairly long list of bad ports now.

  17. v21v21v21 says:

    “kicking a man when he’s down”

    As always, it is a question of why he is down in the first place.

    • Apocalypse says:

      In this case I would say keep kicking, it cheaper than a bullet. This WB franchise needs to die first, before someone can reboot it.

    • Unclepauly says:

      That’s not very christian of you good sir.

  18. racccoon says:

    I think the games ok, I ain’t felt no pain in the game & i haven’t been suspended in animation for the lapse controversy period, I been playing it no problem at all. good game nice work :)