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.