Batman Arkham Knight Gaming Performance Benchmarked
After two highly successful Batman games, the Rocksteady Studio's Batman Arkham saga comes to an end with Batman Arkham Knight. Released on June 23, 2015 Arkham Knight uses the popular Unreal Engine 3. In Arkham Knight, Batman faces his biggest challenge, the Arkham Knight, a mysterious villain who wants to kill Batman. The Arkham Knight joins forces with some of Batman's toughest villains, such as Penguin, Two-Face, Harley Quinn and others. While Batman gains the ability to drive the Batmobile, and new gadgets to help him defeat the super villain teamup.
If you were planning on playing Batman Arkham Knight you probably already took a look at the system requirements, however the day before release, Rocksteady updated the system requirements. Most notably, they increased the graphics requirements for AMD GPU's from a 2GB graphics card to a 3GB graphics card. In addition, Rocksteady notified users of potential issues with AMD graphics cards. Thankfully, both AMD and NVIDIA recognized the importance of updating graphics drivers and released drivers optimized for Batman Arkham Knight just hours prior to release; unfortunately there are still numerous performance issues to be worked out and Batman Arkham Knight has been pulled from the market
. We had a copy of the game before it was pulled from the market, so we benchmarked an AMD Radeon R9 390 versus an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 to see how both perform.
Batman Arkham Knight doesn't have very many graphic settings available to customize. The few options there defaulted to the highest setting possible. The only adjustment we made was to disable V-Sync. NVIDIA Gameworks, we will test both enabled and disabled. Throughout testing the rest of the settings would remain the same with only the resolution being adjusted for each test.
So, what exactly is Gameworks? Gameworks is a new API developed by NVIDIA to enhance visual graphics, physics and lighting. Gameworks is only available on NVIDIA based graphics cards and can games much more immersive by creating more realistic effects. Batman Arkham Knight includes four settings for Gameworks, Interactive Smoke/Fog, Interactive Paper Debris, Enhanced Rain, and Enhanced Light Shafts.
There are two video's showing what Gameworks can do for a game, the first shows a high level overview of the Gameworks features in Batman Arkham Knight. Unfortunately, not all of the features that NVIDIA shows in these video's work correctly in Batman Arkham Knight, or have been removed entirely. This is just one of the many complaints about the game.
The second video focus's on the additional Smoke and Fog effects that NVIDIA Gameworks provides. The split screen showing it enabled and disabled really shows off Gameworks and how it can impact the immersion.
Keeping in mind that we will be taking a look at Batman Arkham Knight's release version with the first driver updates from NVIDIA and AMD, both companies are working closely with Warner Brothers and Rocksteady Studio to improve the quality of Batman Arkham Knight.
We will start the testing right after taking a quick look at the test system.
Before jumping into doing some benchmarks, let’s take a look at the test system. All testing was done with a fresh install of Windows 8.1 Pro x64 with all patches and no additional software
running. All benchmarks are run five times with the results averaged. Each of the benchmarks will be run with pre-configured settings at 1920x1080, 2560×1440 and 4K resolutions.
We will be comparing the Sapphire Nitrio 390 and eVGA GTX 970 SC. Both AMD and NVIDIA updated their drivers to smooth out some issues with Batman Arkham Knight, you can get the drivers here:
Here are the exact hardware components used in our test system
Sapphire Tech Nitro 390
eVGA GTX 970 SC
Batman Arkham Knight CPU Utilization
Batman Arkham Knight has been optimized for NVIDIA GPUs, during the 2560 x 1440 testing, we grabbed a screen shot of the CPU utilization between the two test cards. Both of the CPU utilization samples were taken at the same point in the integrated benchmark, the scene where the Batmobile does a donut and stops. It provides a good representation of what the average CPU utilization should be like.
Sapphire Nitro R9 390
EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SC
During the various test runs CPU utilization was rather high across the board. Several times it would ping at 100%, however at time time of taking the CPU utilization sample there was approximately 11% difference between the two, in favor of the eVGA GTX 970SC. When looking at the graphs, overall we can see that the eVGA GTX 970SC was less of a CPU hog than the Sapphire Nitro 390.
Batman Arkham Knight uses a lot of CPU processing power, which is the reason for the high system requirements. Don't expect to do much multi-tasking while running Batman Arkham Knight, and it would be best to play on a freshly booted machine, with as much shut down in the background as possible. This is probably where most performance issues are taking place, with the CPU optimization. Shut down as many unnecessary processes and applications before trying to play Batman Arkham Knight to reduce the CPU load.
Batman Arkham Knight Integrated Performance Benchmark
Batman Arkham Knight has an integrated benchmark that runs through various scenes to provide the user and idea of what their system is capable of. While it won't account for the random nature of the game, at least it provides a nice way to compare computer hardware.
As Batman Arkham Knight is a console port, it is frame locked to 30FPS. Depending on your PC configuration, you should be able to get a higher FPS. There is no way to adjust this while playing the game, however you can make a change to a configuration file to enable a higher possible frame rate. Edit the file "...\Steam\steamapps\common\Batman Arkham Knight\) and look in there for ‘BmGame\Config\BmSystemSettings.ini" and update the entry "MaxFPS" to the desired limit. For our testing, this was set to 90FPS. Thankfully, the integrated benchmark does not utilize the built-in Frame Lock, which is why once we set the lock to 90FPS, we were able to achieve scores above that limit.
With just under 5% performance difference between running the built-in Batman Arkham Knight benchmark on both graphics cards without Gameworks there doesn't seem to be a bad choice in graphics cards. At 1080p the GTX 970 dropped from an average 81FPS to 56FPS once Gameworks was fully enabled; close to a 45% drop. While that's a big drop in FPS, 56FPS is still very playable.
At 1080p, the GTX 970 was slightly behind the Nitro 390, bumping up the resolution, we see that change with the GTX 970 taking a slight lead over the Nitro 390. Granted, it's only 2FPS or 3% difference in performance, so not a game changer by any means. Enabling Gameworks, FPS took a massive nosedive from 64FPS on average to 42FPS, just over 50% difference in FPS by enabling Gameworks. At 42FPS, gameplay is still smooth and flawless.
At the highest resolution, 3840 x 2160 we see the biggest difference in performance with the NVIDIA based GTX 970 taking a 6% lead over the AMD 390; however 2FPS isn't a huge difference in reality. Once we enabled Gameworks, we saw almost a 37.5% difference in performance on the GTX 970. Unfortunately, 4K is still too much for the GTX 970 to handle with Gameworks enabled.
Batman Arkham Knight Real World Performance
Using the Integrated Benchmark should give us a good idea of what the game should run like, however we have seen it's not entirely a good representation of actual gameplay. So, using FRAPS 3.5.99 we did did some running around on the first island to get an idea of actual gameplay. While there is a good randomness to some of the testing, we attempted to keep things as accurate as possible. To cover various scenarios for testing, we first took the Batmobile around the island, then we took to the air with gliding and using the grappling hook, and finally ran around on the ground fighting some thugs.
We see a huge difference between our manual FRAPS benchmarking and what results that we saw with the built-in benchmark. Take the Radeon R9 390 8GB video card for example. The R9 390 averaged 85 FPS with the built-in benchmark at 1920x1080 and performed the best of the two cards. Here in the manual FRAPS testing the card averaged just 68.5 FPS and was slower than the GeForce GTX 970 4GB video card! The Radeon R9 390 also dipped down to 22 FPS on manual testing compared to just 55 FPS with the games internal benchmarking tool. Enabling NVIDIA Gameworks dropped the FPS from 73.1FPS to 62.2FPS, or around 17% on the GeForce GTX 970 when all those features were enabled. Between the NVIDIA based GTX 970 and the AMD based 390, we received a 7% difference in performance. Gameworks on the NVIDIA 970 added an additional 9% difference in performance compared to the AMD 390. One big difference here is the NVIDIA card ran smoothly throughout testing, where the AMD 390 started having some stutters and fall through the world, causing a temporary distraction.
Increasing the resolution also increased the number of times the AMD 390 would stutter and Batman would fall through the world. Over the 30 minute timeframe doing the benchmarks, I counted falling through the world 6 times; stutters were impossible to count as they became fairly frequent. The issues with the AMD 390 show in the numbers, as the AMD 390 received 21% drop in performance compared to the NVIDIA GTX 970. With Gameworks enabled, the GTX 970 even outperformed the AMD 390 due to the issues with the AMD 390.
Increasing the resolution up to 3840x2160 the AMD issues increased even more, to a nearly unplayable state. Falling through the world at least every 2 minutes, and severe stuttering making all aspects of gameplay difficult. Again, almost a 21% drop in performance for the AMD 390 compared to the NVIDIA 970, even with Gameworks enabled, the GTX 970 outperformed the AMD 390 (just slightly).
One final note on Batman Arkham Knight, recently it has been pulled from Steam due to the many performance issues and poor graphics quality. NVIDIA and AMD are working with the developers to make Batman Arkham Knight a polished game with better performance, and better image quality when it returns.
Final Thoughts and Conclusions:
Batman Arkham Knight has had many performance issues reported since its release. While we haven't had much time to get into the game, with about 3 hours of actual game play, as it stands at release, the gaming performance hasn't been too bad at the lower resolutions; some screen tearing at the cut scenes, and dropped frames on the AMD 390 are the biggest performance issues that comes to mind. Thankfully, when playing on the NVIDIA GTX 970, we haven't experienced the dropped frames and game freezing that many others are reporting.
Gaming at 4K has been problematic for most cards on the higher graphic settings and Batman Arkham Knight has the same issues. Turning down the graphics quality and resolution seems to be key in making Batman Arkham Knight run smoothly.
While the additional graphic options provided by Gameworks will lower the performance numbers, it certainly makes the game look better and pulls you into the world more. Whether the change to performance is worth the added graphic features will be up to the individual user. In my opinion, even though not all of the graphic features are available, after playing Batman Arkham Knight with the Gameworks settings enabled, it would be hard to go back to playing without them. It's like going from watching Blu-Ray movies back to VHS.