We've spent a few hours in Arkham City over the holiday weekend, in between slaving over other review projects and eating sixty pounds of turkey. The game itself is pretty great--if you liked Arkham Asylum, you'll likely love Arkham City--except for one teensy problem that's almost not worth mentioning.
The entire DirectX 11 implementation is broken.
And not by a little, either. The game's publishers have acknowledged that "running the game with DX 11 is causing the performance issues," and recommends working around the problem by dropping back to DX9. Note, however, that these aren't just issues--the title is nearly unplayable in DX11.
Harley and the Joker both reprise their roles, with the latter looking distinctly worse for wear.
You don't need to have played Arkham Asylum to make sense of Arkham City, but it helps.
AC is a great game in DX9, too, but this is particularly egregious given that the PC version of the game was delayed six weeks for additional polish and feature inclusion. Nor are the issues subtle enough to think the company somehow overlooked them. In DX11 mode, Arkham City stutters and chugs erratically.
The benchmarks below were run on a pair of GTX 480s in SLI. Note that we only used 'High' detail, in an attempt to give DX11 mode at least a chance to turn in acceptable performance. We ran the test multiple times and took the best results. Ambient occlusion and AA were both disabled.
The 40 percent average performance hit from activating DX11 is surprisingly heavy, given how much GPU horsepower we've tossed at the game, but it's the minimum framerate that wrecks the experience. In DX9, the minimum framerate is an occasional low point. In DX11, it drops by for visits every few seconds, particularly when the camera pans.
This isn't the sort of bug that 'slips by' when someone's back is turned and it doesn't affect just NV or ATI cards. Crysis 2 may have taken fire for shipping without DX11 support after promising it for launch, but Arkham City defaults to DX11 when installed on sufficiently high-end hardware. As a result, the game experience is choppy and uneven out-of-the-box. Disabling features like AA and PhysX improves the average frame rate but doesn't prevent the crippling lag that sucks much of the fun out of the title.
In this case, Rocksteady's decision to ship in November without disabling DX11 and re-enabling it via patch at a later date has negatively impacted the game's default performance. It's a problem that mars what shoud have been a great release, and sends a further message to PC gamers regarding just how much of a priority they are these days.
If you haven't bought the game yet but own a DX11 card, we'd recommend waiting until the issue is resolved. There's no reason to reward the publisher for shipping a broken title, even if the game remains excellent, and plenty of reasons to send a message that this sort of shoddy workmanship isn't acceptable.