Batman Arkham City Review, DX11 Explored

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Arkham City is a great game, period. It neatly refines, improves, and extends the original concepts; it's clear that the developers took the source material and elements seriously and set out to build a work of art. They did so. By all rights, Batman: Arkham City is Game of the Year material.

Moonrise over Gotham

Unfortunately, what should have been a great all-around experience has been diluted by delays, buggy launches, and continuing problems. The DX11 "patch" that went in recently only applies if you're running 64-bit Windows. According to Steam's hardware survey, 32-bit Vista and Windows 7 still account for 21.08% of all gamers. (Windows XP accounts for a further 16.96%, but Windows XP users can't run in DX11 mode anyway). Meanwhile, this is one of the least effective DX11 implementations we've seen; it delivers minimal visual benefits over DX9 but still manages to sap the frame rate badly.

Finally, there's the ridiculous activation hassle. Playing Arkham City legally means first buying and authenticating it from Steam, then authenticating it via an activation server, *then* authenticating it via Games for Windows. Meanwhile, while the game will auto-install GfW at download and it doesn't use the most-updated version -- which means you have to patch GfW before you can proceed to authenticate and play the game.

The pirates are the ones who download the game and fire it up, without worrying about a limited number of authentications or the need to sign in to multiple services. We do NOT recommend or condone piracy--but we'd understand why someone might choose to buy the game legally but install a cracked version to bypass security measures.

Do we recommend Arkham City?  Yes--because it's that darn good, and because good game play is about more than graphics or laborious activation procedures. Furthermore, the advantage to PC gaming is that even in DX9, the PC version will offer better texture detail and higher resolutions. And playing the game with NVIDIA's 3D Vision 2 technology is awesome.

We'd be lying, though, if we said we were happy with this trend. It's to the point that we're looking forward to new consoles, if only so developers will start targeting graphics levels that match what the PC is capable of producing.

  • Great sequel to a great game
  • It's Batman.
  • New gadgets, streamlined combat, and more challenging riddles provide better experience
  • PhysX, 3D Vision both used to good effect
  • DX11 broken at launch, blah when fixed
  • No way to remap keys without quitting and restarting game.
  • Ludicrous activation process

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