With Warner Bros Games Montréal handling development, many fans were worried that Arkham Origins wouldn't (couldn't?) live up to its Rocksteady-produced predecessors. As is often the case with console-oriented releases, PC gamers were burdened with the extra concern of whether to expect a quality port.
Although Origins has received its share of criticism, it doesn't seem to be an outright disappointment with respectable scores on most review aggregators, including our own (Batman: Arkham Origins 73). Additionally, it seems the PC version has received some special attention in the graphics department.
Despite being built with Epic's aging Unreal Engine 3, the developer used a heavily modified version of the software. Granted, we've heard that countless times from other studios at this point, but the tweaks do seem pretty substantial in this case, especially considering all of the game's DirectX 11 and PhysX effects.
DX11 enhancements including Tessellation, Ambient Occlusion HBAO+, Percentage Closer Soft Shadows (PCSS), and Depth of Field (DoF) are used in Origins, as are Nvidia exclusives such as TXAA and PhysX. Folks with a supporting GeForce card can look forward to more realistic and dynamic environments.
With PhysX enabled, some areas contain additional snow or fog that reacts to Batman moving through it. These effects are diminished or disabled without PhysX support. Before you throw your keyboard, that doesn't necessarily mean you won't be able to experience some of them with your new Radeon R9 290X.
Origins has two levels of PhysX: normal and high. The former adds flags, banners, papers and more, which interact with the world in an expected way. The CPU can handle this mode for AMD owners so they don't miss out on everything, but you'll definitely want to play with a GeForce for maximum eye candy.
APEX Turbulence effects come with PhysX on high, enhancing existing particle effects and adding more visuals elsewhere. Compared to the PhysX Particles in Arkham Asylum and City, APEX Particles are more realistic, can be manipulated in more ways, and most importantly, they run faster, optimizing frame rates.
Since APEX Turbulence effects can't be enabled using AMD graphics cards, we are only going to look at the normal PhysX mode in our testing. Of course, we will also test performance with PhysX disabled entirely in addition to our usual CPU performance analysis, including Intel and AMD overclocking results.
When benchmarking a new game, we usually find a demanding scene to benchmark using Fraps, but as with previous Batman titles, Arkham Origins has a solid built-in benchmark (note: it must be executed using "benchmark" as a shortcut target — it doesn't seem accessible from the game's GUI itself).
Adjusting the benchmark's settings is equally crude as they are stored in an XML file located in the game's Documents folder. To test many configurations, we had to create several versions of the original GFXSettings.BatmanArkhamOrigins.xml and then swap them in accordingly for benchmarking.
This was slow and tedious, but we wanted to use the built-in benchmark so it would be easy for you to compare your own results. In the end, we tested 30 graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia using the latest beta drivers. Apart from testing at three resolutions (1680x1050, 1920x1200 and 2560x1600) we also tested with FXAA and MSAAx8 enabled along with Physx Normal and Physx Off for a broader picture.
Batman: Arkham Origins is surprisingly GPU-friendly at 1680x1050 using FXAA and no PhysX. Other than those two settings, everything else was cranked up to its maximum value and even the slowest card we tested with (Radeon HD 6750) managed 30fps.
The GTX 550 Ti hit a comfortable 44fps — performance that is plenty playable, even if we'd be happier with 60fps. Fortunately, that's easy to achieve, as demonstrated by the old HD 6970's 66fps and the GTX 560 Ti's 74fps.
At 1920x1200 the HD 6750 and 7750 are forced below the 30fps mark while the GTX 550 Ti and HD 7770 slipped under 40fps. It took the GTX 560 Ti, 650 Ti and HD 7870 to break 60fps, but we're still surprised how well the game runs at 1920x1200 on maximum quality (again, except MSAA and PhysX which we test in the next pages).
Arkham Origins becomes a bit more demanding at 2560x1600, requiring an HD 7970 to average 60fps. However, since 40fps is acceptable in this title, more affordable solutions such as the R9 270X and GTX 650 Ti Boost can still hold up to the task of producing playable frame rates at this resolution.
Benchmarks: MSAAx8, Physx Off
After ditching FXAA for the better looking and far more demanding MSAAx8, performance fell across the board with the GTX 660 averaging 54fps (from 102fps with FXAA), for example. To exceed 60fps with MSAAx8 at this resolution, you'll need at least the R9 270X, HD 7950 or GTX 760.
Jumping up to 1920x1200 requires the GTX 760, GTX 670 or HD 7950 Boost for 60fps, though the vanilla GTX 660 delivered a very playable 45fps and the HD 7870 was even faster at 47fps.
Increasing the resolution to 2560x1600 reduced the mighty R9 290X to 60fps, which was still 2fps faster than the GTX Titan, interestingly. Similarly, the HD 7970 GHz Edition was 6fps faster than the GTX 680 and 3fps faster than the GTX 770.
The frame time results were quite different to the fps data as the GTX 760 was just 1% faster than the GTX 660 Ti and 3% slower than the HD 7870.1
Steven Walton is a writer at TechSpot. TechSpot is a computer technology publication serving PC enthusiasts, gamers and IT pros since 1998.