It says a lot about the problems plaguing the PC port of Batman: Arkham Knight that it currently sits on a paltry average review score of 63 on Metacritic compared to the 90 of its console brethren. By all accounts, if we were to take the PC port out of the equation, some may call Arkham Knight a success on par with the previous games in the series, Arkham Asylum and Arkham City.
Sadly, the gaming community cannot do such a thing, especially when the issues are large enough to warrant Rocksteady Studios’ parent company WB Games removing the PC edition from Steam before more damage is done. By all accounts, not every copy of Arkham Knight has been fraught with these issues. A few reports claim that some lucky gamers have escaped most of the problems. However, that doesn’t excuse the rest.
So why is the PC port so bad? Well for starters the framerate is terrible – even on top-spec PCs, the framerate limps along like a horse with a dodgy leg. Attempts to alleviate the problem fall flat and may even make things worse, making the game even choppier. For some unexplainable reason, the camera angles seems to be worse on PC as Rocksteady’s intention to use a more cinematic camera for some of Batman’s more daring stunts are scuppered by the god-awful framerate. The use of the camera to enhance gameplay only works with a stable framerate and Arkham Knight really doesn’t have one of those.
Attempts to alleviate the problem fall flat and may even make things worse, making the game even choppier
Forgetting the fact that Batman seems more attached to his wrist communicator than a barnacle is attached to a particularly handsome rock, there are clear problems with audio syncing between his allies’ (or enemies’) faces and voices. Times when someone will flap their gums only to find their voice coming out 3 seconds too late are enough to break any immersion the player might have left and are a serious niggle to gamers who have picked up on it. The less said about the Batmobile, the better. It handles awfully. Controlling the Batmobile is akin to slamming your hands into a bag of cactuses: extremely painful and after a while you have to stop to pull out all the metaphorical needles in your palms.
The problems with the stealth and, in particular, combat are too numerous to be discussed at length here. Suffice to say ground takedowns only work some of the time, attempts to evade certain enemies by jumping over their heads are met with serious input lag meaning that you have to fight in a very particular way in order to stand any chance, which makes the fighting boring and occasionally feels like cheating. Also, the keys used in combat are poorly mapped and as a result the fighting feels very cluttered and chaotic, even after attempts to remap the buttons manually (which didn’t work because it always resets to default settings anyway).
The problems with the stealth and, in particular, combat are too numerous to be discussed at length here
At this point there is the inclination to blame Rocksteady for this atrocity. However, they were not the ones who handled the PC port. Sure, they made the game and yes, the overarching faults that are in the game such as the terrible Batmobile are theirs to bear but they didn’t port Arkham Knight to PC. The ‘optimisation’ (very euphemistic) was doled out to another studio, Iron Galaxy. In this scenario, we as a community can only accuse Rocksteady of negligence: negligence to not thoroughly check the finished product given to them rather than throwing it out for sale without first making sure it was a working port. What’s more disappointing is that they didn’t optimise it themselves after all the hype that’s been built up around Arkham Knight. Why they decided to give such a big game out to another studio to work on, rather than extending the release date a few more weeks to ensure everything was okay, is a decision that smells a bit off.
At the time of writing, Rocksteady are working on it in collaboration with a few other companies. Let’s hope they re-release the true Arkham Knight and not a crock in a rusty suit of armour.
Robert Priest and Angus Hegarty