Batman: Arkham Asylum: GPUs, CPUs, And PhysX Performance


Batman: Arkham Asylum is a very compelling game, and thanks to the highly-optimized Unreal 3 engine, it performs very well on a wide range of graphics hardware. At the highest visual quality, even the low-end Radeon HD 4650 was able to provide good performance at 1280x1024, the GeForce GT 220 could handle 1680x1050, and the GeForce 9600 GT could perform well at 1920x1200. With detail levels lowered, resolution could be raised on these cards if desired. More powerful cards like the Radeon HD 4850, GeForce GTS 250, Radeon HD 4870, and GeForce GTX 260 could handle the ultra-high 2560x1600 resolution at high detail without a hiccup.

Adding 4xAA provided the Nvidia cards with an advantage over their Radeon counterparts, and at 1920x1200, only the GeForce GTS 250, Radeon HD 4870, and GeForce GTX 260 were able to maintain minimum frame rates over 30 FPS, although the 9600 GT provided a playable, if not ideal, 24 FPS minimum.

Turning on PhysX isn't necessary for gameplay, and you'll never miss it if you don't see the effects. However, when PhysX is enabled, it adds superlative nuances and really creates some “wow” moments. The chunky explosions, cloth effects, paper, fog, and environmental detail enhancements are very cool.

And that's where things get expensive. A single GeForce 9600 GT isn't going to cut it if you want a 30 FPS minimum frame rate. You'll need a GeForce GTS 250 to play at 1680x1050 with normal PhysX enabled, and a GeForce GTX 260 can just handle 1920x1200. With PhysX set to High, even the GeForce GTX 260 can't handle a minimum frame rate of 30 FPS at 1280x1024, so you should consider a dedicated PhysX card if you want high resolution play (and you have a free PCI Express slot available on your motherboard).

The good news here is that a GeForce GT 220 can be had for as little as $65 online, and as a dedicated PhysX card, it will guarantee that the High PhysX setting won't bottleneck performance. Even at 1920x1200, the GT 220 produced a minimum frame rate of 36 FPS as a dedicated PhysX card. Using more expensive solutions as dedicated PhysX processors didn't produce appreciably higher frame rates, so the GeForce GT 220 is a real PhysX champion for the price.

To conclude, Batman: Arkham Asylum is a very well-produced game with high production values, great game play, and most importantly, it puts you inside Batman's head. On top of that, the game runs exceptionally well on a wide range of hardware, and even the lowliest graphics card we tested in the roundup was able to handle maximum details at 1280x1024.

Once hardware-accelerated PhysX is enabled, this is another matter entirely, and those of you who want the best high-resolution PhysX performance will need to consider an Nvidia graphics card more powerful than the GeForce GTX 260 or a dedicated PhysX card such as the GeForce GT 220. There is a high price to pay for PhysX performance, but I have to admit that the eye candy is a lot of fun to watch. Once you've turned it on, it's not something you'll turn off if your hardware can handle it.

  • burnley14
    Excellent article as usual, Mr. Woligroski. Keep up the good work!
  • Kohlhagen
    I just bought an ATI 5000 series card.. can i use my second PCI-E slot with the nvidia 220 to support physX? (i doubt it because AMD/Nvidia GPUs together cause driver issues)
  • curnel_D
    Don--it's almost as though the game is artificially capping performance at a set level, and is then using only the CPU resources it needs to reach that level. On the Core i7, PhysX is using fewer resources than it does on the Phenom II. This would make sense if there was an artificial performance cap, as the i7 has shown to outperform AMD's architecture.With Nvidia pushing proprietary API's like CUDA and PhysX, they're at a point where these things are some of the largest selling points of their products.

    With this in mind, and given Nvidia's past Anti-Consumer business practices, I think we can all expect to see a lot more of this kind of thing in the future with TWIMTBP games.
  • 2shea
    @ kohlhagen: with an ati 5000 card you probably won't need that second card if you don't play on the highest resolution.
  • nzprogamer
    im a big fan of amd and im planing to buy the xfx 4850 in the weekend but the gts250 just add another $5-10 i think i will buy the GTS-250. come on ATI
  • anamaniac
    Wow... that's pathetic. This game should have the words stamped on it: Nvidia only!
  • noob2222
    Interesting find on the CPU useage with ATI cards. It would appear that Nvidia programmed Physix not to unload programming to the cpu, instead forcing it to the GPU only. Just a speculation since it is thier option.
  • sohei
    this game runs great on any hardware but but , nvidia is just nvidia
    why you sell a game to all the people when is just for nvidia cards ?
    that.s why i love google.... google sell free things, nvidia is the opposite
  • JeanLuc
    NPD numbers show this game as currently being one of the least popular PC games - 92nd in fact.

    Nice article BTW, it's sad that the developers were paid off by Nvidia to drop support of AA on AMD cards (in game menu AA support that, there is a work round for ATI cards) as this shows just how morally bankrupt Nvidia is these days.

    And just for the record this isn't a case of AMD not 'supporting developers' as Nvidia would lead you to believe. Never mind the fact it can be enabled via a hack, Richard Hubby from AMD has uploaded an email he got from the developers of Batman Arkham Asylum saying there would be lawsuit if they changed to games code to enable game menu support of AA on ATI cards.
  • sohei
    when you benchmarked intel cpu you use turbo feature? tom