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 74 ). 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.