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Digital Foundry: Hands-on with Batman Arkham Knight

Rocksteady's epic bucks the trend of unfinished, unpolished launch code.

It's a sad fact that this generation's big releases are often playing catch-up on their promises post-launch - a "release now, fix later" mentality that developer Rocksteady thankfully doesn't appear to subscribe to in its excellent Batman Arkham Knight. Having played the PlayStation 4 review code extensively, we're pleased to see the game is set to launch in a very refined, polished state. As the finale to the Arkham saga, it's a superb production, but crucially it also turns in a slick, stable playing experience with solid performance on day one.

A full analysis is under way, but in the meantime we can offer a quick, spoiler-free taster of in-game performance based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game (naturally, we'll cover all three versions next week). Full disclosure: footage here runs from a Sony debug unit, using code that Rocksteady is clearly comfortable handing to critics ahead of launch. As such, you'll likely spot a familiar Eurogamer name (amongst other production info) watermarked into our captures - Warner Bros was unable to provide clean code ahead of its embargo. Regardless, the analysis still paints a solid picture of what you can expect on release in a few days.

First off, in line with most open-world games this generation Arkham Knight is capped at 30fps, in this case backed by an adaptive v-sync. This works out nicely in practice: unlike the last-gen iterations of the series that used a similar setup, dips below 30fps on PS4 are relatively uncommon across the run of play. In effect, this means tearing only creeps in at exceptional points, such as heavy interplay with physics while driving the Batmobile. Thankfully screen-tear is also difficult to catch by eye even when it does flare up, owing to Gotham's darker colour palette.

A frame-rate analysis of Batman: Arkham Knight on PS4 shows impressive returns. It's a strong 30fps read-out, with a just few dips on display when hurtling down Gotham's littered alleyways. Everything outside of this runs just as it should.

As for frame-rate, aside from one streaming stutter as we're given control, the rest of play is locked at a consistent, smooth 30fps. We get seamless transitions between gameplay and cut-scenes too, which really brings this consistency to light over the breadth of a play session. The only hitch is in fast Batmobile pursuits, where the frame-rate dips to 26fps in one segment. Everything else - from effects-heavy tank combat to swoops across the city with a grappling hook - just cruises along at a clean 30fps. No stuttering, no frame-pacing issues, just a continuous line - as it should be.

Having sunk many hours into the game, the stability of the build here is laudable. Our playthrough went almost entirely bug free, with only a faint flicker of pop-in for geometry and light maps at range, too far away from the player to be at all perceptible during play. The only real bug we encountered was a collision detection blip at the 50 per cent mark, causing us to fall through the game world in one specific spot while in the Batmobile. Fortunately, the rest of the adventure went uninterrupted, and we suspect we got unlucky in this one case.

Having almost completed the game - in terms of the main mission path, at least - it's safe to say Arkham Knight's opening act (from which we plucked our test clips) is indicative of the performance, quality and production values of the full package. It's a slick, confident showing from Rocksteady we can't wait to spend more time with.

Got stuck going hands-on yourself? Our Batman: Arkham Knight walkthrough is live now.

Editor's note: While Warner Bros. supplied us with final code to run from a debug unit, we'll be holding off on our review until launch day - June 23rd - once we've had experience with the game on a retail console, in compliance with our review policy.

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