The introduction of the PC version of Arkham Asylum sets the cat amongst the pigeons somewhat. In all of the most recent PC Tech Comparison features (Red Faction: Guerrilla, Street Fighter IV, and to a lesser extent, Resident Evil 5), we've seen that the PC conversions of the console games basically buy you extra frames and more pixels, but very little else. You might get the odd graphical effect unseen on console, or NVIDIA 3D Vision support, but that's it.
Batman: Arkham Asylum on the other hand is just about everything I would want from a PC conversion, and the best thing is, I haven't had to wait untold months to get my hands on what is clearly the ultimate iteration of the game. A lot of the game's success is down to the Unreal Engine 3 framework from Epic Games. While the middleware has been used on a significant proportion of this generation's console titles, the fact is that Epic is comprised of PC people, its engine performs best on PC, and you don't need stupidly expensive hardware to get excellent performance.
In terms of a direct comparison between console and PC, here's the requisite face-off video. The video kicks off with Xbox 360 up against PC, then repeats with the PS3 version. A clickthrough to the HD version via the EGTV link makes all the difference here, and if you want to engage your own "detective mode", the comparison gallery is probably the best place to start for a forensic analysis.
An initial glance at like-for-like 720p video shows that the PC version is much the same, but with much more in the way of visual refinement. We can comfortably up anti-aliasing to anything up to 8x with little performance impact on the hardware we used, detail is significantly increased (most noticeable on close-up objects), and texture filtering is also much better on PC. Characters have higher details levels and a more impressive detail shader to boot. The best thing about all of this is that these improvements will scale upwards too, meaning that 1080p is even more impressive.
It's often been the case with the PC games we've looked at that the developer has merely ported over their existing console work to the platform, added some resolution settings and not much else. You can run the game in 1080p but the assets weren't really designed for it. With Batman: Arkham Asylum, the PC version has superior quality artwork and an engine that thrives on PC. It's the best platform for getting the most out of the game.
So, just how good is the performance and what sort of graphics card do you need? Batman: Arkham Asylum has its own benchmarking tool. I decided to use its preset sequences in concert with Digital Foundry's own FPS analysis tool to give a better indication of performance. In terms of settings, everything's set to the max, aside from PhysX (off) and anti-aliasing set to 4x MSAA.