Two weeks after the console launch, PC gamers finally got their version of Eidos Interactive's Batman: Arkham Asylum last week. Originally slated to launch with the console versions, Batman was delayed three weeks for the PC, presumably to give both developer Rocksteady Studios and partner Nvidia time to polish the integration of Nvidia's PhysX game physics acceleration technology.
After spending a weekend with the game, we can report that we were pleasantly surprised at how much the PhysX effects enhanced the atmosphere of the game's gloomy setting. Our last outing with a PhysX-enabled AAA PC game, Mirror's Edge back in January, was much clunkier.
In Batman, sheets of paper scattered on the floor move convincingly as characters walk over them. Bricks, glass, and tiles shatter and break apart realistically. Fog, smoke, and spider webs waft and curl around characters realistically (the slideshow at the bottom of this post shows off some Nvidia-provided screenshots). With PhysX off you get none of those effects, and a less interesting environment as a result. Compared to the tacked on PhysX-effects in Mirror's Edge, the effects in Batman noticeably improve the atmosphere.
Not every effect in Batman is a winner. The banners draped over various rafters and arches throughout the game, presumably to show off realistic cloth behavior, seem more appropriate for an athletic facility than an asylum for criminals. The PhysX effects also provide no benefit to the in-game mechanics, but given that only a subset of PC gamers have PhysX-enabled PCs, we can't blame the Batman development team for not using PhysX to full advantage.… Read more