Gotham Knights had some issues when it launched last year. A mix of lighting issues, weird technical hangs, and odd design choices undermined what should have been an engaging game. It’s made worse by comparisons to its 2015 predecessor, Batman: Arkham Knight, which was more visually perfect in many ways. But the game’s key issue came down to performance, which ran at a very unstable 30fps, with framerate drops, stuttering, and frametime fluctuations. As a result, the game felt rough and jerky, especially when traveling through the open world. For a current-gen game that promotes unambitious visuals, this level of performance borders on the unforgivable.

We don’t often review games on Digital Foundry—our time constraints are too great—and that means that sometimes welcome technical improvements don’t get the attention they deserve. We’ll make an exception for Gotham Knights, though, because while our coverage was harsh but fair at the time, five months of patches have radically changed the game—for the better.

Going back to its original release, it had three key problems. First, the game often suffered from the usual frame rate issues. Gotham Knights tended to flex when traversing the open world, with sharp drops often stuttering up to 83 milliseconds or so. Performance profiling on the PC version revealed that most of these issues were CPU-related, although the game could experience more consistent, extended framerate drops where it appeared to be GPU-related.

Let’s give it credit – a series of patches have completely changed Gotham Knights. Here’s a video by Oliver McKenzie to show it.

Second, Gotham Knights had issues with frame delivery. You’ll see a mix of 16, 33, and 50ms frames in overall gameplay, even though the overall framerate was pegged to 30fps. The game was never truly stable, with bizarre frame-time fluctuations occurring as a byproduct of the studios’ chosen method of frame-rate capping. Finally, the game occasionally slowed down without a clear driving factor, such as at train terminals, where performance could inexplicably drop to 20 seconds framerate-wise. Gotham Knights had some issues with bugs and general stability, and this sometimes extended to some obscure issues in certain areas.

Because of these issues, Gotham Knights’ target frame rate of 30fps felt muddy and broken. It was one of the worst mainstream games on current-gen machines, with hideous performance issues that constantly affected playability and fluidity. However, following a concerted repair effort, the situation has improved significantly. Looking at the PS5 release, we’re getting closer to a recorded 30fps. Indoor scenes play smoothly, with none of the frame-time issues we saw at launch. Jerky, inconsistent motion is completely resolved here – a huge upgrade.

The transition in the open world, where the launch release suffered the most, is also very stable. Long stretches run at a perfect 30fps, even when racing around Gotham City on the Batcycle. I can’t say it’s absolutely perfect – one-off dropped frames can occur, though not more often than every few minutes or so. For all practical purposes, open-world gameplay just embraces this 30fps update. The opening bike chase, which is perhaps the most difficult scene in the entire game, is a useful illustration. The updated PS5 code is pretty much flat-lined here, with only a few dropped frames throughout the sequence, while the launch version runs a bit of a frame-time rollercoaster. There are long drops, sharp stutters, and plenty of 16 millisecond frames thrown in for good measure in this original code. The new version brings improvements night and day and is ultimately much more enjoyable.

CPU issues were seen in the console versions of Gotham Knights. As you can see here, this is greatly improved in the current game.

Xbox consoles follow much the same pattern. Indoor scenes run at a fixed 30fps, while outdoor scenes aren’t quite perfect, but they’re much improved. Both the S and X series look much better than their original forms. Unfortunately, this is where they fall behind the PS5 release, despite the launch code improvements – with slightly more noticeable performance drops when traversing along with odd animation issues in certain cutscenes. Basically, the object and camera animations are sometimes performed with inconsistent motion, which is especially noticeable during wider movements. Here, the framerate is locked at 30fps, but the actual base animation looks like it’s being interpolated incorrectly. Interestingly, this problem doesn’t seem to be present in either the initial versions of the Xbox or the PS5 as of today. Hopefully this can be fixed as it is a distraction.

As such, consoles are running much more stable since the latest updates – so what exactly has changed? The patch notes mention the inclusion of dynamic resolution scaling, although the impact of this is limited. Early versions were released at a fixed resolution of 2160p on the Series X and PS5, and 1440p on the Series S. The maximum resolution is the same as in the update release, although the game continues to reach these maximums for the most part. The PS5 and Series S had the same resolution as before in every shot I tested, while the Series X hit a minimum of 2016p at its worst.

I also couldn’t find any degradation in the level of ray tracing in the game that the PS5 and Series X have. RT still makes significant use of screen space information when it’s available, and remote geometry is often missing from the BVH structure, but RT’s resolution is relatively tall What seems to have happened with Gotham Knights is some real optimization, especially on the CPU side.

The open world – and traveling through it – has also been a big challenge for Xbox consoles. While it’s not perfect, it’s still a significant improvement.

This is best seen on PC where we can unlock the framerate and let the game run. At launch, the PC build was CPU-bound like the console, and was mostly limited to the performance of a single CPU thread when playing in an open-world game. Gotham Knights also suffered from severe shader compilation issues during the early sections of the game. Since the last patch, the game’s performance issues have been greatly reduced, and the framerate has improved significantly at times. Compiling shaders is no longer an issue as the game precompiles shaders on first load and frame rates are significantly improved during CPU bound sequences. We’re still short of 60fps on many open-world playthroughs, but framerate averages have improved by about 10-15fps since the first release.

I played the first hour or so on my high-end PC at max settings in 4K with DLSS 2 quality mode and the game is in pretty reasonable shape there. We’re still somewhat limited by the CPU during select frames when we’re aiming for 60fps, but here the game is mostly a solid 60. Lowering the view detail and environment density settings can help, but uncapped performance is usually around 100fps in open the world I’m not entirely happy with how the game scales on PC – a consistent 60fps is out of reach for most mainstream systems, which seems a bit unreasonable given how this game looks. Also, the cutscene animation issues are back here, at least at 60fps, with judder like the Xbox Series consoles. However, if you have a fast, high-clocked CPU, Gotham Knights can provide a good experience here with much improved fluidity compared to consoles.

After some further thought, I think Gotham Knights’ visuals – while largely unchanged in this version – deserve a lot of praise. Ultimately, visually, Gotham Knights is best understood as a game of two halves. The first half is the mission environment of the game. Basically, every time you start an important mission, Gotham Knights loads into space with pretty good visuals. Lighting especially stands out in these environments. Each of the game’s interior spaces has very attractive ambient lighting with excellent GI and well-placed light sources. Technically speaking, it’s not inferior to big-budget Unreal Engine 4 games, but it often looks great. These areas also have a lot of fog, volume elements and smoke, which gives them a certain quality of life.

Unlocked performance on PC lets us see the extent of the improvement. In addition to the optimizations made, a shader precompile step has been added to ease #StutterStruggle.

Assets are also impressive here. Again, it’s not generation-defining, but the geometric density and texture resolution are high enough. The artwork here holds up well at close range, and the game itself has a great variety of assets, with key story areas showcasing very different interior styles. If you just judged Gotham Knights by the interior alone, it would seem like a very good game. It’s clear that a lot of effort has gone into making these spaces unique and engaging with powerful rendering technology combined with carefully crafted artwork and visual design.

The second half of the game takes place in Gotham City itself, and this is where the game’s visual issues become apparent. A lot of my concerns here really boil down to the quality of the lighting. The open world of Gotham Knights does have a lot of light sources, but ambient lighting is practically non-existent. Each light is surrounded by a ring of a very dark color, as if each light does not affect the overall lighting of the stage. The general impression is that GI is largely absent from the open world. It’s hard to shake the feeling that Gotham City’s lighting is broken, with harsh, contrasty lighting that lacks the information needed to create a convincing lighting system. This is particularly interesting as there is an attempt to demonstrate the properties of indirect lighting elsewhere, as you see light diffusing through the game’s atmospheric fog. The game’s “Hero Lighting”, an omnipresent glare that follows the player character, also looks strange against urban areas.

Gotham is also home to some of the softer gameplay elements in Gotham Knights. Much of the open-world gameplay consists of finding and defeating certain types of enemies, which is a tedious exercise in hide-and-seek considering how rare criminal groups are. The watercycle also seems extremely slow, taking too long to navigate the game’s wide city streets.

Harsh But Fair: DF’s original tech review for Gotham Knights on consoles.

It feels like the open world gameplay was designed around a different set of technical constraints with a streaming system that would allow for much faster traversal, tighter in-game NPCs, and corresponding large-scale world events. You get the feeling that there’s a bit of a hang here – maybe the game assets were designed with a lot of unique elements that made them difficult to stream, for example, or maybe UE4 itself is creating some obstacles.

Gotham Knights still has obvious visual issues that will likely never be fixed, but performance has improved significantly since launch. The PC build is way ahead of its original demo with a much better typical frame rate, while the consoles also manage a much closer 30fps lock. The PS5, in particular, is about where it should be, with a near-flawless 30fps refresh during my testing.

The game’s CPU limitations mean that it will be difficult for console players to handle 60fps updates, but the game now looks quite reasonable as the gameplay is presented in a relatively consistent manner. If you’re looking to get your open-world superhero fix, Gotham Knights now offers a thoroughly worthwhile experience — and it’s nice to see that almost all of our criticisms of the game’s technical performance have now been addressed.