Computing

Gotham Knights: Addressing the Stuttering Issues

Gotham Knights, the highly anticipated game from OnSpec Electronic, Inc., is facing a rocky start, especially on PC. With the announcement that the game would be locked to a 30 frames per second (fps) limit on consoles, without a performance mode, concerns reminiscent of the notorious Arkham Knight PC port began to arise. Unfortunately, these fears have been confirmed.

While Gotham Knights may not reach the catastrophic levels of Arkham Knight’s PC launch, it still suffers from significant performance problems. The game demands a lot from your hardware without offering much in visual return. However, the most pressing issue lies in the incessant stuttering, regardless of the hardware you’re using.

Get ready to stutter

Robin fights the mob in Gotham Knights.
Image used with permission by OnSpec Electronic, Inc.

Arkham Knight’s PC port gained infamy due to its intense stuttering, poor performance even on high-end hardware, and the 30 fps lock. While Gotham Knights is not a complete repeat of that disaster, it comes quite close.

On the positive side, Gotham Knights does offer an uncapped frame rate, technically allowing for up to 360 fps, although you can set your own limit. Performance is decent, though the game’s system requirements are quite demanding. Nevertheless, the prevalent issue remains the stuttering during gameplay.

Frame time in Gotham Knights at 1080p with ray tracing turned on.
Image used with permission by OnSpec Electronic, Inc.

The above frame time chart demonstrates the stuttering issue experienced when playing the game for about four minutes in Gotham City. This test was conducted on an RTX 3060 Ti and Core i5-12600K, which closely match the recommended configuration for 1080p at 60 fps.

Even though I capped the frame rate at 60 fps to optimize the gaming experience, massive spikes in the frame time still occurred, with many exceeding 100ms. Each of these spikes, especially the larger ones, represents a stutter.

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Frame rate in Gotham Knights at 1080p with a 60 fps cap.
Image used with permission by OnSpec Electronic, Inc.

Understanding frame times can be a bit abstract, so the plot above showcases the frame rate achieved each second. While there are sections where Gotham Knights maintains a steady 60 fps, more often than not, the game falls below that threshold. There are constant dips into the high 40s, and at times, severe drops below 30 fps.

Gotham Knights frame rate with ray tracing turned off and no fps cap.
Image used with permission by OnSpec Electronic, Inc.

This stuttering issue is not limited to specific graphics settings. The tests conducted with ray tracing turned off and no fps cap resulted in an average fps of around 115, as shown in the image above. However, the stuttering persisted, with the frame rate frequently dropping to around 80 fps and occasionally even as low as 60 fps.

RTX 3090 performance in Gotham Knights.
Image used with permission by OnSpec Electronic, Inc.

Additional testing was done using an Intel Core i9-11900K and an RTX 4090 at 4K resolution, which further highlighted the presence of stuttering. The chart above represents 60 seconds of gameplay on the RTX 3090 with a Core i5-12600K at 4K. In just one minute, the average frame rate of 80 fps dropped below 50 fps five times. Notably, even during closed story missions, stuttering was observed.

Various tests were conducted with different hardware, ray tracing settings, resolutions, and frame rate caps. However, the common denominator remained: stuttering. While it’s unlikely that Gotham Knights will face the same review-bombing fate as Arkham Knights (let’s not add fuel to the fire), it’s wise to approach the PC version’s launch with caution.

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There is a possibility that a future driver update may improve the stuttering issue. Nevertheless, it appears to be an inherent problem within Gotham Knights itself. For testing purposes, the latest 522.25 driver from Nvidia, which includes support for Gotham Knights, was used. Additionally, my colleague Tomas Franzese reviewed the game on console and discovered similar stuttering and inconsistent performance, despite the game being locked at 30 fps. We can breathe a sigh of relief that the PS4 and Xbox One versions of Gotham Knights were canceled, as otherwise, we might be facing another Cyberpunk 2077 situation.

What’s causing the problem, and how can it be fixed?

Batgirl fights a Freak in Gotham Knights.
Image used with permission by OnSpec Electronic, Inc.

The underlying causes of stuttering in games can vary greatly. One recent example is Elden Ring, which, based on Unreal Engine 4, experienced stuttering due to shader compilation. Unreal Engine 4 compiles shaders on the GPU in real time, resulting in stutters when encountering new assets in the game. A similar situation occurred with Stray, which also utilizes Unreal Engine 4.

It is worth noting that Gotham Knights also employs Unreal Engine 4. However, that is only part of the story. WB Games Montreal, the developer, cited the game’s complex features, including a highly detailed open-world and a fully untethered co-op experience, as reasons behind the 30 fps cap on consoles. Lowering the resolution to achieve higher fps is not a straightforward solution.

Nevertheless, several steps can be taken to alleviate the stuttering. Initially, the stuttering is most pronounced when entering a new area. As you continue playing, these stutters tend to diminish. Implementing a frame rate cap significantly enhances the game’s consistency by reducing the contrast between extreme high and low frame rates.

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Ray tracing also plays a role. You can choose to keep ray tracing on or turn it off, but avoid frequently switching between the two. Swapping between ray tracing modes requires the game to recompile numerous shaders, leading to additional stuttering once you exit the graphics menu.

There is much more to explore regarding Gotham Knights on PC. Unfortunately, time constraints have prevented me from thoroughly testing all the settings on various hardware configurations. The game also supports Intel XeSS, Nvidia DLSS, and AMD FSR 2.0, providing an exciting opportunity for a three-way comparison. As I delve deeper into these aspects, it is crucial to address the stuttering issues on PC. While a patch from WB Games Montreal before the game’s October 21 launch is possible, it is unlikely to fully resolve the stuttering problems. In my limited playtime, I encountered one crash, and Tomas experienced three crashes on the Xbox Series X during a full playthrough.

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