Ryan Payton breaks down that Batman: Arkham Shadow story trailer for us, reveals new gameplay details, and explains why it had to be a Meta Quest 3 exclusive

 Batman: Arkham Shadow still showing a batarang in a rat mask.
Batman: Arkham Shadow still showing a batarang in a rat mask.

As a major Arkham series fan – just like many of you I’m sure – I couldn’t be more hyped for a new game in the series to come to the Meta Quest 3. The ‘Holiday 2024’ release date can’t come soon enough.

At Summer Game Fest 2024 we got our first proper look at the story of Batman: Arkham Shadow – following the exceptionally brief teaser dropped in May – and since watching this new trailer my brain has been buzzing with questions.

To answer them, I sat down with Ryan Payton – the studio head of Camouflaj (the team behind the game) – to find out everything I possibly could about the plot, the connection to other Arkham titles, and about the gameplay which we have yet to see in action.

Starting with my most burning question of all: who the heck is the Rat King? Shouldn’t the villain be Ratcatcher?

The Rat King rises

At this Payton chuckles. He and the team knew Arkham fans were passionate, but they hadn’t expected quite the level of in-depth analysis that would occur around the teaser trailer.

“People really took to the rats, and the hints with the gloves and the mask, and extrapolated that Ratatcher is perhaps the main villain of the game of Arkham Shadow, which in fact he is not – but he is definitely a big part of the story.”

Instead, Camouflaj was keen to explore an all-new foe for both the Arkham series and Batman as a whole, in order to keep fans on their toes about how the story will progress; Payton says they “very intentionally did not feature a main villain that people are familiar with.”

Shadow sits between Arkham Origins and Arkham Asylum, and if the title had instead focused on, say, the Joker there’s only so much the team could do with that character and the story based on established Arkham lore.

“That’s not saying you can’t tell a great story when you basically know the ending,” Payton explains, “But we really wanted to use this opportunity to flex the creative freedom Warner Brothers and DC have afforded us.”

An Arkham title through and through

Shadow is far from an Arkham game in name only. We’ve been promised a few familiar faces – though not quite as we know them.

Jim Gordon in front of a whiteboard demanding to know where the Rat King is
Jim Gordon in front of a whiteboard demanding to know where the Rat King is

Harvey Dent, Harleen Quinzel and Jonathan Crane will all feature in this title, but players may know them better as their villainous personas Two-Face, Harley Quin, and Scarecrow.

Payton neither confirms nor denies if we’ll see these characters transform into the villains we love to hate, but I’m expecting the game will toy around with dramatic irony much like how Marvel’s Spider-Man approached Otto Octavious – we’ll just have to wait and see.

The Arkham series is more than its characters, though – that would simply make it a Batman title. No, an Arkham game is its core mechanics and that iconic feel.

While we didn’t get a look at gameplay in the trailer, Payton reveals that Camoflaj has tried to translate as much of what made Arkham Asylum as special as it is into VR, “In some ways it was a daunting challenge, in others it was a helpful blueprint.”

That includes the traversal and the sense of exploration of gliding around with the cape, using the grapnel gun to hookshot around spaces, and incorporating metroidvania aspects where you return to old areas to discover new sections of the map, using equipment you pick up later in the game.

The bat signal on fire
The bat signal on fire

Also, there’s the series’ well-known combat. According to Payton, we’ll be punching through enemies to build up a counter, just like any typical Arkham game, and will be armed with gadgets such as smoke bombs and the cape stun to pull off special combos. “Combat is going to be one of the most celebrated features of our game when people get their hands on it,” says Payton.

Best of all, we should get a deeper look at gameplay during Gamescom in August. I honestly cannot wait.

Why is it Meta Quest 3-exclusive?

Batman: Arkham Shadow’s goal of adapting an Arkham title for VR also played into the decision to make it a Meta Quest 3 exclusive.

“Early on, we knew that this was going to be a big ambitious game,” Payton says, “so we decided to really lean into this incredibly powerful hardware

“I'm sure you've noticed the delta between Quest 2 and Quest 3. Not just the lenses, or the controllers but also just the raw horsepower that allows us to make something that truly feels like the AAA VR experience Arkham fans expect.”

This includes the gameplay, and the promise of top-notch visuals.

Batman standing in the dark alone
Batman standing in the dark alone

We’ll have to wait until later this year to see if Batman: Arkham Shadow can live up to the picture Ryan Payton painted for me, but after seeing the passion he clearly has for this project – along with Camoflaj’s track record in VR – I’d be shocked if it doesn’t end up being the best VR game of the year.

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