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Batman Arkham Shadow might be VR, but it's the first DC game since Arkham Knight I'm actually excited for

Camouflaj discusses its work continuing Rocksteady's iconic series.

Batman uses his grapple gun to zip upwards in this Arkham Shadow image.
Image credit: Camouflaj

With the Batcave-sized caveat that we're still yet to see gameplay, Batman Arkham Shadow - on paper at least - sounds hugely promising.

It's a new chapter in the Arkham series where you actually play as Batman, crafted with a clear desire to build on the foundations of Rocksteady's iconic trilogy. It's built to a scope reminiscent of the original - and perhaps best - Arkham Asylum. And it lets you do all of the things you really want to do as the Dark Knight - pounce, glide, investigate and biff baddies on the chin.

Batman Arkham Shadow is also a VR game, of course - exclusive to Meta Quest 3 when it arrives this autumn, and unlikely, it sounds, to launch elsewhere. Built by Camouflaj , the talented team behind Iron Man VR, it has been several years in the making, in close collaboration with Warner Bros. Games, and veterans of Rocksteady itself.

Batman Arkham Shadow's cinematic reveal trailer.Watch on YouTube

The game is set prior to Arkham Asylum (though after Warner Bros. Montreal's own prequel entry, Batman Arkham Origins) - a deliberate move by Camouflaj to feature a younger, less experienced Bat that could be put under pressure without an array of allies.

"I was taken aback by how unremorseful and violent Batman was in Arkham Origins, and I really loved Roger Craig Smith's performance," Camouflaj boss Ryan Payton told me via video call. "I thought - Batman post-Origins is definitely in a very ripe state to go through some really difficult times given his arrogance and lack of remorse and empathy for his opposing forces."

Payton, himself a veteran of 343 Industries and Konami, where he worked on story for Halo 4 and as a producer of Metal Gear Solid 4, says he was nervous to ask Roger Craig Smith back for the role of Batman - but that the actor had quickly accepted and become a "godsend" while performing, and a huge fan of the Arkham series to date.

Camouflaj has enormous shoes to fill, of course, taking Rocksteady's beloved franchise forward. But it sounds clear that the studio has tried to go about it with reverance to what's come before. Payton says he, too, was a fan - but this still hadn't prepared himself for the need to build something that seamlessly fit into everything that had come before.

"One of the key elements of Batman Arkham is the element of surprise, and we wanted to do something similar..."

"I didn't appreciate the degree to which Rocksteady infused those games with such a degree of care and inter-connectedness, even after playing the games multiple times," Payton said. "Even now - I was on a flight last night playing them through again on my Steam Deck. I'm taking screenshots to send to the team to say 'hey, we haven't completely aligned with this thing'. That's the kind of level of complexity and difficulty in creating an official new entry in the Arkham franchise, but something I love to do."

Where there are questions about what happened, Camouflaj has been given behind-the-scenes details on Rocksteady's original intent. Where there are narrative gaps, Camouflaj has been entrusted with the freedom to explore these areas narratively.

"There's one part of the game I don't think we're going to talk about - even up to launch - which was [Warner Bros.] really pushing us to do something different," Payton teased. "One of the key elements of Batman Arkham is the element of surprise, and we wanted to do something similar with Arkham Shadow."

Batman Arkham Shadow trailer still, showing Jim Gordon looking angry.
It looks to be another long night for police commissioner Jim Gordon. | Image credit: Camoflaj

What we know for certain is that Arkham Shadow will feature the return of several core characters from the series - including a couple as we've never seen them before. "Because we're early in the Arkham timeline, it's an oppurtunity for us to tell the origins of some iconic DC characters," Payton said, name-checking Harley Quinn, Scarecrow and Two-Face. Ratcatcher and Jim Gordon are also featured in the game's cinematic trailer.

"We have the earlier versions before they become those larger-than-life characters. Players are used to seeing them fully evolved, so let's explore what they're like before. No one's seen, in the Arkham franchise, what Scarecrow looks without the mask..."

Assissting the Camouflaj team have been several Rocksteady veterans working on the project full time, including design director Bill Green who served 11 years at the Arkham founder and was a lead developer on Batman Arkham VR. "The past few years we've just been looking up to the incredible work done by Rocksteady and the Warner Bros. Montreal team," Payton noted.

"No one's seen, in the Arkham franchise, what Scarecrow looks without the mask..."

Converting the Arkham series' gameplay to first-person form (and yes, you can look down and see your Batsuit-ed body) doesn't sound easy, but Payton says Camouflaj approached the project knowing that it had to include "all the elements which make Arkham games great".

"We know it's about exploration - grapple gun and gliding - combat, boss battles, investigations and cinematics. Those five core elements were ones we really needed to nail," he said. Exactly how this will all look in action is something we'll need to wait until Gamescom in August for, when Arkham Shadow's gameplay reveal will take place.

For now, Payton says Arkham Shadow will weigh in somewhere between its Iron Man VR and Rocksteady's Arkham Asylum in game length, and be "very inspired by Asylum's game structure".

"It's open to a degree - not open-world per se - but similar to Asylum's Metroidvania-inspired structure," Payton concludes. "We have these big courtyard-inspired areas where players can choose where they want to go, multiple dungeons players can return to later to search for secrets."

As we wrap up, it's clear there's still plenty about the game still to uncover - but I'm eagerly awaiting more at Gamescom in a couple of months, and see whether how it looks in action lives up to its pretty exciting promise.

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