Aerial Attack is a combat move introduced in Batman: Arkham City. It is available for all playable characters in the series onward.
The Aerial Attack is specialized for dealing with enemies with shields (Riot Shields, car doors, etc.). Shields block head-on strikes, so players must perform the Aerial Attack to hit shielded henchmen by doing a Cape Stun followed by two quick presses on the space key (PC), the A button (XBox) or the X button (PlayStation). The two quick button presses don't need to follow the cape stun immediately; as long as henchmen are still stunned by the cape stun, an Aerial Attack can still be performed on them. However, if players accidentally press more than twice in a row, the Aerial Attack will still be performed, but the combo will break.
The Aerial Attack can be performed not only on shielded henchmen, but also on other types of enemy, including Ninjas/Combat Experts (they can dodge it, though) and Brutes (including shielded ones, although they will not be grounded as a result like normal henchmen, but will be left open to another cape stun and a Beat Down). It cannot be performed on Armored Henchmen (they will block it and break the combo, but fortunately they never use shields; however, it can still be done on shielded armored brutes), henchmen with Stun Batons (the character will simply jump over them) and Titans. However, it is slow. If not performed specifically on shielded enemies (in fact, performing it on shielded henchmen makes other enemies including Titans stop their attacks immediately), it leaves players vulnerable to attacks. Thus, a move called Directed Aerial Attack should be used on unshielded enemies, by immediately chaining the the Aerial Attack with a directed strike (direction keys/analog stick + strike button). By doing so, the character will Aerial Attack off an enemy onto another one, rather than just on that enemy, effectively escaping any risk of getting hit. The Aerial Attack cannot be done on armored henchmen, but the Directed Aerial Attack can be performed off them. The Aerial Attack cannot be done directly on Hammer and Sickle, but the Directed Aerial Attack can, indirectly, and it is prioritized to target them and deals damage more quickly than the typical Beatdown; however, only Catwoman is quick enough to perform this move unharmed. The Aerial Attack can be done on Brutes who aren't using shock gauntlets in Arkham Knight, regardless of whether they have shields or not, but since Brutes can't be knocked over while they're still at full health, it only stuns them and opens a window for a Beat Down.
The Aerial Attack is specialized for attacking shielded henchmen, so cape stuns are prioritized to target them. However, their priority are second to cape stuns on armored henchmen, so players should be careful when aiming at an area where there are both armored henchmen and shielded henchmen.
In Combat, the Aerial Attack only adds 2 Freeflow-initiating multipliers (just like a running strike, a slide trip, a Batclaw Slam, a Glide Kick or a Glide Boost) and 1 Freeflow multiplier (2 in Arkham Knight), but if a henchman is alone, it can finish him off immediately. Like the Batclaw Slam, an Aerial Attack gives 25 points for each combo multiplier. Both the normal and Directed Aerial Attack count as one Combat variation.
When an Aerial Attack is triggered, your character will climb over an enemy, hit them and floor them (except for Lieutenants and Brutes who cannot be floored conscious, or ninja who can dodge it sometimes). For most characters, they climb simply by taking 2 steps on that enemy as if they were climbing a ladder, jump airborne at the 2nd step , then immediately floor them with their weight, and raised fists (Batman, Nightwing, Azrael, Batgirl, Red Hood), or press down the enemy with their staff (Robin, Deathstroke), or do a spin in the air then land on them (Harley Quinn). If you're playing as Robin or Nightwing in City, the animation also involves your character somersaulting mid-air before flooring the enemy. Catwoman's animation is a little different in that she immediately climbs and stands on the enemy's shoulder after the first step, then flips and presses them down.
When a Directed Aerial Attack is triggered, instead of pressing down immediately, your character will jump accordingly to your directional command, possibly performing a mid-air somersault in the process if they're facing away from the target. If the target is a Lieutenant, instead of flooring or stunning him, your character will pound on his head instead and deplete his health more quickly than if you're doing a Beatdown on him.
In Batman: Arkham Origins, there's an extra bit of animation for Batman's Directed Aerial Attack, which makes him punch the floored enemy one more time, slowing down the attack in the process. This is likely a bug because it completely defeats the purpose of the Directed Aerial Attack by making it slower, which leaves you vulnerable. This animation was, for some reason, reused for all of Red Hood's Aerial Attacks in Knight, although it doesn't appear to be detrimental.