Fantastic. Heavily influenced by the critically acclaimed graphic novel, "Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth", but they didn't just copy the story - it has a much different plot and the main villains very greatly. The main story line is very solid and entertaining by its own right, but then they added in recorded sessions between various villains and there doctors. There are also hidden recordings from Amadeus Arkham - the founder of Arkham Asylum (who went mad and had to be committed to his own asylum) - aside from the main plot element of the Joker trapping Batman in Arkham, Amadeus's recordings are the biggest thing they stole from the graphic novel and they did an excellent job with it. My favorite parts were dealing with Scarecrow... they really thought outside of the box on him.
Very well laid out. I never had any problem switching between gadgets, even in the middle of fighting 5+ grunts. Like any Batman movie or cartoon - it is impossible to fall to death, which I appreciated. You do a lot of work up in the air and when you fall you either flap your cape and land smooth or it goes into slow-mo telling you to hit your grappling hook to save yourself...just like Batman would do. You spend a lot of time moving around in a stealth like manner, but aggrowing a few bad guys isn't a big deal - you can either kick their tail or get away pretty easy. There are two types of "events" that happen at various times during the game and these events are what you unlock and can push yourself in challenge mode. The first time is just wave after wave of bad guys with ever increasing numbers. The second is a predator mode, where you are put in a room with a handful of heavily armed bad guys and you have to take them out one at a time without getting caught. This is a very fun mode - you are given a lot of options to move around without being seen and you are given quite a few options to creatively take out grunts. The game autosaves as you move from zone to zone, event to event. It happens pretty often, so if you do die, you don't ever have to start painfully far back. The riddler has also hidden things all over the place for you to find.
The game has a very liner setup - you move from point A to point B, but you are free to move around all you want - if you are in the middle of a mission - you can leave the building or zone and go work on some of the riddlers stuff half way across the island if you want. There are very few points that you are 100% trapped in an event until you finish it.
The fighting system is rather simple. Your basic moves are attack, counter, stun. You are also encouraged to use a couple of gadgets and a flying dodge when fights get more difficult. Winning fights isn't that hard, but you can chain combos together and once you get pretty good, you can fight up to 7-8 guys without getting hit - so there is room to push yourself. There are 3 types of grunts- blackgate prisoners (normal and high security) and Arkham inmates (crazy). The high security prisoners have knifes and are a little harder. There are also pipes, stun rods, and guns that change the momentum of a fight. There are also BIG bad guys that you really shouldn't try to fight straight up - you basically bull fight them.
I don't look for a challenge in every game I play. There are some games (Ninja Gaiden) that pride themselves on how utterly difficult it is, this isn't one of those games. To be fair - I was playing on normal (out of easy,normal,hard). You can't sleep through the fights in B:AA, but you never feel frustrated. I think the last fight took me around 5 attempts and it was the hardest fight by far. One of the early boss fights I was taken down to around 3% health before I figured the fight out and ended up winning the fight without taking another blow. If you are up for a challenge - there are "challenges" you can unlock as you play the game that let you push yourself. I plan on playing the game again on hard and maybe it will be a bit more of a challenge, but honestly - I never felt like I was playing a kids game - there were hard parts, they just weren't frustrating.
This is a really dark, yet pretty game. This is my one real gripe with the game. You can toggle "detective mode" where you see a much brighter vision mode that highlights people around you and possible interact-able environment elements. Think of it as an advanced thermal view. You rely so heavily on this vision mode you will tend to stay in it most of the game and miss a lot of the really cool graphics. They didn't steal any previous designs - Each character has been designed specifically for this game, from the stars - Batman and the Joker all the way down to cameo appearances - no one looks like they did in X movie or X cartoon. Harley has a 100% new (hot) costume. There are also little things that impressed me - when you pause the game everything freezes and instantly turns into a shell-shaded comic book look.
The first few hours I kept thinking - whoever they got to do the Joker's voice is great! Then I found out it is Mark Hamill (aka Luke Skywalker) - he is who did the Joker's voice for Batman: The Animated Series during the 90s - no wonder he fit so well - He is the Joker I grew up with! : )
One of the best games I have ever played. Excellent flow- great story - very few complaints. Batman: Arkham Asylum is to other Batman games (heck, all superhero games) what Batman Begins was to other Batman movies... which is funny because Chris Nolan (director of Batman Begins and The Dark Night) wasn't really interested in Batman or comics in general until he read "Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth". Both the game and the movie were rooted in one of the best graphic novels of all time and both have received rave reviews.... If you haven't read it, I'd suggest it.