Agents of Mayhem shares certain qualities with Saints Row, not least the universe in which both titles take place, but in spite of their similarities, the 2 games are also nothing alike. Volition has attempted to create a spin -off game that gently departs its decade long series for a new take or twist on the genre, but there is simply no denying that its latest creation, Agents of Mayhem, has one foot positioned firmly in Saints Row lore. From the iconic purple emblazoned logo synonymous with the 3rd Street Saints, frequent references, shameless name dropping or mentions of Stilwater and even series iconic frontman Johnny Gat back as a playable agent providing you pre-ordered with a couple of other Saints Row residents thrown in too for good measure, there is simply no escaping the iconic series, but that isn’t to say Agents of Mayhem doesn’t have its own redeeming qualities.
Agents of Mayhem: PS4, Xbox One [Reviewed], PC
Publisher: Deep Silver
Release Date: 18 August 2017
Price: £49.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
Away from the bombastic action of Stilwater, Agents of Mayhem takes place in the futuristic city of Seoul, South Korea, where the constant warring of MAYHEM, a collection of unique heroic Agents and an organisation of supervillains known as LEGION take place so frequently, they’ve become a day-to-day fixture to the cities locals. The beauty of a cell shaded futuristic Seoul and its residents play hapless victim to the opposing duo’s desire to create absolute carnage in a constant battle with one another for supremacy. In order to deal with the threat of LEGION, Agents of Mayhem affords players with up to 12 different agents to choose from (13 including pre-order DLC), each with their own qualities, weapons, unique abilities and obnoxious or egotistical traits.
Strictly, an offline single-player experience, Agents of Mayhem wants you to tackle LEGION on your lonesome, although you’re never truly alone with players able to freely switch between 3 agents during action-packed missions with the option to change up the group to suit your style of play by visiting the Ark, the players home base. Acquiring each agent doesn’t come for free though, with the player required to first complete a mission specific to that agent, which acts as an introductory mission in-turn offering players insight into why each particular agent came to join MAYHEM in the first place. With further time and progression, more additions become unlockable, leaving the player with a full roster to experiment with and combat options unlimited.
Switching between agents in battle is a fundamental part of AoM‘s core gameplay, and it’s simple to put into practice. Pressing left or right on the directional pad, injured agents can be quickly pulled out of the firing line before they perish, replaced with a stronger more capable one that might ensure a successful outcome during a mission or simply to chop and change to share the workload when taking down members of LEGION. Experimenting with each character to discover their capabilities is pleasing and working a way to find the most suitable agents to take out on the various missions is not only energetic and enjoyable as you learn the ropes but essential to story progression.
True to its name, Volition has put a lot of effort into making each agent as diverse if not as incredibly stereotypical as possible. With Scheherazade, a Middle Eastern assassin with a past and second name, you’re never going to find out about. Deadly with throwing knives and close combat, she slices through LEGION like butter and is a joy to play around with, she also recites the alphabet a lot, which is kind of strange. If a trained assassin doesn’t interest you, a huge, tattooed, foul-mouthed agent who enjoys the odd drink and wielding a minigun almost as big as herself just might.
Daisy likes nothing more than mowing LEGION down in a barrage of bullets and making up fake stories about the other agents, she’ll also laugh at your demise, nice! Saints Row‘s beloved Pierce also makes a return as Kingpin, wielding a single machine gun or flare gun, he is perhaps the most ruthless with his mayhem ability making all legion enemies within the vicinity dance to his giant…boombox as he rains bullets down around them, if you can stop laughing for a minute to shoot them that is.
Each agent has a special ability and a mayhem ability which sees them taunt the enemy before unleashing devastation. Rama shoots plague arrows which poison enemies, Fortune sends her robot Glory out to stun all the enemies around her and Yeti stuns enemies before pummeling them with his fists. Regardless of what agent you choose, you’re definitely going to have a lot of fun with their individual abilities and will soon favour some above the rest. One of the highlights for me, besides all the mass murder, was the amount of customisation AoM offered. Finding agent skins and checking them out back at base made sure I always looked my best, with the Joker, Harley Quinn and Iron Man all available for your trendsetting agents. Not content with all of that, your many vehicles are also very customisable providing you find enough skins in chests or from enemies.
Bouncing from rooftop to rooftop, triple jumping and fast-paced frantic combat, Agents of Mayhem‘s setting lends itself well to the action that makes up the bulk of the gameplay. If Crackdown and Saints Row The Third bumped uglies following one fateful Friday night out and subsequently conceived a lovechild together, AoM would be the likely explosive outcome. Crackdown makes full use of vertical movement as players spring about the city taking down enemies and collecting coloured orbs, Agents of Mayhem feels very similar in tone, even down to the cell-shaded aesthetic that will resonate with anyone whoever experienced the Xbox exclusive or its subsequent sequel.
MAYHEM definitely isn’t a poor organisation, they are well armed enough to take over the world themselves if they so pleased, but your job as one of many agents is to stop LEGION doing that first, with the main story missions leading you to take down five of the enemies main lieutenants, each insane and unique in their own special way. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and if you love making things explode, look no further. Agents of Mayhem laughs at Just Cause 3‘s attempt at making things go boom. Explosions go off constantly in combat, with enemies lobbing grenades, in-fact, pretty much the whole environment could go off with just a single bullet, don’t fret though as a helpful red ring will appear at your feet to warn you of the impending danger to your limbs, allowing you to jump out of danger in the nick of time. Prepare to do that a lot.
Like most other open-world games with a crazy enemy patrolling the streets, doing anything to annoy LEGION will fill your wanted meter up from mildly curious to extreme malice and as you endanger civilians more, the enemies sent out to rob you of your life also get tougher. Enemies of AoM can be just as tough as the agents themselves. Ranging from hordes of women dual-wielding blades that spin around more times than Sonic the Hedgehog to end you, huge Tanktroopers with high HP and the ability to shoot out missiles that rain down around you and snipers that teleport around the battlefield dealing crazy damage to your agent if you happen to be in the firing line to your typical cannon fodder enemies, but they’ll go down without much struggle after getting killed mid taunt.
Going back to my earlier point of MAYHEM and their weapons. There are multiple ways of annihilating your foes with MAYHEM’s base agent “Gremlin” creating devastating and fun tech that help in the field of battle, from shooting out huge disco balls that crush anything in its path, to raining down space lasers and missiles, healing agents and making civilians explode with excitement. Let’s face it, no matter what difficulty you choose, the enemies don’t stand a chance. Completing lairs also unlock LEGION tech that snaps onto the agent’s gadgets, making them even more deadly.
Although incredibly fun at first as Volition give you the keys to the kingdom, or shall I say armoury very quickly, you’ll have the ability to destroy everything and everyone pretty much from the get-go, but it gets kind of old. Missions seem to blend into each other as you’re offered the same repetitive objectives each time, destroy this, collect that; all while shooting down a million enemies with ease. Enemy Lairs are also all exactly the same, I often found myself bored and quite annoyed at having to descend into another identical tomb that housed the same “secret rooms” as the last one. Don’t get me wrong, the cutscenes are hysterical and the boss fights fun and unique, it’s just that the novelty wears off and as you’re sent around performing these tasks repeatedly you might find yourself wondering what else you should play.
Aside from completing agent and story missions, Seoul offers a lot of other diversions with races, lairs, patrols, and plenty of enemy equipment to destroy. These things constantly appear though so besides offering materials for crafting and XP, you’ll never see a cleared city after completing a thousand tasks.
Sadly while AoM causes plenty of great mayhem it also causes chaos in other not such good ways, with bugs too frequent not to be soul-destroying. All too many times my game would freeze and I’d be unable to move, forcing me to abandon a long mission and close the game, restarting back at base to repeat myself. Enemies constantly became stuck in the walls making them a nightmare to shoot, at one point I got pushed into an NPC’s vehicle and became stuck inside, so I got a guided tour of the city as he drove me around.
On other occasions the sound completely went, the base and city disappeared completely leaving me staring at a background and another forced restart, my mission objective marker wasn’t there so I had to run around like a headless chicken to find where I needed to go, enemies didn’t spawn when my objective was to clear the area and when returning to the ark it was pitch-black leaving me to believe the agency was hiding from trick or treaters again. AoM‘s abundance of technical issues left a bitter taste in my mouth and having to replay things made me fearful of skipping cutscenes in case the game failed to load the next part forcing another dreaded restart. You get it, I had to restart a lot. Hopefully a future patch will fix these issues but for now be wary.
A mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly. When taking everything into account, Agents of Mayhem feels like a sorely missed opportunity. Not quite the departure from the popular Saints Row series Volition might have wished for, AoM lives up to its name at times with a wide diversity of agents, explosive action and fast, energetic battles not to mention all of the obnoxious humour so synonymous with the 3rd Street Saints, but it also causes its fair share of unwanted problems with repetitive missions and lairs and a wealth of technical issues and bugs that blemish the overall experience and simply cannot be overlooked.