I picked up Agents of Mayhem on a whim. From the trailers I had seen, I was expecting a Crackdown/Saints Row mash-up kind of game, something that had the possibility of keeping me entertained for a few weeks until Mario + Rabbids and Destiny 2 hit my doorstep. Something to waste my time with, and probably return for store credit. In short, I didn’t expect much.
Certainly not how much I would enjoy it.
Agents of Mayhem is the latest game from Volition, the team behind the Saints Row and Red Faction series. Now, in preparation for this review, I have done some research. I have played Red Faction, but never finished the games. The same goes for Saints Row. When I read that all of these games existed in the same shared universe, and that they in effect bled into one another with shared characters, I have to say I was a little bit surprised. It makes me want to go back and play through all these other games to find the connections.
Just a quick note. The next section may contain slight spoilers for some of Volition’s previous games. You have been warned.
Agents of Mayhem is a direct continuation of the ‘re-create Earth’ ending of the Saints Row IV expansion ‘Gat out of Hell’, and revolves around the struggle between the forces of good and evil, personified respectively by the groups known as MAYHEM and LEGION. MAYHEM (the Multinational Agency Hunting Evil Masterminds) is a group founded by one Persephone Brimstone, who we first met in ‘Gat out of Hell’, with funding by Ultor Corporation, from both the Red Faction and Saints Row franchises. MAYHEM’s aim is to stop the supervillain organisation LEGION (the League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations) from total global domination, by any means they deem appropriate.
We are now entering a spoiler-free area. We thank you for your patience.
Set in a futuristic version of Seoul, South Korea, you take control of the 12 (13 with a pre-order bonus) Agents of MAYHEM to wreak havoc on the forces of LEGION. Similar to Saints Row, this version of Seoul is an open-world playground, with your Agents able to travel effectively anywhere in their pursuit of justice. Visually, the game is what you would expect from a Saint’s Row spinoff. While I wouldn’t call the city pretty, it does have a certain charm about it. Sadly, while the city is sprawling and varied, it’s once you get into the LEGION bases that the similarities start to wear on you. It seems that every single LEGION base was designed by the same architect, with the same floor plan and layout. I guess they didn’t want to possibility of getting lost? The Saints Row similarities don’t stop with the visual’s though. The humor is there too. You know, that kind of humor that you shouldn’t laugh at as a an adult, but you still do.
Gameplay-wise, Agents of Mayhem provides you with a fresh feel to overcome all of that sameness. As I stated earlier, you have a roster of 12 (13) Agents you can play as, with each Agent having a differing playstyle, weapon and special attacks. As you play each mission, or just explore the city as a whole, you choose a team of three Agents that you can switch between on the fly. This makes for some fun battles, switching between your Agents to better maximise their particular strengths when facing objectives. You will eventually come across a team that you feel works for you (My current go-to team is Oni, Gat and Fortune) and will start to level these characters.
The game has a pretty simple, rpg-like leveling system. As each character gains a level, you can invest it into one of four skills, three of which provide that character with a certain bonus. The fourth affects your whole team, and can range from increased money to increased damage. You can also unlock variations of each of their skills, as well as different weapons and skins.
Now, I want to talk about the skins in this game just for a second. I don’t know how it is done, but there are a few character’s that have skins that just scream copyright. For example, Oni has a skin that makes him look like the spitting image of the Joker, while Hollywood gets both an Iron Man Skin and a Captain America skin. I would be interested to find out if these were licensed, or if we could expect a court case in the near future?
Getting back into gameplay, the map of Seoul is littered with points of interest, each representing a mission or objective for you to complete to release LEGION’s hold on the city. Interestingly, this is the first game I have seen in quite some time that will have the enemy take control back from you, resulting in you having to liberate the same objective again. This makes for some repetitive gameplay, with the objectives becoming more of a nuisance than an interesting side venture the more you play.
There are also a number of character missions available, each designed to further the individual story of each of the Agents. They each have a different reason for joining MAYHEM, with their own personal goal they want to achieve. These character missions help build on that backstory, giving you more of an insight into these Agents. Interestingly, each of these character missions, and the main storyline, are presented as if they were an episode from an old 90’s cartoon, with wacky episode titles and a bunch of one-liners and puns.
Once you unlock the ability to head back to MAYHEM headquarters, you are presented with a number of other options to change how you play. In the R&D Department, you can purchase and research items and permanent upgrades for each of your characters. The Garage lets you swap between the vehicles you have unlocked, and the market lets you purchase further, MAYHEM wide upgrades that can change things such as the rate of drops for skins, or decrease costs to buy items. The headquarters also gives you access to a world map, where you can spend your gathered Intel to send inactive Agents to conduct missions to generate further resources.
As I stated earlier, Agent’s of Mayhem was never intended to be a something I sunk any real time into. It was a palette cleanser, a simple shoot-em up that I expected to have no depth or enjoyment factor. In this, the game surprised me when I really shouldn’t have been that surprised. Volition has released another fun, entertaining entry in a genre that they have been successfully releasing into for years. Sure, Agents of Mayhem suffers from a repetitive nature at times, but it’s still a damn fun game to jump into.
The Good:- Interesting characters, plenty of choice with active Agents, interesting storyline
The Bad:- Repetitive side missions and base layouts,visuals very similar to previous Volition games
The Final Verdict:- Agents of Mayhem was meant to be a quick-fix for me. Something to burn some time on before the games I actually wanted to play hit the shelves. The game ended up surprising me, by giving me a game that is above and beyond what I expected. With that said, I didn’t expect much to begin with. While it is a good game, and a game I have (and continue to) enjoy, it is a game that will eventually lose its allure.