It’s nice when a developer that’s made its name with an IPs tries to branch out. Bethesda went from open world RPG Oblivion to open world RPG Fallout 3.Naughty Dog went from 3D platformer Crash Bandicoot to 3D platformer Jak and Daxter, then eventually to Uncharted and The Last of Us. Volition made Red Faction, but they haven’t really strained themselves with Agents of Mayhem, since recently they’re better known for the Saints Row series of open world action adventure games.
That being said, it was and is a fun universe. Since the series took a turn for the bizarre (once it realised it couldn’t out-GTA the actual GTA), the games have gone from strength to strength, really owning their unique brand of weirdness with superheroes, aliens, and even a trip to Hell. Agents of Mayhem uses this setting to its advantage, taking us to a futuristic version of South Korea’s Seoul, where an eeeevil group called LEGION threatens the world, and MAYHEM has to save the day. It’s weird, wacky, and not even pretending to take itself seriously, all of which is perfect in a game like this.
The game itself is pretty damn fun; there’s some unoriginal but enjoyable gunplay, neat skills, and a special Mayhem ability per character, that charges as you do damage and can... Hang on, that sounds a lot like Overwatch. Anyway, there’s a roster of twelve Agents to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. There’s a guy with an assault rifle, a girl with dual rapid-fire pistols who can teleport a bit… An archer that climbs walls… A ninja...
OK look, what you’ve got here is Saints Roverwatch. If you’ve played a hero based shooter like Overwatch or Battleborn, it’s difficult to not see the influence. I’m not saying it’s intentional, but every time I unlocked a new character I was thinking of the comparison. Bow and wall climbing? That’s Hanzo. Roller derby girl with giant gun? Little bit of Zarya/ Bastion. That masked guy with a hand cannon? Definitely not McCree blended with Reaper.
It’s in no way a deal breaker and, a lot of these archetypes have been explored before, but it’s extremely noticeable.
Agents of Mayhem’s kink is that you choose three Agents per mission, who you can switch between on the fly. With the variety of characters, you can build teams for any scenario you’ll face. But, if you’re anything like me, you’ll quickly find three favourites and stick to them like glue unless you absolutely have to pick someone else for a specific purpose. You can also play around with how Agents work, swapping out abilities, upgrading them, and adding Gremlin and LEGION tech to funnel characters into more targeted roles.
Aside from that it handles like a Saint’s Row game, taking lessons from the more out-there iterations; you’ve got your jumping, your driving, your teleporting, your wall-climbing, your tongue in cheek comedy. The carplay isn’t up to the standard of the likes of GTA, but when you can jump and climb and teleport, you’re only using cars for long distance travel. You also teleport into the cars, which never stops being fun.
The music is fairly forgettable, and the graphics won’t blow you away, but they are both up to their respective tasks; you won’t hate the sound, and Seoul looks cool enough that cartoony faces won’t bother you much. The cutscenes, on the other hand, are gorgeous comic-style animations, and I looked forward to each one, especially when introducing a new Agent to my roster. The plot was generic but that’s it’s charm. I also enjoyed the difficulty settings, which go up to 16 different levels of how much of a challenge you want, with a risk/reward balance that is fun once you find your personal niche.
Volition have done their damndest to make things more interesting, which only makes their other failures feel keener. For all the originality of its setting and trying to expand on the variety of gameplay, Agents of Mayhem falls down in the same places. Missions are bog standard, and grind you down quickly; go here, press this, shoot them, go to other place, do the thing again, maybe drive for a bit. Are you bored yet? Because I was. I actually didn’t realise it for a while, since the characters are genuinely entertaining and I found myself invested in the dialogue that plays out over the repetitive shooty-bang-bang segments.
Maybe I’m getting old, but with one or two exceptions, I’ve seen all this so many times that it’s just not fun anymore. And while the guns and cars are competently done, and fun in small doses, there’s nothing breathtaking or even particularly engaging; it’s just there. It’s like a meal at a new restaurant that’s alright but not great; you eat it, enjoy it, but you know you won’t be back.
Agents of Mayhem is a fun ride if you want more of Saint’s Row while you’re waiting for the fifth main game to trundle along, or if you want a different take on the hero-based shooter. It’s by no means a bad game, just not a great one. You’ll play it once, have a good time, and forget about it.
Brian received a digital copy of Agents of Mayhem from Deep Silver for review.