Those of you that enjoy Saints Row, will feel right at home with the latest adventure in Volition’s Agents of Mayhem. In fact, one of the endings found in the Gat Out of Hell expansion serves as (you could say) a backdoor pilot. Agents of Mayhem is a spin-off, it doesn’t matter how you dress it, it is what it is, and I’m totally okay with that. Why? Because if anything, Agents of Mayhem feels like an evolution of the Saints Row series. Don’t get me wrong, it’s far from perfect and the game has its fair share of ups and downs, but if you enjoy an explosive action-packed adventure that’s full to the brim with attitude and personality, Agents of Mayhem should certainly be on your radar.
The game is set in a futuristic Seoul, South Korea, and sees the forces of good and evil going all out tit-for-tat. MAYHEM is a team that’s compiled of several individuals that greatly vary from one another, which can also be said for LEGION, a collection of super-villains that are hell bent on destruction and chaos. LEGION, who is led by a man known as Morningstar, conducted a range of simultaneous global assaults using teleportation technology and dark matter-fuelled weapons. This allowed LEGION to strike several places around the globe in the blink of an eye, ultimately devastating armies, ruining economies, and (understandably) spreading fear across nations. Possessing LEGION’s teleportation technology, former LEGION Minister Persephone Brimstone is hired by MAYHEM to lead her team of Agents to Seoul, and put a stop to LEGION once and for all.
As far as the plot goes it’s a decent starting point, and the story steadily unfolds as you make your way through. This is served to you using a mixture of dialogue during gameplay, on top of your run of the mill cutscenes. Agents of Mayhem has been rated M for Mature, and let me tell you, it’s a well deserved (I dare say earned) rating. You see, Agents of Mayhem doesn’t take itself seriously, it’s actually a pretty bonkers experience that’s bolstered by a plot and cast that are even more so. However with that being said, it is a very adult game to sink into. The amount of swear words that are dropped during the gameplay dialogue alone, well, you wouldn’t be able to keep count, put it that way.
If you include the pre-order bonus agent Johnny Gat, the game offers up a roster of thirteen characters. Each of which comes with their own unique personality, weaponry, skins, and special abilities. These agents come from all walks of life, but regardless as to who you gravitate towards, the game remains fairly challenging throughout. Agents of Mayhem supports fifteen different difficulty settings that will individually offer you more rewards per-bump. Honestly I cant say that I toyed around too much with these settings, I found my comfort zone at difficulty tier five, and felt constantly rewarded for each battle and mission that I managed to overcome.
Your immediate team will consist of three agents of your choosing, but roster is indeed locked to begin with, forcing you to work hard to expand your selection. When you’ve selected your team of three agents, you’ll then sky-dive down to Seoul and ready-up for the task at hand. Irrespective of the fact that you select three agents before suiting up for action, the game only shows one agent on-screen at a time during gameplay. This is because the core mechanic (Agent Swap) has you swiftly switching between agents to utilise their unique traits, or in my case, save my bacon when my current agent is about to bite the dust. There is a cooldown in place to prevent you from abusing the system, but it’s quite a lenient cooldown that shouldn’t bother you too much.
Agent Swap is a great incentive for unlocking new agents and mixing up your team until you find a band of heroes that suits your playstyle. Simply due to the fact that each agent is essentially a weapon choice, it pays off to identify what each agent carries, as well as what they’re capable of. With an impressive roster of agents it goes without saying that some agents are better balanced than other agents, but having played with the majority of them, I can wholeheartedly say that most of them are likeable, capable, and well implemented. What’s especially interesting is that each agent has their own dialogue that’s unique and specific to their personality, meaning you can run through a mission with one agent and listen to how they react, and run through the same mission as another character to hear different voice lines. It’s not something that boosts replay value, but it is a nice touch nevertheless.
Enemy variants are plentiful, with each enemy slowly being introduced into the game with their own tailored cutscene. Regardless as to what foe you’re squaring up against, enemy encounters tend to be fast paced and action-packed. Most of your opponents can simply be wiped out with some heavy firepower or a well timed melee (depending on your difficulty tier) but there are enemies that require a sense of strategy to overcome. Turrets for example can deplete your health in the blink of an eye, and when you find yourself in an environment that has several turrets and very little cover, or worse – cover that explodes upon penetration, you can very easily lose an agent in combat. When that happens, you’ll need to cross your fingers and hope that one of you foes drops a specific pick-up that will bring your fallen agent back to life. The epic boss battles are much more intricate, but every bit as enjoyable.
The three agents that you start with are Fortune, Hollywood, and Hardtack. Fortune has dual-wielding pistols, Hollywood uses an assault rifle, and Hardtack utilises a beefy shotgun. Swapping between these agents (as an example) is massively rewarding and somewhat tactical. Busting a bulky foe’s shields with Fortune, to then swap to Hardtack to chip away at their base health, whilst finishing off the surrounding goons with Hollywood’s assault rifle, is utterly fantastic. It goes one further when you’re able to dish out some whoop-ass with their varying special abilities. These come in handy when you have an enemy that buffs his nearby allies with added strength or health. It helps to break down the chain of command and focus on who needs removing from the fray first, leaving you to clean up the strays thereafter.
Switching between agents is often necessary rather than ideal, simply because you have to keep a close eye on their shields and health bars, ensuring that you withdraw them from the fight to preserve their life. They also recharge when they’re not in the fields of play, which is a much needed aid. On top of special abilities each agent has access to an ultimate ability, which can be accessed when the ‘Mayhem Meter’ fills up through natural progression and play. Agents of Mayhem has a very lenient difficulty curve regardless of your setting, with the game casually throwing out more and more enemies as you get deeper into the experience. It does sometimes feel quite repetitive, but on the flip side, the game tries to constantly throw a curve-ball at you by mixing up the most deadliest of opponents whilst littering the environment with low-end goons. Safe to say, you’ll need sharp reflexes and wit to make it through the adventure.
One of my only issues with Agents of Mayhem is with the frame rate. The game is hectic by design and there’s no shortage of encounters that will quite literally fill your screen with enemies, explosions, and tonnes of exchanged gunfire. Unfortunately when the action is at it’s peak, the game will occasionally stutter as it attempts to process and render everything that’s going on. Albeit it this doesn’t happen all too often, but it occurred enough for me to want to make a note about it. Hopefully Volition will address this in an upcoming patch, but in any case, it’s fairly easy to overlook.
Mission structure is quite relaxed, meaning that you’re not particularly forced to run through the story first and foremost. There’s a number of side missions, agent missions (which unlock respective characters), training missions, and so on and so forth. Or alternatively you can just patrol the streets of Seoul and do whatever the hell you like. On top of that you can pay a visit to your headquarters ‘The Ark’ and send idle agents on contracts, customise your vehicle, purchase upgrades, craft powerful tech, and much more. There’s certainly no shortage of things to do, which is pretty much a given, seeing as Agents of Mayhem is a single-player only game.
The RPG elements in the game are very basic to understand, but very noticeable for each and every thing that you apply. You can equip your agents with a vast range of gadgets, perform core upgrades using dark matter, or spend upgrade points that you’ve earned from levelling up. The RPG theme extends beyond levelling up your agents. You’ll see hit-points flying off enemies when you shoot them as well as status effects, and more. Enemies tend to drop health and money when killed, to which you’ll need to dash over and collect to ensure that it’s banked. It’s also important that you loot as much as you can, which is mostly achieved by keeping an eye out for loot chests, both in missions and in the open world. These house items that you’ll need to own in order utilise the aforementioned upgrades and purchases.
When you’re not taking on missions or hanging out in The Ark, you’ll be patrolling the open world. Here, you’ll be able to take on a decent portion of side content. Racing, clearing enemy outposts (which can be recaptured), optional challenges, and more. The open world isn’t overly large by current standards, but it’s well designed and houses more than enough content to keep you off the beaten path for hours on end. You can also hit up on the D-pad and call in your very own vehicle, but I found driving to be much less enjoyable than moving around on-foot. It feels somewhat clunky and much less fluid, and although it’s the fastest way to travel through the city, it can be an irritating form of travel. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the city or deep in a mission, the controls per-agent are top notch. It’s so fluid and massively engaging as you jump, double jump, triple jump, and air dash to new heights. The level design feeds the freedom of control exceptionally well and pushes forward an impressive amount of verticality.
It helps that all of the agents are well voiced and carry dialogue that bounces of each of the other agents and NPC’s perfectly. The humour in Agents of Mayhem is well struck, and although sometimes a little dry and awkward, the overall delivery is commendable. The same level of appreciation goes to the visuals, in which they’re not only well designed, but the game offers a solid batch of environments that varies magnificently. It goes without saying that Agents of Mayhem is not going to be for everyone, but those that enjoy a solid third-person shooter with humour, heaps of content, and a solid memorable cast of characters, this is one game you definitely don’t want to overlook.
Agents of Mayhem is fun game and should certainly please those that enjoy a decent shooter. There’s a great deal of longevity to soak up and plenty of side content to keep you going for tens of hours on end. It doesn’t come without fault, such as the (at times) hit and miss humour, the drop in frame rate, and the stiff and clunky driving, but in the grand scheme of things it’s a well structured experience that’s full to the brim of action-packed sequences and depth. The excellently voiced agents vary in both personality and loadout, ensuring that you’ve got enough choice to cater for your playstyle. Group this with great visuals, tight fast-paced gameplay, and fluid controls, and you’ve got yourself a solid experience that should satisfy the Chuck Norris in you. Simply put, with minor issues to the side, Agents of Mayhem is every bit as ambitious as it is engaging.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.