I’m a big fan of developer Volition’s Saints Row series of games with their satirical and larger than life style and absurdly hilarious missions, so when I was given the opportunity to review Volition’s new game, Agents of Mayhem, I jumped at the chance. Agents of Mayhem is an open world, 3rd person shooter where you control an eclectic crew of crime fighters that are half secret agent and half superhero. The ‘mayhem’ in their name comes from the the way they unleash whoop ass in massive spectacles of gunfire and explosions. In most missions, you’ll play with a squad of three agents of your choice, and be able to switch between them at will during the heat of battle. Each agent has their own unique primary attack, melee attack, special attack and, of course, a mayhem attack where they rain fiery fury across the battlefield. The agents are battling L.E.G.I.O.N. (the League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations) an organisation of super villains that have taken control of the city of Seoul.
Volition have managed to capture the fun with Agents of Mayhem. When you run, dash and leap around the city as an agent, you feel like a superhero, larger and more powerful than the citizens that wander the city. Agents can triple jump to great heights, so leaping to the top of most buildings is an easy feat. There’s no fall damage, so no punishment for venturing too high or missing a jump. I actually experienced a little vertigo when leaping from the top of a particular high building but it was fun watching the scenery rush past as my character glided down to the ground, landing gracefully and painlessly.
Driving in this game is also a highlight. Just getting in and out of cars is achieved with elegant, superhero-esque poise and grace. Vehicles are easy to maneuver which makes driving at high speeds and weaving in and out of traffic fun and exhilarating. You can drift around corners with handbrake turns and zoom off again with relative ease. When you reach your destination, a button press will have you screeching to a stop and ejecting yourself artfully in one move. It adds to the feeling of being an unstoppable superhero, making a grand entrance before dispensing justice.
The starting heroes are a little cliche so I’d recommend doing some of the agent quests early on in the game and building up your line up. I really enjoy playing with the infamous Johnny Gat from Saints Row, who takes down enemies efficiently and with slick style using his shotgun or dual pistols. I also love Braddock, a tough as nails, former marine who melees using a savage knife attack. It’s nice to see a game with such a diverse array of strong male and female characters from different nationalities and backgrounds. With such a varied band of fighters, I think everyone will be able to find a personal favourite agent whose style and attitude will appeal to them.
The game is set in a futuristic Seoul, South Korea and the world is stunningly beautiful with pinky purple, twilight hues and cel-shaded art. Both the world and the character design have an interesting mix of realistic and cartoonish features. Character’s proportions are sometimes larger than life but not absurdly so. The overall feel is one of being in a comic book brought to life.
The humour and story is where the game unfortunately falls a little flat for me. Perhaps my expectations were too high as the humour has also been a key differentiator of the Saints Row games and I was hoping this quintessential element would have been captured in Agents of Mayhem. Unfortunately the humour often seems to miss the mark and feels a little immature and undeveloped. For example, there’s a scene where we’re told to shoot a bad guy’s big balls (while the bad guy shoots massive balls of energy at the agents). The same tired joke is repeated throughout the fight and it feels a little low brow and cringy. It’s not that the humour in the Saints Row games has ever been high brow, but it felt more clever than this.
Similarly, it feels like there’s a missed comedic opportunity in the lack of interplay between squad members. If members of the team were to talk and bicker amongst themselves as they walk around town, some hilarious conversations could have emerged. It also would have encouraged the player to regularly mix up their squads. The agents do have their own unique responses during discussions with headquarters during missions, and while I appreciate the work that must have been involved in this, the responses are again not as witty and clever as I would have expected from Volition.
The story too feels somewhat uninspired and generic. I haven’t finished the game yet so it’s possible it will take a surprising turn, but at this stage it’s exactly what you’d expect from a superhero story. The supervillains are taking over the world, because reasons, and it’s up to the Agents of Mayhem to stop them… because they’re the good guys (occasional civilian casualty from the mayhem notwithstanding).
Agents of Mayhem is a solid 3rd person shooter set in a gorgeous, futuristic world. It’s a chance to try a number of superhero personas on for size and unleash mayhem on the forces of evil. With Volition at the helm, I had higher expectations for the story and the humour, but if you’re looking for a playground for driving fast cars, delivering explosive justice, and just generally being badass, it’s a lot of fun.
Agents of Mayhem is available now on PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One.