Volition is back with a game that is totally not Saints Row. I mean sure, it features Saints Row characters, locations and mythology heavily and the colour purple seems to be a predominant feature. Defying reality, crazy stunts and loud mouth heroes abound and the Ultor corporation is still pulling the commercial strings in game. Oh, and the story came about from one of the Gat out of Hell endings.
But apart from all of those things Agents of MAYHEM has nothing to do with Saints Row. Honestly, I don’t know how I could have ever made that leap.
But all jokes aside Agents of MAYHEM is its own beast (despite everything it shares with Saints Row) and it is a beast that has some problems.
Over the years I have made no secret about my love for the Saints Row franchise. Those games have always been my go to for absurd, brainless fun and it seems that Agents of MAYHEM aims for that exact same goal. Sadly, however, there are a few things that hold it back from the high bar that Volition’s most famous franchise has set.
The setup for Agents is great. Think of an adult version of an 80’s Saturday morning cartoon and you won’t be too far from the mark. In fact, take out some of the adult humour and this could easily be a blueprint for a GI Joe game. It is a setup that works well, with these over-the-top characters and plot lines being one of the stronger elements of the game.
The heroes themselves are all wonderfully designed and come from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures without dipping into racial stereotypes.
It would have been very easy for Volition to take the simple approach to this sort of design but to their credit, they haven’t and as a result, these larger-than-life Agents are much more interesting.
The voice acting and character design all avoid, or in the case of Kingpin and Hardtack, subvert these established tropes making exploring the world with these heroes a pure joy.
These characters are explored even further in their own side missions. Each of the 12 (13 if you count the Johnny Gat pre-order bonus) have 2 story missions that explore their background and motivations for joining MAYHEM.
These are universally excellent, from soccer hooligan Red Card rescuing his beloved football team while discussing the failures of Scottish soccer to the enigmatic ninja Scheherezade who mixes truth and tall tales into everything she does, these missions are all written superbly and brought real laughs to proceedings.
My personal favourite background mission was for Daisy, the mini-gun wielding, Roller Derby star. Her mission involves tracking down what actually occurred during a drunken evening, which included a spectacular bar fight and assaulting a sushi mascot for not selling pizza. It is in these missions that Agents of MAYHEM really shows off its potential and make the game worth a playthrough.
The main story is, however, a little weak. Parts of it are quite enjoyable (the love story between a cyborg villain and his AI girlfriend is great) but on the whole, it seems too shallow to sustain the length of the main campaign. This isn’t helped by the fact that the villains, in general, are quite the boring bunch which was in complete contrast to the hero characters.
This meant there was little motivation to find out what makes them tick and why they were so keen on destroying Seoul. Speaking of Seoul it was nice to be trashing a city other than New York or “generic American City” for a change. It certainly felt like a different location for this sort of adventure and while
I am sure that the Seoul depicted in Agents of Mayhem bears little to no resemblance to the real world, it was a nice change of scenery all the same.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Agents of MAYHEM is the repetitiveness that creeps into the game fairly early on. All missions follow the same basic structure, Find location, kill waves of enemies, find a secret hidden base, hack the front door, kill more enemies. Rinse and repeat. This is made worse by the fact that this is quite a long game and that enemies are rather repetitive.
What counters this somewhat are the heroes themselves. Mixing and matching the 3 characters that I controlled brought a real joy to proceedings and making a balanced team was a satisfying experience. Each character has a team buff that became essential in team selection.
High damage/Low Health characters like Oni became much more deadly when they were supported by a character like Yeti who buffed the entire team’s shields. The ability to switch between any of my team of 3 on the fly was also a stroke of genius and the shuffling of play styles helped me forget how repetitive the gameplay loop actually was.
The mileage you get out of Agents of MAYHEM will depend on where your tastes lie. If you loved the humour from the Saints Row franchise, like to make your own fun in an open world and enjoy some over-the-top story telling then I am sure you will get a kick out of Agents of MAYHEM.
If however, the idea of repetitive quests and splashes of juvenile humour puts you off you are probably better of avoiding what Volition are serving here. For me, I had a blast revisiting the world of not-Saints-Row and hope to play another not-Saints-Row game sometime in the future.