When it comes to cranking up the crazy, Volition can be considered the king of the loony bin. They took Saints Row, which was once a clone of Grand Theft Auto, and transformed it into one of the most fun, inclusive, and cuckoo game franchises to ever grace a console. So it seems like a no-brainier that Volition would go the spin-off route for their next game, which combines the personality of Saints Row with that of classic 80s Saturday morning cartoons.
Sadly while it has the brains and personality of both these aspects, Agents of Mayhem doesn't quite reach its full potential.
Taking place in Seoul, South Korea, Agents of Mayhem is run by Persephone Brimstone and the Ultor Corporation to fight the good fight. Their biggest foes belong to a super villain organization known as L.E.G.I.O.N., who plan to destroy all the high-powered nations of the world. With your team of misfits, lost souls, and Hollywood types it's up to the Agents to put a stop to L.E.G.I.O.N. before they not only succeed, but also find a way for the good people of the planet to turn against their noble deeds.
Playing Agents of Mayhem has you putting together a team of three agents to fight in the main campaign mode. These are your gunners, your tanks, your stealth handlers, and even people that are a mix of all four surprisingly. As you fight and achieve goals, you'll be able to level up your agents, give them better weapons and skills, update their powers, and even do some detail on their suits to make them look extra cool. As you progress, you'll also find new agents and give them the chance to get up the ranks on your crew.
It's these characters that are this game's strong suit. No one on the team shares a duplicate personality, be it Rama's desire to cure a disease plaguing her homeland, Hollywood mugging it up for camera and his beloved fans, Daisy's drunken tirades & roller derby mentality, or Yeti's Cold War-inspired attitude. These are characters you'd see joining the ranks of G.I. Joe or M.A.S.K., so long as they kept their mannerisms to an 80s G-rating (which, to be fair, would probably be nearing a light PG-13 this day & age). Watching and hearing these characters interact with their surroundings and causing nothing but pain in L.E.G.I.O.N.'s hemorrhoid-riddled ass.
The villains have their own personalities to boot as well, some that fit perfectly with the humor that this game is trying to showcase. Auto-tuning sensation August Gaunt fits the K-POP realm personality, as does the holographic pop singers AISHA who swear revenge on M.A.Y.H.E.M. after they understandably off their sadistic fiancé. They make you wanna cheer for the villains here and there, and while their intentions are nowhere near the realm of good-natured, you can't help but like them. (It also helps that the story is told in animated segments that -- while choppy -- fits wonderfully with its classic cartoon aesthetics.)
While it has the perfect personality, the campaign missions slowly started to feel too copy-and-paste from one another. As I infiltrated one secret L.E.G.I.O.N. location after another, I began to suspect that their contractor seemed to just do the exact same thing over and over again for each spot. When it comes time to throw down, the enemies arrive via wave after wave of teleportation mechanics, with the final boss battle in each story having the same results and twists towards the end. I hate to say it, but beating up bad guys via giant Gatling Gun or stealthy sword skills or even blockbuster explosions kinda got boring.
Thankfully the side-quests and missions have just a little bit more variety in the mix. Racing missions, deliveries, defeating L.E.G.I.O.N. invasion attempts, and even each character's side stories had more originality than the whole of the main campaign. The latter, of course, give more background to the members of M.A.Y.H.E.M., and even though it doesn't keep them from being straight-up cartoon characters their reasons for joining the agency in the first place helps to humanize them in such a way. (If anything, it feels like what Volition should've done was make this a legit origin story of M.A.Y.H.E.M.'s founding rather than drop us right in the middle of things.)
Control-wise, Agents of Mayhem is rather friendly to those both new to these sorts of games and those old to the classic Saints Row series. Switching between the three characters you choose is fairly easy, as are their main means of smacking some evil booty. It's just a shame that some of these characters' special abilities are simply their main powers with a mere boost in firepower. Blowing away baddies doesn't get boring per se, but it often feels like what M.A.Y.H.E.M. is packing is one fuse shy of an ACME Explosion Variety Pack.
Seoul looks great in the game, but it doesn't really reach as far as either the developers' or competitors' scale-wise. The city is big on-foot, but hopping into a vehicle it'll take you roughly ten minutes for a round-trip, and that's when you don't use the boost mechanic. I get that this is revving up to hopefully be a start to what Volition believes to be their next franchise, but I didn't once feel that wow factor when traveling through the city and taking in its sights. Its graphics are great, save for a frame drop here and there, but pretty worlds don't equate to massive immersion.
Perhaps this is why Volition made this a single-player-only affair, ironic considering that South Korea has become the supreme ruler of MMOs. Despite this, I felt like this game would've brought a far better experience had there been a co-op mode implemented. Often I felt rather lonely roaming the town, even though I could switch between three characters at the snap of my fingers. Maybe next time, that is if a second chance is given to these developers.
Campaign mode in Agents of Mayhem will take you roughly 20 hours to complete, with an additional ten for its side-quests and missions. Although it has its deja vu moments, its entertaining story keeps it from becoming a chore to play through. With that being said, the lack of true variety in the main missions may keep some from wanting to soldier through towards the end.
- Great story, fun script
- Well-rounded characters, abilities
- Lots of missions & side-quests
- Campaign objectives too similar
- Lacks multiplayer
- Not zany enough
Agents of Mayhem has a good grasp at what it wants to be, but lacks the initiative to go all the way. It has its fun moments, thanks to a good gang of characters and great storytelling elements. However despite its claim to be balls-to-the-wall, Agents of Mayhem seems tame compared to its predecessors. Maybe next time, they should take a cue from the peeps at Steelport.
Promotional consideration provided by Thomas Schulenberg of Tinsley PR. Reviewed on the Xbox One.
Background Noise: Rainbow by Kesha - Despite showing a bigger heart in her third album, Kesha still proves that she can be as insane with her lyrics as Volition is with their characters. Teaming up with Eagles of Death Metal on two tracks ("Let 'em Talk" and "Boogie Feet") and country legend Dolly Parton on one ("Old Flames (Can't Hold a Candle to You)"), the Nashville gal plays with her subjects like a tiger pawing its prey. Fans will love it, and former haters will be surprised by its range in genres & attitude. Also, prepare for a funny song about a certain Japanese monster.