Agents of Mayhem
Agents of Mayhem is epically, brilliantly, over the top Saints Row style madness that will keep you highly entertained!
For about 10 hours…
After that you will have realized that although there are a dozen playable characters they all fit into three different categories (short range/agile, Medium range tanks, long range snipers), you will have already had you patience tested by the repetitive level design in the L.E.G.I.O.N lairs and, probably, grown bored of the inane banter between the characters.
And, frankly, you can stop reading the review now. Just like the game itself you quickly discover all the rest is just padding…
Agents of Mayhem is an open world, third person shooter. While more of a spiritual successor than an actual sequel to the original games it’s the latest title set (sort of) in the world of the Third Street Saints. It is a laudable attempt by Volitition and Deep Silver to keep the open world action game genre fresh whilst maintaining those things that make the Saints Row series of games so popular.
The main point of difference with Agents of Mayhem compared to the original games is that rather than controlling a single character designed by the player (The Boss), you control a team of three super agents. The game is designed around the concept of swapping between these three characters to ensure you are always using the right tool for the job.
Sadly the tools involved are not particularly engaging. This may be due to the need for the story and missions to develop smoothly with any of the 12 playable characters being in action at any given moment. Overall it does rather feel like the same effort was put into character development and scripting of the entire team of M.A.Y.H.E.M Agents as was put into The Boss in Saints Row 3. And because all the larger than life characters are playable there is very little room for non-player characters to have any kind of special involvement in a mission (think Shaundi or Johnny Gat) because the game design requires the option of them being either the main character, in the team or completely left at home.
Given this limitation (or feature if you prefer) it means the characters start and finish as over the top tropes taken to the ‘nth degree. Be it Captain Ahab with his harpoon (not his actually name), Hollywood with this selfie stick (not an actual selfie stick just a camera but I can’t help but feel he should have had one, maybe it’s an upgrade I haven’t unlocked). This extends to the villains too; the League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations (L.E.G.I.O.N) are all arch nemesis style super villains with plots and schemes taken straight from Saturday morning cartoons… That is not a criticism. The villains, story and boss fights are probably the highlight of the game.
This Saturday morning cartoon vibe also forms one of my biggest gripes about this game. The stylistic approach jumps around like crazy with some scenes being 2D comic style graphics and other parts being 3D animation from the game and the overall effect of these stylistic changes just creates a confused feel to the game. I get what they are trying to do (expand on the super hero/super villain vibe) but for me it just doesn’t work. I should probably mention I’m also not a fan of cell shading so if these graphical styles appeal to you it may appeal to you.
The in game graphics are good, aided by the fact it’s not trying to be anything except as cool as possible. The game is set in Seoul, an ultramodern city of the future that is actually really interesting and means there is no need for gritty realism. The open world sandbox is different and fresh whilst being interesting to explore which is lucky really because the mission design is a bit haphazard with numerous checkpoints around the city that you travel to for no clear reason and nothing actually happens during the travel. Well occasionally L.E.G.I.O.N cars will try and ram you off the road but really it feels a bit like padding…
Concerns about padding also crop up very quickly in the lairs, in fact probably around the fifth lair I could predict what I was about to find next… again and again the same corridors appear and are always devoid of enemy. Why do they exist? Is it something to do with the auto save feature? An opportunity for characters to heal (as the non-selected character does this overtime) or is it simply padding? And I must admit my uneasiness about padding being the reason for many parts of the game crops up quite regularly.
Combat is hugely over the top and is quite fun. Personally I enjoy it more playing on lower difficulties so I get to feel like a total bad-ass. Having said that satisfaction wise the higher difficulties and, in particular, using specific characters to set traps and being forced to switch characters was the better gaming experience. All in all its totally fine, maybe good even, but given the lack of depth in other areas of the game it just feels a little lacking.
One area that is not lacking depth is the character development. All characters have extensive upgrade options and each character levels up individually which gives you encouragement to experiment with the other characters but, and this probably speaks to how shallow I am, I always went with the characters I thought looked coolest.
So in summary, my initial concern when I heard what was happening with the Saints Row franchise has been born out. This is not the game I wanted them to make; Saints Row the Third still remains my favorite Saints Row game and one of the most fun games I’ve ever played. If you are a Saints Row fan and you are looking for a fix this game is very unlikely to scratch that itch. If you are looking for something with the “over the top” rating cranked up to 110% for some casual pick up and play fun then this is as good as anything I’ve played recently.
Rating: M Violence, coarse language and sexual references.