Volition’s newest open-world game
After more than a decade entertaining us with their off-the-wall Saints Row franchise, Volition is back with Agents of Mayhem. This brand new IP, available now on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, has the company’s DNA written all over it. Single-player action-adventure title set in a sprawling open world? Check. Goofy, larger-than-life heroes and villains? Check. Raunchy dialogue that earns it’s M-rating at least twice over? Definitely check.
It’s no surprise then to find out Agents of Mayhem is set in the same shared universe as Saints Row. However, look beyond the surface-level similarities and you’ll find an original adventure bold enough to stands on its own. An all-new cast of characters, a beautiful new metropolitan setting, and an ’80s cartoon vibe helps set this game apart. If you’re a fan of Microsoft’s Crackdown series, or Volition’s prior work, odds are Agents of Mayhem is for you.
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One
An evil supervillain society threatens humanity
Volition once said that Agents of Mayhem takes inspiration from children’s cartoons like G.I. Joe, and that’s readily apparent from the game’s cheesy set-up. One year on Devil’s Night (naturally) a super villainous group, led by the shadowy Morningstar, launches a simultaneous global assault. The group’s name? LEGION, an acronym for League of Evil Gentleman Intent on Obliterating Nations. The obliteration part is true, but gentlemen they most certainly are not.
After crippling world governments, LEGION’s Minister of Pride, Doctor Babylon, plots to build a world-altering device in Seoul, South Korea. However, standing in his way is an elite group of super agents called MAYHEM, or Multinational Agency Hunting Evil Masterminds. You get to play a total of 12 of these agents, each one with their own unique appearance and abilities. If it all sounds pretty corny that’s the point―Agents of Mayhem prides itself on goofy, juvenile humour.
Wacky characters with bad attitudes
While Volition’s Saints Row games had me laughing hysterically, their signature humour somehow didn’t translation over to Mayhem very well. Most characters mistake F-bombs for genuine humour, and so many jokes are ones we’ve heard a million times over. In one mission you’re bombarded with rehashed “Uranus” gags, while another you have to shoot a supervillain’s “balls” weak spot. If toilet humour is your thing, Agents of Mayhem will give you your fill and then some.
Despite the humour falling flat, I did enjoy the unique looks, personalities, and combat specialties for all 12 agents. You start out with three of them, and can later take on Agent missions to recruit the remaining nine. Hardtack was my favourite for most of the game, as he’s a tank with high health and lethal short-range shotgun. I also really enjoyed Yeti, a Russian enhanced soldier who’s basically Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze. Other characters I often favoured include Rama, a master archer, Oni, the ex-Yakuza member, and Kingpin, a former gang member who loves dropping beats.
Neat weapons and abilities
Perhaps the best part of this game is just how distinct each Agent’s weapons and special abilities are. There are all sorts of different guns and melee weapons to suit virtually any play style. Hollywood, the aspiring actor, wields a long-range assault rifle. Kingpin *pop pop pops* enemies with his SMG. Scheherazade, the silent ninja, slices through baddies with her massive blade. Then there’s Daisy, a fearless rollerblading derby girl with a handheld minigun.
Before heading out on missions you can select three Agents to comprise your group. Switching between characters is a simple as pressing left or right on your controller’s D-pad. Being able to swap Agents on-the-fly is awesome because it allows you to pick the one best-suited for the task-at-hand. For instance, some are better at long-range combat, while others are short-range beasts. Inactive Agents also recover health and shield, further incentivising you to regularly rotate through your roster. Not only does this encourage you to learn each character, but helps keep the gameplay fresh too.
On top of each Agent’s main attack, they all have special abilities and ultra-powerful MAYHEM moves. My favourite is Kingpin’s “Dance Party” where he drops a boom box and inflicts enemies with uncontrollable dancing. It reminds me a lot of Ratchet & Clank‘s disco ball Groovitron weapon, sick dance moves and all. Another highlight is Fortune’s special move that sees her drone Glory rain devastating stun blasts all over the battlefield.
Explore the neon-tinted Seoul
As mentioned earlier, Agents of Mayhem takes place in a distinctly beautiful-looking futuristic version of Seoul. I was surprised to find it’s rather small compared to previous Volition games though. What it lacks in size, however, it makes up for in sheer density. This is especially true for those playing on PS4 Pro as that version beefs up the pedestrian and vehicle count. Given how realistic and gritty most games are these days, I also found the bright, beautiful cel-shaded graphics quite refreshing.
On the topic of PS4 Pro, it includes many more enhancements over the base PS4 and Xbox One version. You get better texture and scene details, increased shadow quality, crisper particle effects, and a higher frame rate. On both PS4 and PS4 Pro you also get high dynamic range support, and it’s really quite vivid to see. There are, however, a few bugs that creep up in the game, including screen freezes and getting stuck in walls. Technical annoyances aside, it’s a very rich game world to see and explore.
Missions, side-quests, and mini objectives
Agents of Mayhem features a solid 57 missions including the main story, side-stories, and common objectives. To be honest, missions are a mixed bag with some being amusing while others downright repetitive. The highlights are the boss fights, most notably one where you have to destroy an evil pop singer’s auto-tuning device. There’s also a few memorable scenes with AISHA, a Korean artificial intelligence pop idol who’s obsessed with marrying a high-ranking LEGION member.
Many missions though have you inexplicably racing around Seoul as if to artificially extend the game time. Making matters worse, too many times they culminate with you visiting underground LEGION lairs that all look alike. I felt déjà vu way too many times, and could have sworn some lairs even had the exact same layout. The saving grace is the slick and fast-paced combat that’s so satisfying it makes you care less about the constant repetition.
Agents of Mayhem may not live up to the legendary heights of Saints Row, but it’s a fun romp worth having. The comedy didn’t quite hit the right notes for me, but the dozen Agents are unique and enjoyable to play as. Missions are a bit repetitious, too, but the fast and fluid gameplay kept me hooked the whole way through. All considered, Agents of Mayhem was an enjoyable experience and a promising start for Volition’s newest IP.
+ Bright, beautiful cel-shaded graphics
+ Diverse roster of Agents
+ Occasional funny moments
+ Seoul looks fantastic
+ Addictive gameplay
– Most comedy falls flat
– Some technical bugs
– Repetitive missions
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3.5/5