I feel I must begin with a bit of a disclaimer. I’m a massive fan of the Saints Row series and due to the huge similarities between that franchise and Volition’s latest project based in the same universe, chances are I’m going to love every minute of my time with the Sain…sorry, the Agents of Mayhem.
Yep, I know for many Saints Row was seen as the poor man’s GTA, and even I can’t sit here and say that it looked better, it played better or it had a greater variety of activities than Rockstar’s behemoth. But if I had to play one series of games until my dying day – and wasn’t allowed to bring the Forza franchise to the table – then Saints Row would probably be it. For at the end of the day, it delivered a huge amount of fun, a huge amount of chaos and a huge amount of mayhem. At least until things got really stupid at the end.
I guess it is the stupidness of the Saints which dictated how we got here and how Deep Silver got to deliver a whole new franchise – a franchise that never, ever, not even once, points to any comparisons with the Third Street Saints. Except for maybe once or twice. Every god damn minute.
But whilst I’m disappointed to see the Saints run end, I’m more than pleased to see something just as madcap come out of the Volition and Deep Silver studios once more. But the question is, can the Agents of Mayhem draw me in like the Saints did? Or will I forever more be left thinking that there is only ever one shade of purple… and the only symbol that needs worrying about is Saints shaped?
Agents of Mayhem tells the story of the moment when everything in the world changed. LEGION – the League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations – have started to utilise teleportation devices in order to destroy armies and steal as many resources as they can get their hands on. Leaving the entire world in fear of their lives, LEGION are beginning to take control, firing off dark-matter fuelled weapons towards anyone who ever dares to look at them funny.
But to save the world comes the newest and most badass anti-terrorist initiative – MAYHEM. With Persephone Brimstone leading the way, and you taking charge of a team of 12 misfits, LEGION are in for one hell of a fight. It is up to you to stop them – by any means necessary, taking the fight across the city of Seoul, up onto its rooftops and down into the underground as you do so.
How you go about taking back that control is completely up to you – as long as you promise to bring the really big guns and the fastest shooting ammo with you.
You see, no matter which of the Agents you choose to have in your little team of three at any one time, they will all be more than capable sharpshooters who are well versed in the art of destruction. The likes of Hollywood with his wisecracking smart-alec jokes, Hardtack and his tank-like shotgun touting ways and the skippity skip of Fortune will be a joy early on in your Agent experience. But once you begin to venture out into the city, unlocking the likes of Yeti (Oleg from the Saints), Rama, Braddock, the utterly brilliant Kingpin (another with massive Saints connections) and more, will be left spoilt for choices on the all-out-attacking front.
Each member you discover brings something completely new to the table, whether that be for good or bad, and it’ll be up to you to create your squad in the best way you see fit. Want to sit back and take on the masses from afar? Rama will sort you out. Prefer to go hand-to-hand with a cold freeze, Yeti will happily deliver. The fact that you can switch Agents in and out, pretty much at will, before any mission starts, and then again between the three instantly whilst in a firefight, ensures that Agents of Mayhem delivers something new every time you play. And that’s all without even mentioning the utterly awesome unique Mayhem ability that each character holds deep within them. When the going gets tough, the tough get rough and all manner of hell is let loose.
Enemy wise and the creative teams have gone out on a limb and pretty much thrown every type of bad guy they could muster up your way. You’ll find some of the LEGION troops kitted out as fully armoured affairs, whilst others will jump and spring their way towards you, trying to knife you in the back before you know it. It ensures that your choice of Agent threesome will be key throughout the story and side missions, giving you enough opportunity to mix it up should you so wish. Chances are however that you’ll eventually settle on a trio who deliver the perfect combination of skills, buffs and weapon types at some point in your Agents of Mayhem playthrough. Whilst you might well start taking a fancy to certain characters, that isn’t to say you can’t mix things up a little more should you so wish.
Helping you do so are an absolute ton of weapon types, upgradeable skillsets, buffs and debuffs to play around with. As long as you’re willing to explore, even just a little, then you’ll be able to pick up enough collectible bits and bobs to allow your Agents to gather upgrades and more at every opportunity. What you do with those bits is pretty much up to you, but with the Ark being a base of operations that is more than happy to help you out, and a database and blueprint system that just urges you to head out to collect, you’ll never be left wanting.
If you are sat there worrying that only being able to pick three Agents for action from a pool of 12 will mean some get to sit there twiddling their thumbs, then worry no more. You see, there is even the opportunity to send unused – or unwanted – Agents off on a little jolly across the world, away from Seoul in order to gather up even more vital intel. Whilst you’ll never see anything other than the walls of Korea yourself, playing around with a tactical map screen and watching the goodies roll in delivers another little string to the Agent’s bow. It’s a nice touch, even if you only remember to send Agents off on missions occasionally and ensures the goodies continue to roll in at all times.
So taking on mission after mission, getting distracted by races, side objectives and backstories is pretty much the name of the game with Agents of Mayhem. You know, much like we have done over the last few years with near on every single open world title ever created. In fact, it does pretty much what you would expect of any open worlder, and whilst Seoul itself isn’t massive, there is just about enough to do, and enough traversal needed to ensure you are never too bored. Except for when that old repetition issue begins to take hold that is.
Thankfully to distract us a little are the glorious visuals and whilst I’m pretty happy with what is in place, will quite probably find that the next man has plenty to moan about. Yep, we’re not looking at world beating eye candy here, and many will no doubt complain that the developers aren’t pushing the boat out on the visual front, but it’s good to see a purple and silver sheen to everything once more. In my eyes, the fast paced nature and all-out destruction that the clashes between Agents and LEGION bring mean that the graphics don’t have to be super refined – they need to do a job. And a crisp, clear job is what they do. In fact, should the realism stakes have been upped, I don’t think Volition and Deep Silver would have been able to get away with what they have.
The same goes for the audio. The whizz of bullets and huge destructive bangs are thrust towards your ear drums with as much attitude as you could ever imagine. Voiceovers and character scripts are similarly OTT, with innuendos, humour, cursing and silliness thrown in wherever possible. Unfortunately there are times when the sounds that greet you are left behind by the action on screen, refusing to kick on and delivering periods of mute for a few seconds at a time.
But whilst that’s quite annoying, on the whole I absolutely adore the huge open world, the madcap team of Agents and the huge level of destruction that has been created. However, for all the action and stupidness in the world, it would take only the most hardened fan to not acknowledge that there are problems.
Firstly, and Agents of Mayhem really is buggy. And if there is one thing gamers dislike, it’s a bug. I mean, I can handle floating in mid-air when a jump has gone wrong, and I don’t mind that occasionally my enemies will stand on the spot, refusing to shoot or move for seconds at a time. Hell, I don’t even mind that when jumping into a car I’m sometimes pushed miles down the road and left to run back and get in the ‘proper way’. Because you see, the way this game has been created allows for the odd letup in realism and the whole thing can be allowed the slight discrepancies it brings. It would be lovely to not have to put up with such issues, I grant you that, but it really is no big game breaker. But that said, on the same hand there will be many a player out there who just rolls their eyes and will quickly begin to give up on life when these kind of things are present.
There is also a huge amount of repetition involved in near on everything you do with the gang from AoM. Whether you’re heading off on a new mission, trying to unlock a new member of the team, taking down some LEGION defences or just wandering around the open world as you try to unlock some secrets, much of the actual gameplay consists of shooting and jumping as fast and as high as you can, whilst slowly making your way to the next checkpoint. Granted, the races – both on foot and in vehicles – allow for a little break from the norm, but both of these eventually succumb to the same old duplication problems.
The races also rely heavily on the mechanics of the game holding up, and all too often Agents of Mayhem is let down by what it should do best. Jumping, double jumping, triple jumping and firing off a dash can, strangely, get tedious. It also seems a bit off, with Agents refusing to really get any decent spring in their legs. Seeing as your team members can fall from any height without taking a health hit, I want to be able to see them flying around from building to building with ease. But then, perhaps I’m still harking back to the great super powers found in Saints Row 4.
The control of vehicles is also only decent at best with powersliding too tricky to judge, and the acceleration – even on the very fastest Mayhem vehicles – being worse than that found on my wife’s 1.0 litre automatic runabout. Boosting is super cool though, but the length and draw that the third person chase cam allows means that you are left lucking in to whether you will hit anything or not. If only the camera could be moved permanently to allow for a better view of the road then the action would be significantly improved.
Continuing on the negative theme and I also find that the Agents hub, the Ark, is just a bit, dare I say it, boring. The rest of the game is all about fun, fun and more fun and whist it is nice to have various shops and stalls in place for you to upgrade and enhance your Agents, the wandering to and fro across various floors makes it more of a tedious affair than something which shouts out at you to ‘go and try that new skill’.
But, for all the negatives I have with Agents of Mayhem, there is one over ruling factor which makes this a game that has still brought me a lot of joy. And that’s in the madness it brings.
Much like the Third Street Saints who went before them, the draw of Agents of Mayhem is running around from activity to activity, smashing into things, destroying other things and basically having as much fun as the game will let you have. And as a massive fan of the universe this is set in, I feel like the Agents are on the verge of taking things on to the next level. But only on the verge, because like how the Saints Row franchise started off slowly – eventually turning into a juggernaut filled with fun – the Agents of Mayhem are starting their career off in the same manner. Slowly, solidly and repetitively.
I just about have enough trust in their abilities to think that this one could eventually rival the Saints for sheer fun though.
And that is a good thing in anyone’s eyes. Especially mine