I’m a big fan of local multiplayer titles, but in my house it’s rare that you’ll see a sofa-based title enjoy more screen time than the multitude of other games taking up precious hard drive space on the Xbox One.
A big reason for this is simply due to there being few titles that are able to capture the attention of everyone at once. Sure you get those games that bring everyone together – the family classics such as Monopoly or Battleships – but with highly anticipated releases arriving almost every month, it’s hard to find time for every multiplayer experience that arrives on Xbox One. Does Agents vs Villain have what it takes to shine in and amongst the triple-A blockbusters? Family approval says yes!
If you’ve not yet heard of Agents vs Villain, it is the latest local multiplayer-only title that puts up to three players in control of Agents, against a further player, in charge of the Villain.
You won’t find your typical villain in this one though, or at least not exactly, and for those that like a bit of backstory in their games, the limited story on offer in Agents vs Villain tells the tale of a villainous cat that travels through time with a plan to dominate the world. To stop him, the world’s finest spy agencies have banded together to bring the troublesome kitty to justice and thwart its horrible plans.
That’s about as much as you’re going to get in terms of real story, but like most local multiplayer titles, it’s not the story that you’re playing for; it’s the gameplay. Despite a few slightly unfavourable flaws, there is very little to complain about in terms of gameplay.
At the start of each game, players pick from one of eight unique agents before jumping into battle to fill their role as either Agent, or Villain. Should you land on the side of the Agents then you’ll find yourself arriving at a unique spawn point with the simple goal being to navigate through the multi-tiered, single-screen level, that is full of traps, weapons and plenty of instant death. Reaching the exit point which allows progress to the next level is the task at hand.
Should you be randomly chosen to take on the role of the Villain however, then your job changes entirely and you won’t quite be out there to don the outfit of your originally chosen agent. Sadly, you don’t always get to jump into the shoes of the villainous cat though either, at least not directly, and instead you’ll take control of the environmental hazard points spread across each level you play on. The aim is to spawn a variety of distinct tools – guillotines, turrets, fire traps and so on – to bring the ultimate end to the opposing agents, preventing them from reaching the end of the level. There is an opportunity to take control of the cat in its many and various forms, but to get to this stage the Agents must first reach the final level of any of the world-type areas which the levels make up.
Whilst the ‘Will they make it? Won’t they make it?’ rush is certainly rather enjoyable, one thing that takes away from the experience is that as soon as the first Agent arrives at the exit point, the game is quickly moved onto the next stage, shifting everyone forward in the process. Some may well approve of this for the sake of fluid gameplay, however it means that should you be playing with players who don’t know the level layouts quite so well or simply aren’t as good, there isn’t chance for everyone to remain competitive. Of course, for many this may well not be an issue, but for those who like to use local multiplayer titles to bring the family together, the omission of the option to allow playing on until everyone reaches the end – or their demise – is certainly one that represents a sorely missed opportunity.
One reason such a feature would prove a positive addition is that despite being a game that involves several players against one overall villain, Agents vs Villain isn’t actually the asymmetrical, team-based multiplayer title that you may initially expect. See, throughout each level, there’s ample opportunity on offer to send a sly dig in the direction of other Agents, sending them into waiting traps in order to stand a better chance of making a break for the exit and a step closer to the win.
As you’d expect, this can often lead to some rather animated gaming, but with simplistic controls found throughout – jump, double jump and hit – there is very little reason for failure beyond player skill levels.
In general, the gameplay on offer is certainly rather fun, even if it is slightly lacking in the number of levels it holds, with just a few worlds and a handful of levels on each available to jump into. This lack of depth means it doesn’t take long for things to start feeling a little repetitive, especially seeing as everything can be played through several times over in just a few short hours. It therefore goes without saying Agents vs Villain could do with a little more content to make it a truly standout local multiplayer adventure.
Besides the gameplay, the limited story and the characters you’ll be jumping in with, there is also the audio and the visuals to mention and, in both categories, Agents vs Villain is a bit of a success. The cartoonish visuals feel vibrant and help resonate with all ages, whilst the audio does a fantastic job of suiting the themes of each of the different worlds and levels, setting the tone wonderfully.
Overall and if you’re after a new local multiplayer game for the family to enjoy then Agents vs Villain on Xbox One certainly isn’t a bad choice. It won’t leave you stuffed with new content, but should you just wish to get on with the fun that’s available then there is no reason not to return to this one from time to time.