Saints Row spin-off, Agents of Mayhem goes all out and turns the action up to eleven.
When Volition’s first Saints Row came out as an Xbox 360 exclusive, it filled a gap in the crime genre pre-Grand Theft Auto IV. Unlike Rockstar’s GTA game, with Saints Row, I found that the Volition had confused satire with slapstick.
Struggling to find a niche of its own, clearing being not in the same league as GTA IV and especially the superb GTA V, the Saints Row games have got increasingly silly. Saints Row IV had a super-powered president fighting aliens inside a simulation and the standalone expansion, Gat out of Hell, literally went to Hell.
With Agents of Mayhem, Volition seems to have found a decent outlet for their brand of humour. Set in a futuristic Seoul, players control one of a team of three super-agents, each of which can be switched out at any time.
The agents are operatives of M.A.Y.H.E.M. (Multinational Agency Hunting Evil Masterminds). Run by the enigmatic Persephone Brimstone, have been charged with stopping the villainous organisation L.E.G.I.O.N. (the League of Evil Gentleman Intent on Obliterating Nations).
There are twelve agents in the game, but you only start with three: slimy movie actor, Hollywood, former pirate, Fortune and US Navy Chief, Hardtack. In time, you can add the other characters Rama, Red Card, Braddock, Daisy, Yeti, Kingpin, Oni and Scheherazade to your roster.
Agents of Mayhem is a graphical delight. The comic-book inspired visual style is beautiful to look at. Cell-shading has come such a long way. The characters each have a very unique look and wouldn’t be out of place in a painted graphic-novel.
The developers have done little to mask their inspiration. The similarities to Crackdown are obvious- the futuristic open-world city, the vertical gameplay and even the cell-shaded visuals. The game also tries a bit too hard to capture some of the buzz surrounding Overwatch.
Taking more than a cue from ‘80s Saturday morning cartoons, the game is broken up into a series of episodes. Some of the episodes progress the main story against Legion, whilst others focus on an individual agent’s story.
Each mission usually starts with a traditionally animated cut scene, again tipping the hat to those ‘80s cartoons. There’s plenty of other playful references to 1980 pop-culture, like the first agency car that you are given, an English accented, self-aware mickey-take of Knight Rider’s KITT.
The episodic nature of the missions means that it’s no trouble to jump in, complete a mission and get off again. Given the somewhat repetitive nature of the game, I found this the best way to play.
For all its glamorous good-looks, Agents of Mayhem, is a bit samey.
As stunning as Seoul looks, it feels empty. Full of cookie-cutter people and dull cars. Even the Agency’s vehicles handle poorly and are just not fun to drive. Every villain’s’ lair has the same interior decorator, every mission being virtually the same.
I never got the vibe that I was playing a great game, just that I was having mindless fun, fun that I’d probably feel guilty about later. But it’s is a fun game, nevertheless, more fun than it deserves to be.
Most of what makes Agents of Mayhem such a guilty pleasure is the combat. The characters have a great range of customisable and upgradable attacks that cause so much havoc, you just can’t help grinning like a lunatic. Add in each agent’s special Mayhem abilities, which become available once your meter is full, and all bets are off.
Over the top combat, laughably camp villains and clichéd mission plot lines are all very well, but generally, the humour, just as I found with the Saints Row games, falls flat on its face. Charmless characters and a wafer-thin story don’t really help to sell the game as any sort of enjoyable narrative experience. And this is a shame, as the animated cartoon cut scenes are, otherwise, very well done.
It’s clear that a lot of heart has go into the game. And it’s probably what makes the game, despite its faults, still fun to play.
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy my time with Agents of Mayhem. The over-the-top comic book action and polished presentation allowed me to overlook the somewhat repetitive gameplay, bland environments and awful attempts at humour. As a game, it could have been so much more, but it isn’t. Instead it’s just silly, guilty fun.