Review – Agents of Mayhem
Agents of Mayhem (from here on referenced as AoM) is the the newest game from Volition set in the Saints Row universe. AoM takes heavily from games like Crackdown but offers its own unique take and over the top humor and characters that you come to expect from Saints Row. Overall the mix of these 2 games works out very well, but it never fully reaches the potential of either title.
The story of AoM is fairly basic, but honestly it serves as a backdrop to the characters whom are the real attraction here. The world has fallen to LEGION (League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations). Led by Dr. Babylon, he and his lieutenants are planning a massive attack on Seoul. Dr. Babylon has unlocked the secrets of Dark Matter which they are using in their weapons to supply them with massive power. Following LEGION’s attack, Persephone Brimstone (Former LEGION member) founded MAYHEM (Multinational AgencY Hunting Evil Masterminds). MAYHEM is a diverse group of 12 heroes who all have their own unique weapons, abilities and missions to destroy LEGION.
Like mentioned above, the story is not really the main focus here and is used more to set up the wonderful characters, who are possibly the best thing about AoM. Volition’s Saints Row games are well known for their funny, over the top characters and one liners and AoM delivers that perfectly. You get to unlock the 12 very different heroes as you progress through the game. To unlock a new character you have to complete a couple of their personal missions. The first one usually revolves around you trying to find said new character and then the second missions you play as the new character with a mission that goes into their characteristics and abilities. It essentially acts as a tutorial for each new character so you can get a feel for them. Once the characters are unlocked you will then have the ability to add them to your 3 man squad, which then offers even more unique dialogue and banter between each character. I really felt like all the MAYHEM characters truly knew each other. They banter, they play off each other, they talk about personal aspects and even get into some interesting relationship scenarios.
The Villains for LEGION aren’t as well done, but still offer that classic Volition feel just by being over the top. They even go so far as to have one of their characters almost a blatant parody of Justin Bieber. During the main missions and boss fights, the villains will taunt you and, depending on who is in your squad, will have custom dialogue for them. Again, just showing how well Volition did making these characters feel like they know each other and are important to the game world. Unfortunately none of the bosses feel intimidating or feel like a real threat.
The gameplay has a lot of ups, but every time the game really starts to impress me I’m hit with something that takes me away from the immersion. Each one of the 12 playable characters can be leveled up significantly, unlocking new abilities at certain milestones. I have already praised the uniqueness of each character, so being able to level each one up is fantastic. The customization doesn’t even stop with simply just leveling up with XP. Each character has 3 CORE upgrades that ad modifications and upgrades to your character abilities and mayhem special move. To upgrade the core abilities you have to use a Dark Matter Crystal which can be obtained through missions or from collecting 10 Dark Matter Shards scattered throughout Seoul.
To expand on the characters further, each one has all different unique animations, perks, skills, and mayhem abilities. The mayhem abilities are the supers moves for the characters, offering a big move to take out a ton of enemies in their own unique way. Some of the mayhem abilities are better than others, though. For example, Broddock has the ability to call down orbital laser strikes that send down massive laser blasts within a radius while a character like Oni sends enemies running from you while you have to pick them off with his silenced pistol. Each character also has a good handful of alternate costumes and some are even parodies of famous superheroes.
The Ark (your home base of operation) also offers customization and its own unique gameplay element. Here you’ll find stations to craft mods, upgrade vehicles, modify all agents loadouts, training simulations, and upgrading your base will offer more passive perks for the player and all agents. Visit Katy Fox a.k.a. Gremlin to craft and equip Gremlin abilities and mods for each character. As you play, Katy will also acquire the ability to use LEGION tech which can be used as mods for characters to deal even more havoc.
Another part of the Ark is the ability to send out agents on Global Conflict Contracts. While these missions are a good way to get some more Legion tech and offer some Legion Lair missions, they ultimately feel like a pointless ad on. You pick a region from around the world and you must complete every mission and have collected enough intel to get a region key to unlock a new region. You assign agents to the missions and then you just have to wait out a timer. If your agent is from that region the timer is cut in half. Once completing all region missions you get to do a final Legion Lair mission that grants you a bunch of tech and rewards.
The open world is where things start to fall apart for AoM and it isn’t because it lacks things to do. It’s that everything available is typical open world stuff that pales in comparison to the great agent and main missions. Now I’m not saying it’s all boring. Taking down a massive Golem, Hate Machine, Gravity Dominator, Ice Barrrage and Dark Fracking Machine are fun and offer a decent challenge, but once you do a couple they kind of become tedious. Not only that but all of the progress you make in clearing all these out and taking back controlled areas is reset about midway, making you do everything all over again as LEGION takes control back. Aside from those, you have your standard open world affairs like attacking random troops, taking down patrol cars, scouting new cars for Quartermile to get vehicle blueprints, foot races and the Legion Lairs. Legion Lairs and all the missions that have you in one of their lairs are my least favorite parts. You’re stuck in smaller indoor environments that lack creativity and just take you from room to room, completing a task to unlock the next room. The main problem here is that the indoor environments and tasks are all recycled. You’ll be going through the same areas over and over doing the same things and it becomes extremely tedious and will just have you wanting to stick to the much better main and agent missions.
The art design of AoM is pretty, as it has a very nice clean cell shaded look to it that fits well and always looks good. All characters are well distinguished and have their distinct looks. I was hoping with the cell shaded minimalist look they would be able to avoid any major pop ins, but unfortunately AoM suffers from some pretty bad car and environmental pop ins. While the open world has a nice clean look, for some reason they decided to add a ton of bloom to the Ark environment which makes things look kind of blurry and hard on the eyes. Particle effects and explosions all look nice and luckily the the frame rate mostly holds up even during the more hectic times with a ton of enemies, explosions and effects.
The sound design and voice acting are also well done. Especially the voice acting. The cars, guns, explosions all have a high quality sound byte. Obviously some guns offer some better sound effects depending on the type of weapon. Your shotguns and chain guns all have good powerful sounds where the silenced pistol, bow and energy pistols have less sound impact but still offer a realistic sound byte for the weapons. In the voice acting, some of the agents occasionally seem to struggle with a certain accent they are trying to achieve, but other than that they deliver their lines well and each voice fits the character. The fun banter is a big factor in making these characters feel like they really know each other and are in a group together and that’s displayed perfectly here. There doesn’t seem to be any real distinct sound track though, which is a bummer for the big action parts.
Typically in open world games I will let a few bugs and glitches go as it’s close to impossible to hammer out everything, but unfortunately I ran into quite a few bugs and crashes that really killed my enjoyment. I had my car get stuck in walls, and invisible walls or curbs would cause my car to crash. And there were plenty of physics glitches. The big glitch came during a main mission boss fight where certain events weren’t being triggered. I went so far as to check online and I was doing everything right. I restarted checkpoints and the entire mission, but ultimately had to completely shut off and restart the game before it would activate. I also experienced about 4 crashes to the dashboard during random times.
AoM is a fun but flawed entry to the Saints Row world that I have to give props to for trying something different outside of its own style. For the most part it does a good job at mixing Crackdown and Saints Row, but it never fully nails either game very well. It still has the over the top action and the characters are the real shining star giving it a ton of replayability as you level up and try out all the characters. Unfortunately it is crippled by a bland open world, repetitive side stuff, and too many bugs and glitches.
Reviewed on PS4.
Agents of Mayhem is available on Xbox Once, PS4 and PC.