Agents of Mayhem prides itself on its glitz, its glamour, and its crude take on the world of the superhero. It’s the Kick Ass to our Iron Man, the Kingsman to our Justice League… and it’s a heck of a lot of fun.
It’s easy to initially confuse Volition’s latest for a co-operative, multiplayer-focused team shooter — something we’ve seen so often during this console generation. Interestingly, Agents of Mayhem makes a beeline towards a focused, dialled-in single-player experience instead. And having had a bit over an hour to play around with it, this seems to be a smart choice.
With 12 agents to play around with, a bustling city of futuristic Seoul to explore, andgameplay that feels tight and responsive, Agents of Mayhem offers up something noticeably different to what’s currently hot on the market.
The Saints Row series will always have a special place in my heart. Having put hundreds of hours into the first three games, I was immediately taken aback by how much Saints DNA was embedded within Agents of Mayhem — the purple colour tones, the humorous story, and the sandbox world are all undeniably plucked from Saints Row’s big bag of ideas. This isn’t a bad thing, though, as Mayhem takes the gameplay and snippets of satirical story prevalent in the aforementioned series and shifts toward a direction suited for 2017 rather than 2011. The game is evidently a satire and a play on the superhero genre, comic books in general, and morning cartoons many of us grew up with, and that, for a majority of the time, seems to work in its favour.
Like many modern day titles before it, Agents of Mayhem brings in a handful of elements and gameplay systems from a range of game genres in order to make it feel unique and fresh. While it’s a somewhat standard third-person shooter looking in from the outside, the game also mixes in gameplay elements seen in MOBAs, too, as well as RPG-like upgradeables and systems. It’s nothing new — as we’ve seen this in many games over the last couple of years — but it works, and gives the game an added amount of depth.
Each of Mayhem’s 12 agents are unique from one another. Some excel in close-combat, some are good at mid-range, and others proficient from long-range. They also have three unique abilities that can change the tide of battle in an instant, with one being a special attack, a tech attack, and the last an ‘ultimate’ (known as a Mayhem ability) of sorts. The key to winning firefights and completing missions, of course, is to make use of these three abilities alongside using your normal weaponry and movement to your advantage.
Before jumping into a mission or free-roam, you pick three agents to take into the field and these three become your go-to agents throughout proceedings (unless a mission specifically requires a particular agent). During this time you’re able to switch out what agent you’re controlling on the fly, and this is handy when one is about the bite the dust. It’s worth noting you only control one agent at a time, and the other two aren’t actually fighting with you, but this dynamic changed how I played the game entirely.
After some time getting to grips with the game and how it played, I made use of long-range agents to weaken a group of enemies, switching then to my close-range agents to deal the final blow. It was a gratifying way of clearing out masses of enemies, and as a contrast running in blindly and firing away was a tactic that ended in more deaths than I’d like to admit.
Agents of Mayhem encourages experimentation, but it also is all about balance. Having a range of agents on-hand and making use of their abilities wisely was always rewarded in some way or another, whereas charging in was swiftly met with death and disappointment.
The bulk of Mayhem will see players taking on a handful of varied missions, from main story missions to agent-specific ones and so on. During my hour or so with the game I played through a main mission, a legion infiltration, an agent-focused mission, and a few small activities scattered around Seoul’s map.
The story mission I played through was Mayhem’s third mission, which had me stake out one of the game’s main baddies and attempt to take him out. While quite linear, the mission took me around Seoul’s bustling, neon-lit streets during the night, cutting down enemies and tracking acclaimed popstar Gaunt via his cologne’s stench (yep, you read that correctly). Having taken place for the most part outside, I then ventured into a glistening concert hall and confronted Gaunt (who is, within the Mayhem universe, an adequate satire of Justin Bieber), culminating in a fight with his devoted, crazed fans.
If anything, this section of the game was an excellent example of what Agents of Mayhem was attempting to do with its satirical take on modern society, with Gaunt brainwashing his entire legion of devoted fans that were attending his show to come after me and make my life difficult. He escaped, of course.
Following on from that, I then took on a legion base infiltration. While not as intricate as the previous mission, the infiltration had me invade enemy grounds and take a handful of enemies out, in turn earning some XP, rewards, and special tech to upgrade agent abilities. These missions are earned through the use of the game’s global monitoring system, which has you send out agents across the world to investigate and discover intel that can help take down the game’s enemy faction, L.E.G.I.O.N (officially known as the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Intent On Obliterating Nations).
Both of these missions were initiated from the group’s main base (think SHIELD’s air carrier base) known as the Ark. The few side activities I did thereafter, which involved taking on a mini-boss and destroying a relay, were both done while exploring Seoul on my own accord.
There are also Agent-specific missions as well as the aforementioned operations, which give a little bit more backstory to each of the game’s agents. Though I only played one, the tone and style of it was noticeably different to that of the game’s main missions, having me run across the city within a time-limit beating up enemies in order to complete the mission. It wasn’t as enjoyable and felt repetitive from the get-go, and was of a much lower quality than what the game had offered with its other activities.
Further, while my time with Agents of Mayhem was brief and enjoyable, I did notice a handful of annoyances that particularly stuck out. The game’s humour, while managing to mostly hit a chord with its satirical take on the superhero genre a lot of the time, can be really hit or miss. It’s extremely reliant on the humour seen in Saints Row, and if that wasn’t your thing it’s not going to be any different this time around.
Similarly, I came out of the preview a bit worried about repetitiveness and how that could impact on the world Volition have created. Seoul looks to be a great, bustling city to explore, filled with things to find and do, but with a limited amount of activities to engage in and a fairly lifeless-looking public that populates the city, it could get stale pretty fast. The same can be said if the legion infiltration missions follow the same pattern, though this is all conjecture — we’ll just have to wait and see.
That said, these are just small nitpicks that only an hour and half with the game could afford me, and, for the most part, Agents of Mayhem has impressed. I went into my preview session with moderate expectations but they’ve well and truly changed thanks to the game’s fluid controls, a fun, noticeably Saints Row-esque take on the superhero genre and comic books, and a well-detailed world rife with opportunity. While it’s technically not a part of the Saints Row series, this is the most excited I’ve ever been for a Saints Row game. It’s undeniably unique, and something different to what I’ve been regularly consuming over the last couple of years, and that alone has me interested in what the game can offer come August 18.