At first glance, the vibrantly spirited heroes and villains of Agents of Mayhem could be mistaken for characters that have been ripped straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon. That is, until they open up their mouths to reveal they’re as proficient with profanity as they are with combat. Set in a future version of Seoul, you’re put in control of a ragtag roster of heroes (known as M.A.Y.H.E.M.) in order to fight the chaotic forces of evil (known as L.E.G.I.O.N.) that are bent on taking over the world. Positioned as a Saints Row spin-off, Volition’s open-world third person shooter is an unmitigated barrage of frenetic action and immature vulgarity that doesn’t always land, but is always rousing.
From a narrative and gameplay perspective, Agents of Mayhem’s deliberate over-the-top style is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness. Understandably, in order for a game of this style to not come off half-hearted and contrived, every facet of it must be fully committed to the tone of its premise. In this regard, Agents of Mayhem admirably swings for the fences to create an overall experience that is at times hilarious, at times cringeworthy,but most importantly, a hell of a lot of fun to play.Agents of Mayhem’s story is primarily told through cutscenes that consist of wonderfully animated sequences that harken back to the glory days of G.I. Joe and Action Man with a touch of Adult Swim flavour thrown in for good measure. It’s a testament to the game’s larger-than-life ensemble that it’s able to elevate a typical tale of good versus evil into a thoroughly entertaining and engaging romp. What’s even more impressive is Agents of Mayhem’s ability to manage its cast of disparate personalities in a way that feels congruous with the game’s conservative caricature of South Korea. However, you don’t have access to the arsenal of agents from the get-go. When you first start, you only have access to three of a possible twelve agents. With the city of Seoul as your sandbox, you must complete missions scattered around the city to bolster your crime-fighting contingent.
The action that takes place in Agents of Mayhem centers around three locations. The streets of Seoul, the evil lairs of L.E.G.I.O.N. and in the hero’s headquarters known as Ark. Whenever you deploy into the field, you’re required to pick a squad of three agents. Once you’ve selected your squad, you are then able to explore the world via foot or by car. Each agent has their own unique play-style and abilities, so who you take into battle is determined by how you like to play and if there are any specific skillsets required for a mission. Some characters lack firepower but are nimble and well-suited for taking out agile enemies, whereas, some characters possess tank-like qualities that sacrifice mobility for dealing out damage with heavy weapons such as a gattling gun. Impressively, each character feels dynamic, from how they move to the feel of wielding their weapons. You can only control one agent at a time, however, you can toggle between each character instantaneously in order to make use of all their abilities at any given moment.When it comes to the types of abilities the Agents of Mayhem have, they’re honestly not too dissimilar to those of the agents of Overwatch. Each character has a primary weapon (whether it be a gun, sword or bow and arrow), a secondary attack and a meter, that when filled, allows your character to perform a special attack like an ultimate ability. Abilities range from arrows laced with a poison that sends enemies running from battle to a javelin that upon making contact with an enemy, teleports them from their original position to directly in front of you, for an easy up-close kill. A character’s Mayhem ability differs from regular abilities, in that it consists of a highly stylised attack that escalates the action to a whole other level. Mayhem abilities are often hectic and bravado-fuelled – entailing things such as engulfing your enemies in explosions or turning invisible and cutting down your enemies before they even have a chance to react.
Along with their abilities, characters are also able to triple-jump, and in some cases, dash in mid-air. This is great, not only for traversing the world, but for launching yourself around the battlefield as you take enemies down. I felt like an absolute badass whenever I propelled myself into the air and took out multiple enemies in a shower of bullets. Despite its chaotic elements, Agents of Mayhem’s combat comes together impeccably to create a harmonious cacophony of delightful destruction. Although kicking ass in Agents of Mayhem feels great, the types of missions you complete quickly begin to feel repetitive due to a lack of variety. Most missions typically consist of visiting an area, taking out some goons, hacking some terminals, taking out some more goons due to said hacking and then exiting the level. The repetitiveness of the core gameplay loop is slightly alleviated by constantly mixing up your trio of agents. This is due to every character having unique dialogue for whatever situation you happen to place them in. I really enjoyed the impetus this diversity of dialogue instilled in me to alternate through my squad in order to hear their quips about a situation. On top of the main story missions, there are also side missions that range from delving into a character’s backstory to open-world staples such as timed challenges and reclaiming taken over areas. Unfortunately, none of this side content is compelling or different enough to break up the more monotonous elements of the main missions.
The completion of every mission culminates in levelling up, upgrading your characters weapons and abilities and unlocking new vehicles and gadgets for use in the field. It was always satisfying to complete a mission due to the steady influx of unlockables that are awarded for doing so. You also earn money that can be used for purchasing items and improving the Ark’s facilities. I was initially overwhelmed by the number of systems the game threw at me, but after a couple of hours, I was able to navigate competently through the wealth of customisable options. I enjoyed taking a break from the action every now and then to spend time at the Ark and micromanage my team’s abilities and weapons.
If subtlety was a person, I’m pretty sure the Agents of Mayhem would tell them to “suck it”. It flies its flag of in-your-face attitude with pride and does it so well, that you can almost forgive it for making really lame jokes about things like Uranus. If you’re looking for some unadulterated adult fun, then I recommend becoming an Agent of Mayhem today.