‘Pfft, just another dumb motherfucker in a helmet’.
Agents of Mayhem is a whole bunch of fun, but we’ve seen it all before. The Finger Guns Review;
Saints Row is one of those series which a vast number of people enjoyed, but it never exploded like its wannabe brethren, Grand Theft Auto. If you look at the very original game the series as a whole is now completely unrecognisable, and as such, lost a bit of its identity along the way. Saints Row was always the over-the-top, ridiculous little brother of Rockstar’s colossus, and never really had its feet on the ground since Saints Row The Third. The issue being of course, now Grand Theft Auto Online exists, which ran the realism of GTA V into the ground and planted a playground of absurdities in its place, where does that leave Saints Row? Here then is Agents of Mayhem, a spin-off standalone third person shooter which is Saints Row in all but name. Away from its mothership, can the game reach the dizzy heights it’s trying to achieve? And more importantly, does anybody really care about Agents of Mayhem?
Straight off the bat, even though Agents of Mayhem is nowhere near as good as it thinks it is, it’s still a damn fun ride. It’s a counterpoint to the more ‘serious’ third person shooters/adventure games that are around today (namely Gears of War/Watch Dogs etc), and has the beating heart of Saints Row humour running all the way through it. Some could argue that it’s held back because of this, and isn’t really allowed the breathing space to form its own identity. The words ‘Saints Row’ are nowhere to be seen but there’s no denying that it looks, feels, sounds, acts and performs nigh-on exactly as a Saints Row game would in 2017, and with a smattering of Overwatch throughout Agents of Mayhem whilst staying true to a particular formula, has enough about it to keep you going for a while.
Each of the 12 Agents you can play as in the game come with unique abilities, skins, upgrades, special moves and the like. They each share the ability to triple jump making traversing around Seoul as easy as pressing jump a couple of times. The three main agents you begin with – who you can jump between at any time – Hollywood, Fortune and Hardtack are fun company, with Fortune being the stand out agent in damn near the entire game. My stats show I spent the most time with Fortune and rightly so, she’s terrific and has some damn fine weaponry which can get you out of a jam at any moment. Hollywood is written to be annoying and egotistical (Jonny Gat) and Hardtack doesn’t really have much about him bar some humourous dialogue and standard male protagonist bad-assery. Each Agent has a different standard weapon and a ‘special weapon’, with Hollywood having the machine gun, Fortune with pistols and Hardtack has a delightfully overpowered shotgun as their standards and Hollywood’s grenades, Fortune’s energy ball creation and Hardtacks harpoon, which can teleport enemies directly in front of you for a melee kill. As the game progresses the side weapons can be replaced and upgraded, though I found myself going back to the standards the further I went on. This was just a personal choice, as I found them to be up to the task. Though you can choose different loadouts before every mission, so it doesn’t hurt to mix and match a little as every weapon has its benefits.
The shooting mechanics are very good, which is probably the overall highlight of the game as a whole. Each weapon feels weighty and powerful and you never feel like you don’t have control over whatever you’re wielding. As you unlock different Agents such as Rama who is a wizard with a bow and the excellent Scheherazade, a ninja with a badass Katana, it opens up a new dynamic and has you thinking more about each conflict you’re involved in. Obviously you have to remember to pick them in your squad before each mission, but as each one unlocks you get a mission with them on their own and you learn a whole new way to tear it through LEGION. Each Agent feels and plays different, which I guess it the point of having a bunch of Agents to choose from rather than a single protagonist who can do it all. In this regard, it’s a lot of fun working out your squads. Having Rama who can shoot from long distances is handy (though her arrows are more deadly the longer you kept them held) and then there’s Daisy, a railgun wielding BAMF on roller-skates. The sheer power of her weaponry is useful going into big battles.
Basically, the girls leave the guys in the dust when it comes to the Agents.
Each Agent also has a ‘Mayhem Ability’, which can be called upon to temporarily wreak maximum havok. Hollywood’s is constant ‘film explosions which can cause serious damage, Fortune has a drone called Glory which can stun nearby enemies for the duration of the ability and Hardtack can fire mines which can be detonated even after the Mayhem Ability has ran out. All handy when surrounded by the goons of the LEGION, the MAYHEM’s dastardly enemy hell bent on world domination.
You can modify your squad before each mission, and can choose up to three to utilise at the ARK, your base of operations where your Agents reside before they’re deployed again. Think of it as a hub world where you can craft your upgrades, apply skins to weapons, characters and vehicles (all that are unlocked throughout the game’s missions and side quests), along with being able to upgrade the ARK itself with a variety of benefits which all aid you in a variety of ways. There’s plenty to tinker with across all of your Agents and you’re able to personalise the play style to fit your liking before you even set foot on the ground. Various side characters are on hand to help you out, like Mixer who is your tech hand, a creator of VR simulations where you can hone your skills with your Agents before you decide to take them into battle. There’s also the rather awesome Gremlin, who is your ‘fixer’, and can craft just about anything with the right salvage you can present to her. There’s also an armory where you can purchase and craft upgrades for your weapons and equip new special abilities.
The Ark is also the base where you can select your missions and set up Global Conflict contracts, where you can sent Agents you’re not sending in the field to missions across the globe to gather intel and upgrades. You can’t partake in these yourself, you can only reap the rewards of others hard work. Not bad eh? We’d take that for a dollar. Here you’re also able to set Contracts, where you can unlock upgrades, XP and more by setting targets you need to set whilst in the field. Running over 10 LEGION, capturing a certain number of LEGION lairs, killing 300 of a certain enemy and the like. They run in the background and are handy to get some extra cash in the background.
Mayhem does have solid moments and some deliriously fun missions.
There’s a driving mission where you’re tearing it around avoiding meteorites falling from the sky and it’s one of the games highlights, as you tear it around in your supercar avoiding projectiles which could take you out at any moment. It’s brief but super fun and leads into one of the games better missions where you’re infiltrating LEGION’s lair to collect fragments collected from the meteorites. I recommend doing this level with Hardtack, as his quips will keep you entertained throughout. The particular one which garnered a laugh out loud moment from me is at the very top of this review.
Another is where you’re taking down a pop star named Gaunt, of all things, who has been conspiring with LEGION to control his fanbase through VR headsets. The character of a Gaunt is a straight-up asshole who you’re going to want to punch in the dick the minute he opens his mouth and so the entire mission becomes a somewhat exciting race to see him get his comeuppance. He reminds this writer of Justin Bieber, and it’s not a secret that Gaunt is meant to be the Mayhem version of that little Canadian pipsqueak. There’s a bunch of car chases and missions where you need to take on his brainwashed fans by only using melee, which becomes a fun exercise in basically smacking innocent people over the head to realise how much a tool this singer is. If only life was so simple eh? This was a particular highlight and it’s early on, so you won’t need to wait long to beat the crap out of Justin Bieber…in a roundabout kind of way.
What’s worth mentioning is how visually impressive the game is. Aye, in some places it looks like all they’ve done is put a new generation skin over an Xbox 360 game and the characters models aren’t terrific, but in true Saints Row style the game pops off the screen with colour and enough neon explosions/crappy local bonfire night firework display your Mum is dragging you too explosions to level a few cities, but it’s a game that’s pleasing on the eye.
I’ve been playing Mayhem on a PS4 Pro through a 4K TV and seen no slowdown or jagged edges. In terms of its use of colour the game I feel I can compare it too visually is probably Watch Dogs 2, one of the best games available to show off your over-expensive new tech and in that regard, Mayhem doesn’t disappoint. It’s obviously more cartoony in design than fare like Watch Dogs or Grand Theft Auto, and it works in its favour, it’s utilising the extra oomph of the Pro well. What is slightly odd though are the jumps from computer animation to hand-drawn animation cut-scenes on the fly which is a tad jarring. I’m not sure why hand-drawn cut-scenes are shoe-horned in as it takes you right out of the game and feels like every scene in which it is used could have just as easily been rendered in the games natural visual style. It’s not like it’s adding anything to the overall experience.
You could argue that Mayhem is just one great big giant cartoon but when 80% of the game is played in the games natural style it’s a bit odd.
And it’s really bloody purple. If you hate the colour purple you’re going to want to avoid this altogether. I’m not even kidding. There’s so much purple, guys. Just…stop with the purple.
The ‘lairs’ of the LEGION also all look pretty standard. There’s an awful lot of corridors you have to navigate in order to tear it through the missions that are based in the LEGION lairs and the all look exactly the same which can be a little frustrating. Echoes of The Library in the very original Halo come to mind, where everything kind of looked the same and you had no real sense of where you were going at any moment. The lairs are a complete copy and paste job and a disappointing vision of LEGION, considering how high tech and impressive their arsenal is everywhere else, their own command centres are boring and bland. The same goes for their outposts – yes, there are Ubisoft towers in this Volition game – that are also more or less completely identical. Some are larger than others but that’s about where the differences end. It would have been nice to see a bit of variety here, ie Just Cause 3. Yeah that game was just pretty much go to outposts and blow them up but at least they had a bit of variety in their designs. Here there’s none of that, and each outpost looks and plays exactly the same, and it becomes tiring the more you’re made to do it in order to unlock nearby side quests (LEGION operations).
It sounds strange, but it feels like Agents of Mayhem came out on a console generation too late. There are vastly more impressive third person shooter experiences available, created for the mindset of this generation of gamers who look back fondly on Saints Row but have respectfully moved on. Whilst playing Mayhem I couldn’t help but think of games that share its mechanics and pull them off more effectively. It’s not that the game is bad, as my review attests it’s far from the disaster many seem to have already decided it’s going to be, but is it essential? Especially at £50 a pop. It’s almost a shame it’s been knocked back to this time of year, one imagines if it had hit an April/May release it would have stood more of a chance against the big guns. Is Saints Row/Agents of Mayhem a big a draw as a Call of Duty, Destiny, Assassin’s Creed? As an Uncharted? I guess the next few weeks will tell us.
As an individual piece of work though, Agents of Mayhem is a success. I had my reservations in the first couple hours but as the game progressed and I started to unlock more Agents and vehicles I found it to be a fun, rewarding ride that’s going to appeal to the Saints Row fan that’s deep inside of most of us. Agents of Mayhem knows exactly what it is and isn’t trying to emotionally stimulate your mind, and sometimes you need to just jump in a game that gives you the freedom to go ahead and blow up the ever-loving shit out of something whilst chuckling at dick jokes.
On that front, there’s little better than Agents of Mayhem around at the moment. The game is funny as hell and had me chuckling at various points throughout (the voiceover in the ARK in particular is hilarious).
If you’re after a brand new Saints Row-esque experience, you’re going to have a lot of fun with Agents of Mayhem.
Developer: Volition Software
Publisher: Deep Silver
Agents of Mayhem is available Friday 18th August on Xbox One, PS4 (reviewed) and PC.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code from the publisher. For our full review policy please go here.