Volition is a developer best known for their work on the raunchy and hilarious Saints Row series. Having finished that, they're back again with a new title that acts as a spin-off of sorts, while also being a totally new experience for fans to enjoy. Known as Agents of Mayhem, this open world action RPG promises chaos and carnage with a wide variety of characters.
Does it manage to display chaos theory at its finest and allow players to relish in the uncertainty of utter destruction? Or, is this experience a little too tame to justify its name? Let's find out!
An Homage to Classic Cartoons Combined With Surprisingly Human Characters
Agents of Mayhem isn't afraid to let you know what inspired it. From the mysterious leader of the agents, Penelope, to the villain Doctor Babylon, it all screams 90's cartoons. Even the art style used in the animated cutscenes is purely ripped from that era. It's like G.I. Joe with a more mature flare.
I loved the cheesy lines during loading screens and the classic guitar rifts afterward. The unapologetic swagger from Hollywood was hilarious when paired with the serious undertones of a character like Braddock.
The overall story in Agents of Mayhem concerns the plans of L.E.G.I.O.N. and foiling their plans in a futuristic version of Seoul, South Korea. Fun fact, their name stands for "League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations."
M.A.Y.H.E.M. stands for "Multinational Agency for Hunting Evil Masterminds."
Legion seeks to meet their goals with the help of Dark Matter, which can destroy entire cities and even reality. The only thing standing between them, and their ultimate goal, are the agents of Mayhem.
It's a simple premise, and while it does have some twists and turns, the true stars of the show are the agents themselves. There are twelve agents in total, and a thirteenth agent if you have the Johnny Gat DLC.
While I imagined that the Johnny Gat would be simple DLC, it's actually not. Not only does good old Gat have his own set of skills and upgrades like any other agent, but he has his own story and special mission like any other agent in the game.
If you didn't get him with a preorder, I highly recommend getting his character if you're a Saints Row fan. Beyond the bonus character, the other agents in Agents of Mayhem are all really well-developed characters.
Whether it's rabid fans threatening Hollywood's reputation, or Braddock going over the people she used to call friends, each character has their own story and reason for working with the Agents of Mayhem.
You'll see this revealed in their initial unlock missions, but it's further developed in "special episodes" where you play as them again, further developing their unique motivations.
While the main story is perfectly serviceable, it was these side stories that really made me fall in love with Agents of Mayhem's world. Beind that this is a comedy game, we can't leave this part of the review without discussing the humor.
On the one hand, I really enjoyed the human side of the agents. They each felt like real characters with sympathetic backstories, or at the very least, interesting pasts. On the other hand, when it came time for the jokes to hit home, the humor wasn't quite as consistent as I would have expected from Volition.
That's not to say that Agents of Mayhem isn't funny. There were moments where I laughed out loud, but there were also more than a handful of moments where the jokes fell flat. It was far more often the latter than the former.
Even with the uneven humor, I still really connected with the agents themselves, and in this regard, I really feel like Volition was on to something with Agents of Mayhem.
If you go into it expecting a cheesy and fun 90's cartoon story with some surprisingly interesting characters, you'll have a great time like I did with the story. Just don't expect this one to split your sides like Volition's previous work.
Swap, Strategize, and Shoot
The core mechanic behind Agents of Mayhem involves choosing three agents to roll with as your main team. You can teleport to the Ark at any time to switch them out, but the three you pick will be your options in the open world and during missions (unless you're doing a character-specific mission).
Some agents have bonuses that do damage against armor or shields, and all of them offer different combat styles. Rama is more along the lines of stealth and high damage, while Braddock isn't afraid to let the lead fly.
Then your throw in a character like Daisy with her minigun, and you have some serious stopping power in your squad. Experimenting and switching out members of your team never gets old as new combinations begin to surface through your efforts.
Each character in Agents of Mayhem has their own unique upgrades, gadgets that are randomly dropped as mission rewards, and special abilities. Hollywood, one of the first characters, can fire off a grenade as his special ability or trigger a series of explosions and earn ammo/health bonuses during his mayhem ability.
Convesely, someone like Rama can set a trap with varying effects based on her equipped gadgets, and infect enemies with a plague by using her mayhem ability.
There's a huge number of different strategies and approaches you can take, which makes the combat incredibly fun to experiment with. Being able to swap between your three agents keeps the action flowing really well.
It's really incredible how fleshed out each of the characters feel as well. Between their aforementioned stories, their unique abilities, and their upgrades, it's amazing the developers were able to do as many characters as they did without repeating concepts.
Of course, none of this would matter if the gameplay itself wasn't fun. Thankfully, my personal experience with Agents of Mayhem was really enjoyable for the most part. The general gameplay was smooth and the action was excellent.
I did run into issues with characters getting caught on ledges or railings when I was jumping. Instead of triggering their climb animation, they would get stuck and slide across the ledge.
Beyond that, I never noticed drastic frame drops on PS4 Pro. The game played well and the controls felt accurate. The aim assist can be pretty forgiving, but that wasn't something that bothered me. If anything it made me look like a badass with Rama when my arrows would still manage to hit an enemy who was falling through the air.
While you're still trying to wrap your head around all the upgrade and gadget options with each character, the game continues throwing options at you. Gremlin tech allows you to craft and deploy single-use weapons that have hilarious and odd mechanics.
Legion tech can also be crafted with schematics to further augment your power. When you hit a specific level for your agency, you'll also have the option to send unused agents on global missions to further collect money and crafting materials.
When it comes time to deploy from the Ark and get into missions, you'll find that the open world offers a lot of choices. You'll have your story missions, your character specific missions, and plenty of other activities to participate in.
Taking over Legion-controlled bases or infiltrating their lairs were highlights for me, but you'll also find various types of side missions and collectibles to keep you busy. It's pretty standard open world fare, but given the amount of variety in the agents, there are plenty of ways to go about accomplishing everything.
The only place where I wish I had more variety, was in the traversal. Each agent has their own hilarious way of entering vehicles, but the vehicles themselves aren't a terribly exciting way to traverse the world. A boost meter helps, but I often found myself rushing from objective-to-objective so I could get back to the action.
In that regard, a more linear approach could have benefited Agents of Mayhem. There's not enough going on in the open world or with the NPCs that populate it to really make you stop and look. Seoul itself has a cool futuristic sheen to it, but beyond that, it seems like set dressing for the missions.
The actual missions do tend to repeat environments as well, but it wasn't something I noticed very much while I was mowing down Legion forces. It just seems like Agent of Mayhem could have achieved better pacing overall if they opted for a more linear structure or level select.
During my drives, other cars would often crash into one another and even explode without any input from me. Other times, I would call my car, only to watch it plow through a civilian vehicle. It was funny, but I couldn't honestly tell if moments like these were intended or not.
Without any compelling means of traversal, the open world aspect of Agents of Mayhem falls a little flat in comparison to the bombastic missions. While the environments themselves can become repetitious, I cannot deny the sheer fun that I had in my explosive romp through Seoul.
Colorful and Striking Presentation
Agents of Mayhem unapologetically embraces the 90's in a way that made my inner child cheer. From the exquisitely animated cutscenes to the over-the-top soundtrack, the entire game is infused with a consistent and cohesive style.
Little touches, like the way your squad charges forward and dives out of the Ark, or the guitar rifts that conclude every loading screen all come together to give the game a unique flavor over just about any other open world action game out there.
Despite it's missteps in the writing, and some repetition in the design, Agents of Mayhem is one of the best character-driven experiences the open world genre has seen. For that reason alone, it's worth checking out.
It may not reinvent the genre, but it does strike out on its own path with an excellent set of characters and a unique world. Even after finishing the main story, I'm still ready to dive back in and make some mayhem.
Final Score: 8.0/10
A copy of Agents of Mayhem was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 8/23/17