Agents of Mayhem review: A Fun But Flawed Attempt at a Spin-Off
Xbox One review code provided by publisher
Set in the same universe as the once veritable Saints Row, Agents of Mayhem is part-sequel, part-spin-off. Saints Row’s overpowered, frenetic and often nonsensical combat married a silly crew of misfits for a unique experience. AoM gives the player a dozen of playable characters with a rich backstory, hours of dialogue between characters and a plethora of power-ups, passive and active.
Agents of Mayhem takes place in future Seoul, South Korea. The acronym-heavy plot sees characters from SR: Gat Out of Hell and takes place in the past of Red Faction. M.A.Y.H.E.M. is formed by Persephone Brimstone to prevent L.E.G.I.O.N. capturing the ‘City of Tomorrow’. The plot is standard stuff but the cast and humour elevates it.
Plenty of Character
The selection of characters is laudable. Each one is unlocked by some excellent side-missions. A player will learn the chartacters’ skills in each one, learning the lore and taking in some amazing animated cut-scenes. These cut-scenes make up two or more hours of AoM’s 12-30 hour run-time but add much to the experience. Animated beautifully in the style of a sharp 1980s cartoon, each one is entertaining enough to hold off on skipping.
Similarly, dialogue between characters in the roster and on player-specific missions is sometimes witty or heartfelt but always well-delivered and relevant. The action-comedy cartoon feel of Agents of Mayhem is arguably more interesting than Saints Row’s GTA-meets-PCP style. For many, playing as well-crafted and colourful characters in AoM will beat the player-made characters of Saints Row.
Characters come with a range of upgrades to weapons, choice of powers and comprehensive set of visual options. The player can swap between a choice of three at any time. A downed player cannot be revived without a token so keep rotating. Tagged-out team-mates also slowly regain health and shield. Players handle all their upgrades and training through ‘The Ark’ – a basic hub that adds loading screens more than anything else.
Agents of Mayhem isn’t consistently entertaining however. Main-missions run out of steam halfway. AoM’s gameplay and map become boring once you’ve unlocked all characters and played around a while. There is also a front-loading to the line-up. The earliest characters end up being the strongest as you gather upgrades and gain XP quickly to begin with. I ended up using two of the three starting characters for the majority of the game.
The game also struggles to make non-character side-quests or the rest of the map interesting. The giant drill spider, the base take-over and the satellite shutdown are only fun the first time.
Seoul is easy to zip around in on-foot with the characters triple-jump and rush ability. AoM delivers a vehicle on command and moderate traffic to help motor around the ‘city of tomorrow’. Driving around Seoul is easy, too easy to be fun so it serves only as transport. Just like real life.
With diminishing critical and commercial returns on Saints Row and its accompanying DLCs, Volition were probably hoping to launch careers for a few of these characters. They may well fit the game’s best into a standalone somewhere along the line.
Braddock, if you want my vote. A linear adventure with better missions if you want an idea.
Agents of Mayhem deserves praise for its supporting art-style, voice-acting and excellent characters. However, it lacks the missions and gameplay that these parts deserve.