The eagerly anticipated Agents of Mayhem has finally been released for Steam, PS4 and Xbox One – and heads in a new direction just at the right time.
Many of you will mainly remember Agents of Mayhem developer Volition for their work on the Saint’s Row franchise. Initially starting off as a fun alternative to Grand Theft Auto and/or Crackdown, subsequent releases in the series went more and more ‘over the top’ in their approach – finally culminating in Saint’s Row IV at a point where you thought things couldn’t get any crazier without losing its appeal. Volition must have thought something similar, because they left the Saint’s Row franchise to go and work on a brand new title called Agents of Mayhem.
Agents of Mayhem is a blend of Saint’s Row and Marvel’s Avengers (or Suicide Squad), taking a superheroes vs villains approach and running with it. Its team-based mechanics are especially fun, as are its well-developed characters. Your job is to stop a super-villain organization called LEGION, and in each mission you start with three agents that you pick from a roster that gets bigger as you unlock more characters.
Although you play as a team, you’re only ever controlling one character – but you have the ability to dynamically switch between teammates and it’s a fun as well as necessary component. Missions are designed with different gameplay styles in mind, and although picking relatively well-rounded characters will allow you to get through without too much switching, it’s more satisfying to use specialists for the job at hand. A stealthier operative might get you inside, right before you take over with a character that goes in guns blazing – it’s the kind of teamwork that rewards you for making the right choices at the right time, even when it’s possible to get by without making them at all. It’s worth it to craft a balanced team though, because you lose a character for the duration of the mission when he/she goes down – unless you find a way to revive them (which is never guaranteed).
The characters themselves are some of the highlights of the game, both in terms of their personality and their skillsets. In true volition style, they bring a lot of attitude with them – so if you didn’t like that part of Saint’s Row then it’s likely that Agents of Mayhem won’t resonate with you either. Every agent also has its own unique set of skills, and they can be upgraded through an RPG-like system of progression and crafting. For a title that is so action-oriented, this was a surprise, as quite a bit of time can be devoted wading through everything you picked up during your last mission and figuring out how to best develop and equip your favorite characters.
Transitioning from the open world hub into the game’s individual missions – often a case of infiltrating a LEGION base – unfortunately loses its appeal after a while. This isn’t due to the game’s gameplay dynamics, which are actually a lot of fun, but rather due to the relatively repetitive nature of the mission and enemy designs. As diverse as the main cast of the game is, it was disappointing to see how missions started to feel like “more of the same” after a few hours of gameplay. The same can more or less be said about the hub world of Seoul, based on the real life city in Korea. It never feels quite as alive and vibrant as, for example, San Francisco in the recent Watch Dogs 2.
Luckily, we’ve seen Volition’s ability to grow within a franchise, and the core dynamics here are definitely sound and something to build on. Perhaps there will be a ton of DLC (as was the case with the last two Saint’s Row games), and that would help a lot if it added more mission variety – though that’s something that should really have been in the game to begin with. As it stands, you’re looking at a fun new title with a great cast of characters and a few good gameplay tweaks – but held back from true greatness due to a lack of variety. We definitely hope this isn’t the last we’ll see of the Agents of Mayhem though.