Watching Saturday morning cartoons as kid, there was always one thing that bothered us about shows focusing on paramilitary groups such as M.A.S.K. and G.I Joe. No, it wasn’t the fact they were designed primarily to sell toys to impressionable young minds, it was the way none of the teams ever showed up en masse to foil the plans of whichever evil organisation they were up against. Instead, they’d only ever opt to send a few team members (at least one of which would be a laughably over-the-top stereotype).
With Agents of Mayhem – Volition’s loosely linked Saints Row spin-off – these sorts of shows have been a clear source of inspiration, and while this open world, third-person shooter definitely aims for a more adult tone – as you’d probably expect given the pedigree – its cartoon-like art style and animated cut scenes sell the concept pretty well.
Set in a futuristic version of Seoul, South Korea, the battles between the Agents of Mayhem and LEGION – a collection of supervillains – have become so frequent that the citizens of the city merely view them as part of day-to-day life. Whether it’s the frequent appearances of doomsday weapons around the city or the battles that erupt in the streets between the two groups – with copious amounts of collateral damage – it’s an unusual dynamic for you to come to terms with, especially since the Agents of Mayhem are portrayed as Heroes. Ultimately, though, this title doesn’t want you worrying about the little people too much, and instead wants you to use all of the destructive power you have – all of the time.
To this end, the roster of thirteen agents – if you include the Johnny Gat pre-order bonus – provide ample options for laying waste to any LEGION goons who get in your way. With each operative sporting a unique weapon as well as a couple of abilities, they’re designed in a similar way to those found in many recent multiplayer hero shooters. In this case, though, Agents of Mayhem is purely an offline, single player experience.
With no need to balance around multiplayer matches the characters can feel a touch overpowered on the recommended difficulty levels, especially with the generous auto aim that’s on by default. That’s not to say things don’t eventually get a little tricky – especially as enemies get tougher – and should you decide to turn up the difficulty level towards the upper end of the fifteen on offer, then you’ll be in for a much more stressful ride.
Agent swapping – triggered by pressing left or right on the controller d-pad at any time – is at the heart of the gameplay design, and experimenting with different trios of characters is a great concept that encourages you to unlock and get to know the capabilities of every agent. You’ll no doubt quickly find your favourites – be it Daisy, a roller-skating, mini gun toting loud mouth, or Kingpin, the Stillwater gangster who likes to party – but since the agents are essentially your arsenal of weapons, mixing up which three you take out into the open world is an absolute must.
Enemy encounters are really fast paced, and it’s rewarding, for example, to use Fortune to take down an enemy's shields before switching to Gat mid-movement to bust through their armour with his shotgun. Managing each agent's shields, health, and ‘Mayhem Meter’ – which controls the use of their ultimate ability – through frequent switching can keep you in the thick of the action for longer, and those occasions where you manage to control the battle in such a way that everyone’s mayhem ability comes up at the same time can be truly gratifying. It’s just a shame that even on a PlayStation 4 Pro, the frame rate does struggle to keep up when the action is at its most frenetic.
It’s not just cutting down hordes of enemies that makes the combat in Agents of Mayhem so fun - it’s also just how mobile all of the heroes are. Even the slower moving members of the team have a triple jump, and when you throw in the air dashes or cloaking abilities of the more nimble agents, you’ll be dodging attacks left, right, and centre while repositioning yourself to avoid getting swarmed.
This pleasing freedom of movement also translates to the modest open world which, while not very large by modern standards, has a lot of verticality to its design. This, in turn, allows ample opportunity to jump around the rooftops of Seoul, or drop from huge heights without having to worry about splatting on the pavement. On reflection, the character movement feels very much like that found in Saints Row IV, though it isn’t anywhere near as overpowered in this instance since cars are still a viable mode of transport, and you’ll actually need to plan out how you’re going to get up certain tall buildings.
In terms of story it's a pretty straight forward arc that has you taking on a number of LEGION lieutenants in order to foil their evil plans. With plenty of memorable, well-voiced characters, it feels very reminiscent of the later Saints Row games, and while it delivers a fun window into the Agents of Mayhem world – especially with the agent specific missions that give each character a moment in the spotlight – there are parts that feel disappointingly familiar. Yes, that means there’s yet another a mission where you’re transported into a virtual world.
While the main campaign will no doubt keep you entertained despite occasionally treading familiar ground, the side content proves to be much less interesting, especially since it takes the form of usual uninspired open world filler. Hello street races and enemy outposts.
In addition, if you’re the type of person who obsessively has to clear everything off the map, then Agents of Mayhem will likely annoy you as LEGION have the nasty habit of retaking the four outposts that you can capture. While this sounds annoying – and it is when you first realise what’s happening – it does serve a wider purpose of providing a never-ending source of experience, cash, and crafting materials, all of which play a key role in the upgrade system.
This rather extensive system not only has you upgrading each individual agent, but also the wider agency as well. Ability variants, socketed mods, and skill upgrades mean that there’s a huge number of improvements that can be made across a variety of different areas of your operation. In fact, they come at you so fast – especially if you use lots of different characters – that even if you’ve just been messing around in the open world you’ll always feel like you’re making some form of meaningful progress.
Few would consider the combat in the various Saints Row games particularly memorable, so it’s surprising to discover that the frantic, fast paced battles and excellent agent switching gameplay end up being the true heroes of Agents of Mayhem. While it’s disappointing that the open world feels surplus to requirements at times, it’s the 80s cartoon atmosphere and absorbing upgrade system that also help ensure that this is more than just a Saints Row spin-off.
Wow didn't expect this game to get over 7.
It looks good and all, but the tone of the SR games always bothered me. Like that kid in school who turned up in a leather trenchcoat one day and insisted on being called Blade. Nah mate, you're just some spod who likes pony cartoons.
I mean, stop trying to make Johnny Gat something people care about. Nobody does. He's just a blank slate.
I would have preferred this game if it was nothing to do with Saints Row. Much like the comment above, something about it just makes me cringe.
I agree with the review its a solid 8 nothing below that. Its fun for what it is im about 25% into the campaign having unlocked about half the agents. Great game for the summer imo. Just keep expectations in check. For me it was better than SR4. Good review
It seems like I enjoyed Agents of Mayhem way more than other reviewers. If anyone has any questions feel free to @ me in the comments.
@THRILLHOU Agreed he is boring just get another cool character.
@AlexStinton I mainly trust two websites (you guys and gameinformer) and they also gave it an 8 👍 Not sure I'll play this anytime this decade with how many great games there are, though.
@THRILLHOU Incredible comment! 😂
@THRILLHOU Do you still have the leather trenchcoat though?
I don't get the point of this game. I'm sure someday I'll figure it out
@ztpayne7 Yeah, there's plenty of great games out right now and more coming all the time, so I expect Agents of Mayhem won't sell particularly well.
@THRILLHOU Dude - I spent all my money on that trenchcoat and my mum said I looked cool...
Overall, this looks like some good mindless fun but I think just being good fun isn't going to cut it in a year surrounded by so many great releases.
@slimcrowder walked right into that one didn't I?
We now have Just Cause 3 for mindless fun, so this one unfortunately will not be a buy for me.
Surprised it didn't end up with a stretched 7.
I think what is stopping my interest in this game is the generic art direction.
As I've said multiple times I'm really excited for this game and will pick up my copy when I get off work. Plus I love Johnny Gat and cannot wait to play as him in Agents of Mayhem (preorder bonus). Loved Gat Outta Hell, loved Gat in all of the SR series.
@THRILLHOU the crow was way cooler dude
@AlexStinton How intrusive are the microtransactions? Did you feel like the game felt too grindy or slow, or that you weren't having fun progressing or progressing slower than other games?
*EDIT: I think it's just skins and stuff like that nevermind.
@Constable_What Yup, all the DLC's so far are just cosmetic (skins) with the exception of Gat's DLC which actually contains a new separate mission.
@WanderingBullet It's still kind of odd when the game it spins off from is known for really great character customisation.
Sounds kinda "meh" to me. Despite the good review I echo the other comments on here that simply being 'good' isn't enough this year. Still, if Sony nab it for ps plus in a couple of years I'll give it a go 😊 To those of you that do buy it, hope you enjoy!
Looks nice from the videos on YouTube
Still going to pick this up eventually. Might just have to wait until it hits the bargain bin though. Most of the feedback out there is mediocre at best. Makes me sad because this was one that I REALLY wanted to pick up. But my backlog is a bit too long at the moment to warrant picking it up at launch!
It actually sounds fun so maybe I will get it in the future.
It sounds like something that might be fun to check out once it drops in price a bit.
@THRILLHOU Take that about John Cat back before I...lol who am I kidding no one cares about SR characters anyway
@AFCC it's impossible to do two things;
1. Lick your elbows.
2. Give a toss about SR characters.
I'm having fun with the game so far! It has the feel of Crackdown kinda. With the finding of items on rooftops and such and the cartoony kinda look it has. I like it. I've been playing for about 3 days now and have several agents unlocked. Can't wait for DLC!!!
So you can't create your own character in this? That's one of those things that I absolutely loved in Saints Row series.
@THRILLHOU I bet there's more people licking their own elbows than people caring about SR characters lol
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