I’ve made a whole bunch of noise about how much I love the Saints Row series of games over the years. It’s not just because of the characters, the game design or the licensed music in the soundtracks - it’s not even Johnny Gat himself. It’s because Volition made a great game every time that I wanted to play over and over.
Volition have developed 15 games in the last 19 years, and I’ve played all of them. I didn’t even play all of the Lucasarts point & click adventures, and I loved those. Suffice to say, if they developed a straight up horror game, I would play the hell out of it and I hate horror games.
Agents of Mayhem is a third person shooter set in an open world, which sees you take on the role of 12 agents (plus more coming in the form of DLC) working for the high tech secret agent organisation M.A.Y.H.E.M. You’re fighting against Doctor Babylon and his organisation L.E.G.I.O.N., who have set up shop in Seoul for no-doubt nefarious reasons.
The reason I brought up Saints Row wasn’t just because I wanted an excuse to talk about it. The final game in the series, Saints Row: Gat out of Hell, ended with a choice between five different endings, and Agents of Mayhem is set in a universe created by one of those endings. To get out of having to say it was the canonical ending, Volition could have each ending existing in it’s own universe, which would open the door for them to reuse the same characters in several different franchises.
There are plenty of new characters introduced, so if you’re completely unfamiliar with Saints Row and it’s sequels, you won’t be missing out. You’re first introduced to Hollywood, Hardtack and Fortune, and after the first few missions can go around unlocking the others to use if you wish. Everyone handles differently, is voiced brilliantly and even get some character growth throughout the game through their solo missions, so there is no wrong way to play.
The majority of Agents of Mayhem is played with a team of three characters. You can pick and choose between them, but certain missions require particular skills, such as a character with the Master Hacker ability. Unfortunately, the missions never vary much from a formula.
If you enjoy going to a checkpoint, heading somewhere else, killing wave after wave of enemies, going to another place to kill more waves of enemies - then you’ll love the gameplay loop of missions. There are thousands of L.E.G.I.O.N. troops, and the game is happy to send them after you over and over again. Don’t worry if it gets too hard, though, as you can freely change between the 15 difficulty levels by returning to the Ark. Yes, 15 - for when your agents get so powerful you start to get bored, which was a common complaint in Saints Row IV.
The good news is that you don’t just have to do the main missions. The bad news is that some of the side missions are familiar. There are three L.E.G.I.O.N.-held towers in Seoul, and you have to capture them. Doing that allows you to unlock certain things in each section of the city, namely the four gadget-smith Gremlin, and four Relic’s Relics which earns you money for every minute you play.
However, these towers can be recaptured, resulting in you having to repeat the whole thing. Capture the tower, plant the waypoints, kill ~500,000 enemies… It’s especially annoying when you don’t realise it’s happened, and lose the income from Relic, meaning that you can’t afford that Agency upgrade you were hoping for. At least in Saints Row 2, you were warned that an area was being taken over, and could stop it.
There are also races, targets of opportunity, vehicles that your car guru Quartermile wants retrieved, hostages strapped to bombs and collectables that you can grab, so it’s not all-mission, all the time. However, it does make the civilians of Seoul more decorative than necessary. Heck, occasionally you’ll see random cars straight up disappear on the road in front of you. There are also dark matter fracking lasers, gravity wells and golems that appear in various spots across the city to defeat - which tend to interfere with missions by, say, flinging your car 200 meters in the opposite direction during a race… The relatively small size of the open world doesn’t lend itself to repeatedly generated objectives.
Going back to unlocking the agents, I will admit that those missions tend to be more entertaining. The difficulty is bumped down, so that you get a better feel for what they are capable of, and the writing is a lot stronger. There are too many normal missions which have you go somewhere, scan something, go into an underground lair to kill/destroy, and then you’re done. The agent missions at least have the agents chatting with people back aboard the Ark, which always leads to interesting or funny dialogue.
All in all, I had a lot of fun with Agents of Mayhem, but it’s unfortunate that it wasn’t as much fun as I would have liked. Despite the literally thousands of enemies to defeat over and over, there isn’t really any reason to change which agents you like using, unless it’s in specific missions which require different ones.
There is a large focus on replayability, with the towers being retaken, targets of opportunity and such, and you can replay missions to hear what different characters have to say about things. But if you don’t plan on playing again, getting 100% in the game won’t take much more than about 20-22 hours. There are daily challenges with three objectives that you can complete alongside other people, such as defeating 300 of a specific enemy type, which can be quite difficult. There are also plenty of things to unlock through chests hidden around the world, and certain upgrades you can only activate with dark matter shards. There are 350 of those, and even with only 150 shards collected, all of my agents had the three crystal upgrades, which usually affect ability cooldowns and give some bonuses.
The collectables also consist of 108 Legion tech, 29 Gremlin tech, 10 vehicles, 12 agents with 108 gadgets between them, and around 200 skins spread between weapons, agents and vehicles. Since the skins are random drops, don’t expect to get them very quickly. The Legion tech requires you to clear out one of L.E.G.I.O.N.’ many underground lairs, which again you can only locate if you’ve captured the region’s tower.
If you’re looking for something to keep you busy and entertained, Agents of Mayhem brings it in spades. However, if you get bored of doing the same things over and over again, you might not get what you want from it. It’s very well written and fun to play, but once you’ve seen one L.E.G.I.O.N. lair, you’ve seen them all.
Agents of Mayhem (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
If you’re looking for something to keep you busy and entertained, Agents of Mayhem brings it in spades. However, if you get bored of doing the same things over and over again, you might not get what you want from it.