Saints Row has a place in my heart. It’s a series that was once considered a Grand Theft Auto micky-take as, although it had a huge open world with drivable vehicles, it never took itself seriously with outlandishly exaggerated characters and hilarious dialogue. Developers Volition released the first game in 2006, and it was met with positive reviews which caused a knock-on effect of 3 more titles and a standalone add-on. Well, Volition worked on a new project immediately after the release of Saints Row IV which saw Volition grow in size as they employed 100 more people to their team to help the growing new development that was to become Agents of Mayhem.
Set in a futuristic Seoul on a new Earth created after the events of Saints Row: Gat out of Hell, players control 3 of a possible 12 (when unlocked) agents as they battle to thwart the plans of the evil mastermind Doctor Babylon and his lackeys. Babylon wants to harvest Dark Matter from the city to destroy the world with the help of his organisation named L.E.G.I.O.N. Just like the games it shares its universe with, Agents of Mayhem doesn’t take itself serious. It has a humorous yet relatively weak plot; however, it’s populated by an interesting, over-the-top cast, some of whom outshine the main antagonist himself, such as August Gaunt, a pop idol who controls the minds of his fans using special headsets and who would have been a more fitting main bad guy. Unfortunately though, the plot is bogged down by cringe-worthy voice work among the Agents and Babylon’s goons, with different responses depending on what agents are in your trio, which is a really great feature by the way, but I avoided using some agents due to the god-awful voice work. The agent Red Card is a clear-cut example of how bad the dialogue can be. He’s a football (or soccer) hooligan from Germany who constantly talks about his sport, which takes away the urgency of the main matter, and he will make you hate the word Rüdesheim. On the other hand, there are agents who are a joy to listen to. Hollywood, with his wacky wit, comes out with some hilarious one-liners, and Kingpin, who series fans will recognise as Pierce Washington, also comes out with funny stuff.
Agents of Mayhem is, at its heart, a third-person shooter but with a fully realised open game world and an interesting and well implemented mechanic of swapping between your chosen 3 agents on-the-fly. Each agent can triple jump, with the exception of a few such as the agile dual-wielding energy pistol owner Fortune who can dash in mid-air. To get around the city though, you’ll be mostly driving your own vehicle which can be summoned at any time similarly to the Batmobile in Batman: Arkham Knight. The driving is breathtakingly fast, but almost every vehicle suffers from sluggish handling, even the sporty Hammerhead turns like a 20 tonne tank unless you use the drifting ability. Luckily, Agents of Mayhem’s saving grace is its outstanding combat which is extremely exhilarating and superbly executed, and it feels fantastic. Each agent has a different weapon and style of play which increases playability and adds an element of strategy. Do you choose Hardtack with his shotgun and brutal melee strength, ideal for up close battles? Choose Rama who is ideal from long range due to her expertise with a bow and arrow? Or take the stealth approach with the ninja Scheherazade who can go invisible and strike with her sword? The agent variety is astonishing. Volition have certainly covered all bases, and it’s easily Agents of Mayhem’s strongest feature.
To add depth to the already great combat, each agent has special abilities that can be used at any point but suffer a cool down period before they can be used again. Some are all out attacks, such as Braddock’s armour-piercing ammo, whereas some can be buffs, such as Fortify which increases your agent’s armour, or debuffs like Blindness which causes…..err, blindness. Aside from special abilities, agents also have an ultimate ability which can be activated once a dedicated gauge is full. Dubbed the Mayhem ability, these are flashy moves that are handy for escaping situations where L.E.G.I.O.N. goons are overwhelming you. My personal favourite belongs to series veteran and pre-order character Gat, who uses his dual SMGs to dispatch all enemies in his vicinity one-by-one. Others like Fortune, who uses her personal drone to shock enemies around her, or the walking block of ice Yeti, who slams the ground to freeze enemies, are great for crowd control. These abilities enhance the excitement and depth to the already fantastic gunplay.
As your agents, and agency, level up, you’re given ability points to assign to your agents. These are agent-specific and increase certain attributes, such as increased clip size or increased max health, with other upgrades available when you collect 10 Upgrade Core Shards which are scattered across the city. Agents also gain new weapon and armour parts which, once equipped, can add new properties to your weapons and special abilities, and these can be earned by levelling up or found in the hundreds of chests found around the city or within levels.
After a while, playing Agents of Mayhem will make you notice a pattern forming as repetition sets in pretty quickly. Not so much the mission variety, these are good varying from destroying key structures, such as Hate machines and the many L.E.G.I.O.N. vehicles patrolling the city, or rescuing citizens that are strapped to bombs and races. The repetition comes in the form of enemy variety and the L.E.G.I.O.N. Lairs. Your eyes will soon roll as you find yourself looking at the same metal walls, fighting the same kind of enemies, hacking the same terminals and blowing up the same things. It’s a good job the graphics are fantastic and the screen is constantly filled with explosions and particles.
Publisher: Deep Silver
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 18th August 2017