General game information
Game name: Agents of Mayhem
Release date: August 15, 2017
Price: US$ 59.99
Available on: Steam
Developer: Deep Silver Volition
Publisher: Deep Silver
Agents of Mayhem is Volition’s next game after their last Saints Row title, the entertaining (if a bit repetitive) Gat out of Hell. This time, the famed American developer is working on a new IP, set in an alternative version of the same universe, but featuring a cast of previously unseen characters and a new playground.
Setting, story and characters
Agents of Mayhem takes place in a futuristic version of Seoul, where the evil organization LEGION (League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations) is trying to build something that will allow them to take over the world once again, after the Ultor funded MAYHEM (Multinational Agency for Hunting Evil Masterminds) task force foiled their plans years ago.
We play as MAYHEM’s field agents, teleporting to Seoul from a massive flying carrier to take on missions in teams of three. Every MAYHEM agent has their own personality and backstory, and with the exception of the first three operatives we get to play as (Fortune, Hardtack and Hollywood) we must play through special missions in order to unlock them for our team.
Supporting the field team, a number of “base agents” will aid us from headquarters, giving us tips as we encounter new enemies, setting up missions, and offering all sorts of encouragement as we tackle our foes.
LEGION is a stereotypical evil organization, sending doomsday devices as we liberate parts of Seoul, and trying to enact crazy plans that would end up killing thousands of innocent civilians if MAYHEM didn’t get there in time to stop them. Of course, they see themselves as the good guys, so they have a PR department dedicated to pinning disasters on their enemies. Although their leader is the enigmatic Morningstar, we will spend most of our time dealing with the mad doctor Babylon, head of LEGION’s Ministry of Pride (for some reason, LEGION is divided in seven “ministries” named after the Cardinal Sins) and his lieutenants. Since MAYHEM’s commander, Persephone Brimstone, is an ex LEGION Minister, we’ll spend a good deal of time getting calls from enemy leaders during our missions, a nice touch that reminded me of old cartoons where the villain tried to gloat at the heroes at every chance they got.
Our playable characters may seem like they are larger than life badasses, but as we play through their missions we will soon find out that they are actually very approachable and all have their own quirks, flaws and motives to join MAYHEM. In order to flesh out their backstory, all of the playable Agents have their own personal side missions, and once we’ve completed every quest for a specific canon team-up, we’ll get to play a special mission featuring all three members of that team.
Characters on LEGION’s side don’t feel as interesting and fleshed out as the heroes, but that’s not exactly a bad thing, as the game is obviously going for an eighties cartoon vibe, so evil minions don’t necessarily need to have redeeming qualities.
Agents of Mayhem‘s biggest departure from standard open world action games is its team up system, which lets us take three operatives to the field and swap them out at will during most missions. This means that while there is only one Agent under our control at any given time, we can create teams of three different characters with their own customized weapon, specialization and signature abilities and use them to deal with special threats as we see fit. For instance, the sky pirate Fortune is great at taking down shields, but she isn’t particularly good if the enemy forces are armored, so we can peel away our foes’ shields with her blaster pistols, tag Braddock in so we can use her rifle to destroy the armor underneath, and once the former Marine is done with that, we may swap her out for someone like Daisy, a minigun wielding roller derby champion who can deal with unarmored and unshielded enemies in a matter of seconds.
We can also use our Agents’ signature abilities to create powerful combos, stunning enemies with one and instantly teleporting in someone else who has a buff against movement impaired foes, for instance. The amount of combinations available makes for very interesting choices when the Agent selection menu pops up, and as our characters level up they unlock even more specializations, adding spicy tactical options to the menu on offer.
Mayhem abilities become available once a special meter fills up, supercharging our combat potential with crazy powerups that can turn the tide of the battle in a second.
If all that wasn’t enough, we can also level up our Agents, bolstering their stats and unlocking squad buffs, and as we get more powerful, a number of special gadgets that will change the way our special abilities and weapons work will be unlocked. Once we’ve settled on a set of gadgets for our favorite characters, we may also infuse them with LEGION tech, craftable modifiers that add powerful perks to our already impressive arsenal.
Aside from every Agent’s gadgets, we can also craft incredibly powerful consumables known as Gremlin tech, which range from healing supplies that can revive downed team members to crazier things that wouldn’t look out of place as cheats.
Of course, having all sorts of abilities and cool weapons without a competent movement system would mean that everything goes to waste. Luckily, Volition seems to have learned a lot from their earlier releases, and Agents of Mayhem is all about fast paced movement and cool looking triple jumps. The city of Seoul is full of high rise buildings begging to be scaled, and with the use of agent specific movement options and the aforementioned triple jump we’ll be soaring from rooftop to rooftop in no time.
The extra jumps also add a lot of verticality to the game’s combat, turning it into a crazy looking ballet of death, where even the most agile LEGION minions can’t match our speed and jumping prowess. Fall damage does not affect our Agents, so we’ll never need to concern ourselves with such banal things as gravity, unless we are trying to solve a particularly tricky jumping puzzle in order to get a collectible Dark Matter shard.
While we are on the subject of collectible items, the city of Seoul is filled to the brim with chests and Dark Matter shards (acquiring ten of those will grant us a special upgrade item that can be used to power up our Agents past the level 20 cap) so even after completing the main campaign we’ll have something to strive for (the chests usually contain crafting supplies that can be used to create LEGION and Gremlin tech, but a late game upgrade will massively boost the chances of getting Agent and weapon/vehicle skins).
Some other side activities include disarming bombs, destroying devastating doomsday devices that place parts of the city in a permanent state of alert, infiltrating LEGION lairs (which are seemingly randomly generated, so they all look very samey) and other kinds of stuff that wouldn’t feel out of place in most modern open world titles. Every activity can be done in one of fifteen different difficulty settings, so there’s a lot of room for replayability and we’ll be able to test our Agent teams against some fairly tough opposition if that’s our wish.
Players looking for some sort of online component can check out the Contracts menu, which lets us compete against others in time limited activities.
Moving around the city on foot is always entertaining, but once the distances get longer, we should jump into a car, and Agents of Mayhem is happy to provide a good number of land vehicles that can be teleported to our location at the press of a button and come with their own AI helper, who will playfully tease us if we crash too many times, or comment on the beauty of the car we are driving. Civilian vehicles are also available, but the lack of a boost function made them almost useless to me, so I always chose to call my own customized ride whenever possible. Boats and planes are not an option, probably because of the relatively small size of the ingame representation of the city of Seoul.
Sadly, the driving physics aren’t very good, something that the developers seem to have been aware of, as every racing activity was quite easy, and places where we need to jump from a ramp featured some sort of automatic calibration system that ensured that every time I approached the ramp from the wrong angle, I got the jump right anyway.
Graphics, sound and performance
Agents of Mayhem literally shines in the tech department thanks to excellent lighting effects that perfectly compliment the game’s cel-shaded art style. Another high point for me was that there’s about an hour’s worth of gorgeous animated cutscenes that look like Saturday morning cartoons.
Texture work isn’t particularly impressive for anything that isn’t the main characters and their vehicles, however, and I ran into far more performance issues than I would have expected, considering the size of the world and the graphics tech on display. Pop in is also a very frequent occurrence, with vehicles appearing or disappearing just a few meters in front of us, and I ran into a particularly nasty bug that prevented part of the map from loading, and forced me to close the game and restart two different missions from scratch.
Audio wise, Volition‘s latest release doesn’t disappoint in the voice front, as the actors did an excellent job bringing the game’s cast of characters to life. Our ragtag band of Agents gets special love, since every line had to be recorded at least a dozen times due to the way the Agent switching mechanic works. I can’t say that I’m a fan of the electronic soundtrack featured in Agents of Mayhem, but people who enjoy that musical genre will probably be satisfied with it.
Agents of Mayhem is one of the most entertaining open world shooters of this generation thanks to its fast paced combat and innovative team-up system. Sadly, Volition‘s latest is far from perfect, as poor vehicle handling, annoying performance issues and a few nasty bugs conspire to drag down the overall experience.
8/10 (Very good)