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Agents of Mayhem

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Volition
Release Date: Aug. 15, 2017 (US), Aug. 18, 2017 (EU)


PS4 Review - 'Agents of Mayhem'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Aug. 25, 2017 @ 2:30 a.m. PDT

Agents of Mayhem is an open-world action game where a motley outfit of unique and diverse Super Agents are recruited from around the world to thwart the destructive schemes of the evil supervillain organization L.E.G.I.O.N.

Buy Agents of Mayhem

It's frustrating when a game can't live up to a concept. The Saint's Row franchise may have begun as a Grand Theft Auto clone, but it quickly developed its own over-the-top style. With Agents of Mayhem,that same level of excess is applied to law enforcement in the Saint's Row universe. The result straddles the line between shooter and Saturday morning cartoon, but Agents of Mayhem can't live up to that delightful concept.

Agents of Mayhem is set in one of the alternate dimensions from the end of Gat out of Hell. Players are thrust into the role of M.A.Y.H.E.M., a group of mostly moral agents-for-hire who battle the evil forces of L.E.G.I.O.N. Their latest mission takes them to a futuristic version of Seoul, where the dastardly ne'er-do-wells are hatching their latest plans for world domination. You'll have to collect the 12 agents of M.A.Y.H.E.M. and stop L.E.G.I.O.N. by blowing up just about everything in sight.

Agents of Mayhem keeps the same irreverent humor that the Saint's Row franchise is known for but introduces a new cast of characters. Some fan favorites appear, including Pierce Washington and Johnny Gat, and the roster is bolstered by a variety of new, outrageous personalities. Not every agent is a hit, but you're sure to find a few that work for you. The support staff does a lot of the heavy lifting to make them amusing and likeable. The game has some problems with tone and veers toward serious subjects in some spots, but the humor is more or less enjoyable. It's a funny game, so players may be more forgiving of its flaws.

The basic gameplay loop is pretty fun. You control of a group of three agents, and you can only use one at a time but can swap between the three at will. Each agent has different strengths and weaknesses, but they also share a handful of traits. Hollywood is a run-and-gun shooter with a big gun and grenades, and he can cause the air around him to detonate with pyrotechnic explosions. Kingpin is about unloading his SMG on enemies and controlling a specific area. Rama uses a bow and arrow and favors single powerful attacks or luring enemies into traps, and she can cloak herself.

The neat part about the game is how customizable your agents are. As you play, you'll unlock loads of passive boosts that can significantly change how your character functions. Some boosts completely change the agent's special moves, while others merely augment or alter the character's passive traits, so you can create a character that best fits your play style.

Combat is fun and chaotic. Enemies tend to be weak, but they arrive in just enough large enough groups that you're always blowing up, destroying, shooting or stabbing mooks. The combat isn't deep, and the spate of low-level enemies is broken up by the occasional miniboss. Fortunately, the Agent design is strong enough that smashing enemies remains fun for a long time. The game could use more enemy variety or more distinctive foes, but that only becomes an issue when you consider the mission design.

Saint's Row also struggled with this issue, but a major problem with Agents of Mayhem is that the core gameplay is only as fun as the context of the mission. The missions feel largely interchangeable, which is a disappointment when compared to Saint's Row IV, which has you battle through a simulated 2-D Streets of Rage-style beat-'em-up to reach Johnny Gat. It was disappointing to lose your superpowers, but it was memorable and exciting. In Agents of Mayhem, you recruit him in the same way that you recruit every character: run around and shoot enemies in generic locations with only radio chatter to provide any context. The radio chatter is amusing but unrelated to the mission.

Particularly disappointing is the open world of Seoul, which feels like an afterthought. There's the usual bevy of open-world collectibles and side missions, but they feel meaningless and disconnected from the characters and plot. It often felt like busywork between missions because I didn't feel immersed or excited to be exploring. It's not entirely fair to judge Agents of Mayhem against Saint's Row IV, but comparing the two only emphasizes Mayhem's shortcomings. The open world in Saint's Row IV wasn't perfect, but it felt like an integrated part of the setting, but in Mayhem, it feels like you're wasting time between missions.

The story missions are a mixed bag. A lot of them have great context and hilarious quips, but they feel like interchangeable fights against interchangeable enemies in interchangeable locations. A few have a genuine sense of style and excitement, and the middle portion of the game feels like the strongest part. The beginning is slow and has some of the worst missions, and the ending leads to an unsatisfying conclusion. The game hits its stride around the midway point, but that feeling doesn't last long enough.

Agents of Mayhem never actually gets bad. The core gameplay remains fun, and the level of customization and character swapping means that if things get too repetitive, you can swap to someone else and liven up the experience. It does, however, get bland. For a game that can be summed up as "Saint's Row G.I. Joes," it doesn't manage to capture the excitement of that concept. There are so many glimmers and hints of potential that Agents of Mayhem 2 will probably be as big of an improvement as Saint's Row 2 was over the original.

Perhaps part of it is that the game could have used more development time. There are many areas that show signs of greater ambition, and it's a fairly glitchy game. I ran into a number of bugs, including mission-breaking ones. My characters would get frozen in place or be unable to shoot, and in one situation, I died and the "Game Over" screen froze, so I had to reset my console. There are also a lot of minor UI things that could've been ironed out. There's a lot of stuff to do, things to find, and items to collect, but much of it feels half-baked.

Visually, Agents of Mayhem looks quite good. The city is bright and colorful, the characters are distinctive and memorable, and lots of animation touches bring the world to life. Some frame rate issues and the occasional glitch drag it down. Likewise, the voice acting is mostly excellent and amplifies the game. Much of the humor relies on the voice actors pulling off their lines, and they end up carrying the game. The only downside is that since the title needs to have interchangeable agents, the humor can fall a little flat since everyone responds to the same lines.

Agents of Mayhem is by no means a bad game, but it lacks ambition. That's particularly damning since it spawns from a franchise that rarely held back. If you want to blow up robots, collect some items, and hear amusing humor, then Agents of Mayhem fits the bill. If you're looking for something as off-the-wall as the Saint's Row franchise at its best, this is not it. There are enough glimmers of greatness and individually well-executed moments that it can be easy to forgive the bland filler. If you can't get past that, though, then there's not enough meaty content here to make it a satisfying experience.

Score: 6.5/10

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