With no sign of the return of Saint’s Row following the fourth game’s DLC, Gat out of Hell, Volition’s sandbox has been missed by its fans, and those who enjoyed the series’ less than serious take on the often gritty or realistically violent genre. Luckily, here we have the answer, in the form of Volition’s new IP, Agents of Mayhem.
Set in the same shared universe as Saint’s Row and Red Faction, Agent’s of Mayhem is a new take on the open world sandbox, and although it has its moments, it largely does away with the Saint’s series’ usual lewd and crude humour in favour of an 80s Saturday morning cartoon vibe. Think of shows like M.A.S.K, G.I. Joe, Cops, Defenders of the Earth, and so on, then give them that Volition touch and you’ve got Agents of Mayhem.
After a terrible event known as ‘Devil’s Night’ that saw a new terrorist force called Legion strike on a global scale – overthrowing governments and law enforcements – the anti-terrorist force, Mayhem, was created to tackle the new threat. This force is made up of heroes from all over the world, including action film stars, sky pirates, roller derby 50s pin ups, football hooligans, and, if you pre-ordered the game, non other than the Saint’s main man himself, Johnny Gat.
The game itself is an open world third person shooter set in a futuristic version of Seoul. Here you tackle various missions, side missions, collectible quests, and so on. It’s all very familiar, but Agents of Mayhem does throw in some twists in order to produce an open world game that, like it’s Saint’s Row predecessors, breathes a little fresh air into the genre.
The most notable new mechanic is the use of the increasingly popular MOBA/Hero shooter style. Instead of a single character to plays as, there’s a selection of unique agents for you to chose from, starting off with three, and with more becoming available as you progress and unlock them.
These heroes all have their own weapons, attacks, and skills, as well as specialisations in terms of damage. Some, for example, are best at dropping enemy shields, whilst others specialise in taking down heavily armoured targets. Each hero has a special ability, as well as a ‘Mayhem’ ability. This is a super move that, once charged up, allows the use of often devastating attacks, or empowering buffs, enemy de-buffs.
On top of this, aside from some specific hero-centric missions, you’ll always select a team of three agents to head into the fight with. You can switch between each of these at will, mixing up your attack, and should one of your agents fall, you can switch to the others to continue the fight.
It’s a nifty system, and one that makes for a rather original sandbox action title that mixes in hero shooter elements to produce a different take on what has increasingly become an all too familiar genre. This feature is also enhanced thanks to the upgrade system.
As you level up your heroes and Mayhem itself, you open up all sorts of new ‘gadgets’ which can be equipped by heroes to buff their various stats and abilities. Some gadgets augment hero abilities, adding extra effects, whilst others modify basic stats, such as granting more health, shields, damage whilst aiming, and so on. You can also find blueprints for more vehicles, amongst other collectibles, including power cores which can be applied to each hero to further enhance their skill set. Indeed, there’s a lot of customisation here, if you’re willing to put in the work and loot the city for items and complete side missions, and this is where the game starts to show cracks.
Sadly, in terms of actual content, Agents of Mayhem isn’t as fresh as its heroes. Although certainly enjoyable, the actual mission and story content here isn’t very original, and often strays into repetitive and borderline tedium. In particular, I found many of the smaller side missions and distractions to be very dull and forgettable, and instead I found myself sticking almost exclusively to story and hero missions, leaving a great deal of tasks scattered around the map. The repetitive and samey Legion base missions were pretty dull, and I couldn’t help but feel like a lot of the extra tasks were thrown in there with little thought or attention.
The global conflict feature, where you can send your agents on timed missions – similar to Black Flag‘s armada mode – is passable, and grants extra materials for upgrades, as well as opening up additional Legion bases to infiltrate, but there’s a definite rushed feel to some areas, and a copy/paste design style put in place to act as filler.
In terms of style, I really can’t fault Agents of Mayhem. It’s a video game rendition of 80s and 90s action cartoons, and the visuals are great, with some spot on character design, animated cut scenes, and story and dialogue lifted straight out of its cartoon inspiration. There are plenty of pop culture references, as you’d expect, and the game continues to build on Volition’s shared universe.
Mechanically, it’s pretty solid, with decent combat and traversal controls for getting around the city. Unlike Saint’s Row 4, where vehicles were pretty much an optional extra given your ability to fly everywhere, here vehicles are useful and needed to travel through the world, and are used in various missions. As you probably guessed, there’s also more than a little inspiration taken from Knight Rider, with car AI and turbo boosts. The vehicles themselves don’t handle all that well, sadly, but they’re still fun to hoon around in, with feedback provided by your computerised companion.
Agents of Mayhem is a strange one. It’s not a proper Saint’s Row sequel, but plays in many ways like one, and it introduces new mechanics into the genre that, to be honest, no one was really asking for. Despite this, it’s a title that works and is a lot of fun to play.