Agents Of Mayhem has not met with a good reception from critics. Having listened to favorable comments on the DLC Podcast with Jeff Cannata and Christian Spicer it sounded like a game that could kill a few hours between now and the fall release schedule. Despite the negativity surrounding the game, I found it did exactly what I was expecting from a game of this type.
Put simply this is Saints Row’s version of the Avengers. You build a team by doing missions and unlocking different agents with specific missions and then choose any combination of three to take on the main story missions and associated side quests. In fact, you could nearly end any review here if you have any experience with previous games of this ilk. But I won’t because of the sheer effort that the developer has put into making the game.
You are an agent of ‘Mayhem’ basically the irreverent version of the Avengers. You are pitted against a group of enemies calling themselves Legion. They take on the usual stereotypes of the mad scientist and more. Replacing Nick Fury as your boss you have the ambiguous Persephone who smolders and pouts her way around your floating ARK base in the sky and chews her way through cutscenes. Without ruining any plot, people keep questioning her allegiance and various missions have less than binary motives.
The ARK serves as your base of operations and is upgradeable to a lesser extent than the Mother Base in Metal Gear Solid. It isn’t as central to the story yet it is upgradeable and allows you to send idle agents on missions around the world while the others are under your direct control. It is well handled and adds another layer to the game, you can develop new Gremlin technology and then develop Legion technology with scrap from your enemies. The systems found in the Ark are all well developed and give you a valid reason to return to base after your latest bunch of exploring the city of Seoul.
In game pacing terms it serves a second purpose. The only way to change your agent team is to return to the ARK. While initially, it is a hindrance you can suddenly see the point after you unlock a few agents. The game wants you to spend a decent amount of time with each agent, with their specific missions, personality, and backstories. If you could swap out agents while you were on the ground you would naturally gravitate towards your favorites or ones that suited your play style and never experience the others. By forcing you to at least give your chosen three some playtime it lets you appreciate the artwork and character design that has gone into each one. Do you stick with Hollywood, a mix of Johnny Cage from Mortal Kombat and Tony Stark, or go with Braddock, the female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The design is well done and genuinely interesting. If after unlocking an agent they are not of interest to you, you can keep them in the ARK and use them for dispatch missions until you need them for a story specific errand.
When you get into the gameplay itself the game plays very much like the original Crackdown. You head to a story point either by car or by jumping around the environment. Unfortunately, there isn’t the same scope for making your agent super powered enough to leap buildings easily and punch bad guys across the map. Despite this, each agent has a wide array of special techniques that suit their look. Yeti, for example, is a massive hulking blue skinned Soviet era soldier who carries a freeze ray. Think Russian Mr. Freeze and you are close. He freezes his opponents either until they are stunned so you can melee them or use some more ammo and they smash into pieces.
Gunplay is very satisfying with a plethora of enemies to shoot with all variety of weapons. The controls are snappy and you won’t be complaining that enemies don’t go down when you focus on headshots. DPS points indicators come off enemies when shot as some bosses require multiple hits. Driving is less enjoyable but more from design choice than a poor engine. The agent’s vehicles all have boost and can ram other civilian vehicles easily out of the way. The handling is competent without ever feeling realistic. It doesn’t feel as good as GTA V but it certainly isn’t as bad as Mafia 3 could be at times. The main issue is with the huge barriers that direct you in the correct direction. While necessary the design choice of having them obscure an open road at a corner means your take the corner incorrectly each time. If the road was left open and the guidance simply remained a line on the ground you would be able to take corners in a more natural fashion. What happens instead is you drift around a corner and end up in the actual holographic barrier meaning you cannot see where you are going and the illusion of it being a physical barrier makes it a jarring shock when you misjudge and just disappear through it.
The negative criticism of this game has been quite surprising to me. I don’t think it does a lot wrong. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but gives you a competent video game with many game mechanics. You hack with a mini game, there are open world outpost missions to do and there are collectible power ups. The cutscenes and character specific missions are going for an 80’s GI Joe or Transformers style look with the aforementioned Avengers parody. It is a good summer game that doesn’t do very much wrong. After the poor reviews, this game will drop in price quickly. If you are used to the humor of the Saints Row series and are just looking to shoot a lot of enemies in the Crackdown mold you can’t go wrong with this one.
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