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Agents of Mayhem Review: Identity Crisis

The trouble with spin-offs is that the original property typically casts an incredibly large shadow. Saints Row started its own run having to escape comparisons to genre-neighbor Grand Theft Auto, eventually carving a niche as the definitive satire of crime-driven open world action/adventures. Agents of Mayhem arrives as a direct spin-off from one of Saints Row IV’s endings and, while it does establish a somewhat compelling fiction of its own, it’s hindered by game design that is suffering its own identity crisis.

The meat of Agents of Mayhem involves putting together a squad of three agents and journeying out into Seoul, South Korea for some...well...mayhem. The agents all have weapons and abilities that feel distinctly different. There’s a style tailored to whatever your play style may be, including a character fully focused on melee combat. Of the 15 difficulties Agents of Mayhem has, you can freestyle with your favorite characters on the lower end but you’ll have to meticulously manage your team’s composition and abilities if you want to stay alive on the higher tiers. Nevertheless, Agents of Mayhem is at its best when you're shooting or swinging at enemies.

Visually, Agents of Mayhem pops in a big way. The game is very, very purple but Seoul, the many agents, and enemies all stand out. Better yet, there can be a ton of different effects happening on screen at one time and, from the distortion of switching characters to explosions, they all quite impressive. Unfortunately, despite the vibrancy of art design and effects, the open world of Agents of Mayhem is lifeless.

Mission structure revolves around story quests and missions you undertake to unlock new agents. Some agent mission are side-quests you tackle at your leisure but, occasionally, you’ll be required to unlock agents as part of the story. Unfortunately for both of these types of quests, you’ll have to journey through the open world to get to them.

The space is large enough that driving will be your primary mode of transportation. The driving mechanics work fine just to get you from point A to point B but fall apart as the game tries to include combat. As part of missions and while roaming freely, you’ll need to take down other vehicles by using boost and ramming them. The weight of this maneuver feels off and inconsistent,  like a majority of things that take place in Seoul. Another example of this inconsistency rears its ugly head during a mission where innocent citizens are being mind controlled. In the open world, there are no repercussions for running over citizens or hitting them during shootouts. Thus, during this mission, there's no weight to the decision of shooting the mind-controlled citizens or using melee to knock the device off their head so they can escape safely. Even the indirect online multiplayer feels like an afterthought, only involving menial tasks like killing a high number of specific type of enemy. That progress is tracked in separate games with no interaction between players.

I also ran into frequent bugs in the open world, including not being able to get into a vehicle during a special mission (couldn’t call another car, so I had to restart), entire objectives not spawning or suddenly popping up around me, and running into enemies that were unaware of my presence despite me attacking them. The linear sections that take place largely beneath the city had repetitive designs and weren’t immune to issues as well. All too often I’d be directed to a door in order to move forward and have to wait as the spaces behind them were rendered.

Much like the series of games it's inspired by, Agents of Mayhem has a lot of style. The collection of agents is diverse and their individual styles are highlighted will solid voice work. There’s regular banter as you work through missions and, considering the fact that you switch characters frequently, every agent responds in their own way. They even chimed in during combat, letting me know they're better suited for the enemy I was currently struggling against. Their personalities ooze from every line and it’s not just the same statements with a different voice.

It’s through the dialogue that you get the majority of humorous moments in Agents of Mayhem as well and they’re largely hit or miss. The diversity in the game is incredible to see, but the impact may be lessened for those that aren’t fans of Volition’s staple humor which can occasionally lean on stereotypes. If Saints Row’s humor is whiskey neat, Agents is whiskey with a splash of water. It’s more palatable, but doesn’t help much if you are averse to whiskey in the first place.

There’s a lot of potential scattered around Agents of Mayhem but not enough of it is realized. The shooting and abilities are fun, the characters are interesting and could develop followings individually, but everything is hindered by a half-baked open world. No matter how fun the shooting is, the in-between moments are consistently a chore. If this was intended to spring a new series of games to life, the initial effort spits and sputters on the launch pad.


This review is based on a PS4 code provided by the publisher and the game was played on PS4 Pro. Agents of Mayhem is now available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One for $59.99. The game is rated M.

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Agents of Mayhem

6
not bad
  • Diverse and entertaining agents
  • Great shooting mechanics
  • Visual flair
  • Daisy's drunk bender mission
  • Forgettable plot
  • Uninteresting optional content in the open world
  • Constant bugs