What could have been? When Agents of Mayhem was first announced, I was actually intrigued by it. Here we had Volition, best known for the over the top fun of the Saints Row series, attempting to create a new IP based around a spy agency fighting to save the world from an evil organisation known as Legion. What’s more, the game is set in a futuristic Seoul and features multiple playable characters to use. It sounds like a great combination on paper, but in practice, the potential hasn’t been realised as well as it could have been.
There are a total of 12 base characters to choose from, each of which has their own unique abilities that are suited to different situations. However, not all off them are unlocked from the start. Instead you need to complete missions related to the locked agents to be able to summon them in future.
When you fire up the game you have Fortune, Hardtack, and Hollywood to play as, switching between the three on the fly. Together they are collectively known as Franchise Force. As you’ll find out when unlocking the other agents, there’s a few of these mini-teams within the agency, even if you are free to put any three characters together. When you’re running around Seoul you control one of the three agents you’ve picked, but can cycle through this trio at any time, teleporting them into the action, which plays into the combat system found within Agents of Mayhem.
Putting a team together, you should consider their various skills. Some are suited to taking out enemy shields, others can wear down armour quickly, and another could hack terminals with ease. You can’t try and brute force your way through the game with just one character, because they can become overwhelmed quickly. As you get used to combat situations and characters, you’ll be switching through them regularly, though there will be favourites that you may stick with. Personally, Fortune and Daisy became my regulars.
The cast of characters is very diverse, coming from across the globe to create the Agency. For example, Hollywood is an actor who is all about the brand, while Fortune was the best thief in Rio. You also have NPCs in the Agency that represent different places. Relic is a Sikh antiques dealer while Claymore is a Scotsman who is a weapons expert. Each of the characters does make an impression, but at the same time you’re missing a true anchor, someone like The Boss from Saints Row. Agents of Mayhem is also missing the real absurdity and atmosphere that the Saints Row series had.
Seoul feels lifeless and is not as used as well as it should have been. You see a number of potential locations for missions, but the majority are ignored in favour of overly similar looking underground Legion lairs. Legion are Mayhem’s adversary and are trying to conquer Seoul, not that anyone in the city really seems to care. It came to a point in missions where you could almost pinpoint when you would be directed to a Legion lair, and they quickly become tiresome. If they each had a different style and flair, that would have been fine, but there are only a few layouts and each has grey corridors with large grey rooms in which to fight.
Above ground, the colourful city of Seoul is squandered. You end up not really caring about its fate because you don’t have a connection to it. While the world is open, it just doesn’t feel exciting to explore. Sure you can do side activities like taking out Legion outposts or doing a Recon Run where you race against the clock to earn cash and experience, but they’re not that exciting. The cash you earn can be used to acquire improvements for the Agency as well as gadgets, while experience is needed to level up the agents and their abilities.
There’s obviously been a lot of consideration for what a future Seoul could look like. The futuristic buildings dominate parts of the skyline, with smaller buildings encircling them. However the map is pretty small and it doesn’t take long at all to get across it. As a result a lot of side activities are crowded together.
Yet there are glimpses of classic Volition when it comes to a couple of the missions, channelling the best of Saints Row through some of the villains and boss battles, but those moments are few and far between. What’s also missing are the big set pieces that stick long in the mind after the credits have rolled. Agents of Mayhem feels far too safe for its own good.
Combat is decent and requires a little bit of tactical thinking, working out which characters to bring in and when, as well as which enemy to target first. There are different enemy class soldiers from standard grunts to blade wielding acrobats and large charging individuals. To counter them each Agent has a Mayhem ability that can be triggered after a certain time in combat. Yeti can freeze all enemies within a certain radius, for example, while Braddock can call in an air strike. While weapons can feel light you can see the damage they do as hit points glance off enemies.
To traverse around Seoul you can choose to go on foot exploring the nooks and crannies of it, or use a vehicle and drive around. Vehicle handling could be better as cars have wide turning circles, and its best to stick to summoning Agency vehicles because the cars of the street are flimsy, falling apart quickly with handling that leaves a lot to be desired.
The other disappointment with Agents of Mayhem are the bugs and performance issues. There is noticeable pop in with buildings, cars, people just appearing all of a sudden. I also encountered what I hope will turn out to be a rare and quickly fixed bug from my 17 hour play time, with two separate missions failing to load the next area, forcing me to restart at the checkpoint.
There were also times where conversations between characters wouldn’t flow properly, with pauses of about 10 seconds between each line. I also saw cars clipping into each other before flying all about the road as each one tried to go in a different direction. No doubt early patches will fix some of these issues but the glitches did come across as annoying.
Agents of Mayhem is a step back for Volition after the success of the Saints Row series. While the characters are good and fun, they don’t feel larger than life when compared to The Boss and their crew. There aren’t as many memorable moments either, and the city of Seoul is wasted. The game is less Agents of Mayhem and more Agents of Mehhem.
Version tested: PS4