Agents of Mayhem
Not too long ago there was this movement in the world of video games where everything was all about the heroes. We had hero shooters like Overwatch and Battle bourn, and we had the MOBAS like league of legends and Smite. These games were almost exclusively multiplayer experience (save for Battle Bourn) they didn’t have traditional narrative experiences they instead had really rich character lore. Overwatch had these beautiful short films focusing on specific characters that did a really good job fleshing out the world, but for me it was never enough. I always wanted some sort of narrative. I loved all the characters in these games (specifically Zarya from Overwatch) but I wished we can see them in a playable narrative experience.
June 6th 2016 developer Volition (Saints Row Franchise) announces a new game called Agents of Mayhem, a single player narrative driven action game that utilizes a mechanic where you can swap out different heroes at almost any time throughout the campaign. I was instantly excited, the game had a Saturday morning cartoon feel and looked like it had that signature Volition charm similar to the Saints Row game. At first we were introduced to three heroes Hollywood, Hardtack, and Fortune with more to come and with every hero introduced I got more and more excited.
The game released August 15th 2018 to middling reviews with many reviews stating that the game was redundant and had a bit of an identity crisis. I on the other hand fell in love with Agents of Mayhem.
Agents of Mayhem is an open world, hero based, action adventure game that takes place in Seoul South Korea in the near future and shares the same universe as Saints Row. The Agents of M.A.Y.H.E.M are led by Persephone Brimstone, a former member of L.E.G.I.O.N, an organization of super villains, who when discovers her leader’s nefarious plot to use a substance called dark matter to conquer the world and alter reality as he sees fit, retaliates against her former leader and creates M.A.Y.H.E.M a force she hopes could stop L.E.G.I.O.N. The story is light and fun and is never takes to seriously but it does definitely feel rushed. The game occasionally has beautifully animated cut scenes but they are few and far between. Most of the time we get these basic, comic style stills of characters talking and they kind of make everything feel cheap. The humor works for the most part but its definitely a step down from Saints Row, its funny but not that funny. But as weak as the story could be at times the characters are the absolute opposite. Each one is memorable and unique are clearly the stars.
M.A.Y.H.E.M is made up 15 over the top anti heroes, with each one having a colorful personality and their own special abilities. Each hero has their own style of play, own move set, unique vehicle, and very own ultimate. There is Hollywood, a former actor very reminiscent of Johnny Cage, who is a machine gun toting, arrogant, and vein asshole. Then there is Rama, a beautiful, Indian, immunologist who dispenses foes with a bow and arrow. Oni, an ex Yakuza boss who literally strikes fear in the heart of his enemies. And my personal favorite Daisy, a foul mouthed, roller blading, mini gun wielding, badass. You have control of three heroes at a time, unless you are on a hero specific mission, and the game does an excellent job making each character so different that the core gameplay of simply shooting people is always fun and fresh.
Another feature I absolutely love is that every heroes has specific writing for each mission as well as interact with the other heroes on your squad. The heroes don’t just yell thing like “oh yeah” and “come get some”. Every hero, no matter the combination, will interact with one another, as well as interact with the mission they are currently on and when you combine specific heroes with one another they may even reference past missions and relationships. Volition even went the extra mile by including missions that are hero specific that give us more backstory for each character which give way to some really sweet and emotional moments.
The gunplay is also really enjoyable. Each hero has a different weapon and unique ultimate,≤ that all have their benefits throughout the game. The ability to have three different heroes to swap from leads way to some really awesome gunfights that gives every hero a time to shine. Whenever I found myself dying too quickly or something like that I would just change my roster of heroes and approach the situation differently. Sometimes a situation called for Rama and her long range bow and arrow and sometimes you need Daisy’s brute force to deal massive damage to a huge crowd of enemies.
The fire fight almost always turns into massive battles with swarms of L.E.G.I.O.N forces and explosions all over the place often times making you feel like a total badass. Each hero also has the ability to jump really high and far as well as climb buildings giving the game a great sense of scale and makes traversal really run. The driving is also really fast and arcady and often leads to hysterical accidents.
If only the mission design shared the same attention to detail as the characters and the gunplay. The biggest flaw of Agents of Mayhem is the fact that many mission take place in these procedurally generated L.E.G.I.O.N lairs. The first couple are fun but by the 20th the monotony sets in. These missions benefit absolutely nothing from being procedurally generated because they have maybe 5 different iterations before you have seen everything. If this was just the side missions, then I would have no problem but many times during the main campaign you find yourself in the same exact lair yet again, running down the exact same corridor yet again, and pressing the exact same button yet again. The missions that don’t take place in these lairs tend to be really fun and unique but they make up only about half of the overall campaign. Another aspect that could have used a little work was the boss battles. The bosses have some really fun personality’s but the battles pretty much all play out the same. The boss will go onto this floating platform, fly around, attack, you find the week spot and shoot it. They are entertaining enough but could have been better.
Agents of Mayhem does have side missions but there not the traditional ones you are used to. There aren’t any NPC’s giving out missions, you kind of just go to a marker on a map and do a race, free a hostage, hack a console, or take down a huge fracking machine. Compared to other open world games these can definitely be classified as pathetic but when compared to the previous Saints Row it makes sense. Although the side missions are pretty dull the excellent combat, traversal and driving make up for it because that’s pretty much what you will doing that in these missions.
Agents of Mayhem is by no means a perfect game, some might even go as far and say its not a good game but it was exactly what I wanted. Its easy to look at the repetitive nature of Agents of Mayhem and completely dismiss it but there is something truly special about this game. I loved learning about the heroes and messing around with all of them until I found my favorite. The mission design leaves much to be desired but the moment to moment gameplay and excellent roster of heroes elevate the game into something well worth your time.