From the makers of Saints Row over at Volition comes this week’s Backlog Slog, Agents of Mayhem. Originally released in 2017, it’s certainly one of the more recent games I’ve played, but the question becomes, was it worth putting it off for so long?
Agents of Mayhem is a part of the Saints Row universe, in a sense. It takes place in an alternate universe caused by the end of the (largely forgettable) spin-off of Saints Row 4, Gat Out Of Hell, with the premise being at the end of the game, the titular Johnny Gat had several choices to make. One of them was to start the universe over again, in a world where the Saints never existed, and neither did the chaos they caused.
Instead, a new kind of chaos sprung forth.
In this world, a league of supervillains, appropriately titled L.E.G.I.O.N seek to control the world. And they actually do control the majority of the world. The player takes control of the various agents of, you guessed it, an organization called M.A.Y.H.E.M. There’s a lot of fun with acronyms in this game.
From here on out, it’s only what I can describe as a mash-up of Sonic Heroes and classic Saints Row gameplay. Which might sound kind of confusing at first, but let me explain. There are a number of heroes available, all of which have unique abilities and weapons, though these are naturally suited to different things. There are all rounders with medium-range weapons, snipers, heavy weapon users that are slow but powerful, a pretty stock standard FPS class choice.
The unique part is where you choose three of them to be in your squad at any given time, and are able to freely switch between them. Thus, the Sonic Heroes part. Characters can be switched between at any time to make the most of their abilities and lead into devastating combos against enemies. The gunplay itself is still a traditional third person over the shoulder like Saints Row, but with a bigger focus on special abilities, such as grenades, drones and outright awe inspiring explosions.
The location is Seoul in South Korea, and it’s the most beautiful open world Volition has given us yet. It’s a joy to explore, and while the super-powers of 4 are gone, the game world is still easy to explore with the ability to call your vehicle with the press of a button, and the absolutely delightful triple jump making roof-top exploring the best way to get around.
Everything about the mechanics and the movement is beautifully smooth. Making up perfectly crafted teams is a joy, the weapons and special abilities flow into great combos, but the writing is where the game begins to fall short. While Saints Row games haven’t classically had the most sophisticated writing, I can still say I fondly recall most of my experiences because it was crude, but in a delightful kind of way.
The story has no real meat to it, being a sort of stock standard ‘save the world, fight the super-villains’ Saturday morning cartoon. Which is appropriate, given a lot of the cutscenes are animated. But it doesn’t make progression as rewarding as it could be. The character writing is a little stronger, with each character being unique not just in abilities but personalities, having diverse backgrounds from all over the world and their own reasons for joining M.A.Y.H.E.M. Whether it’s just for money, fame or to actually save the world, this can be discovered through personal missions each character has. Though while the writing is pretty solid in a few of these, the voice acting can leave a bit to be desired here and there.
In the end, Agents of Mayhem isn’t Saints Row. Don’t go in expecting that. It is a pretty good experience on its own, probably one worth having if only to perhaps give us a glimpse into where the Saints Row universe might be going next (at least, gameplay-wise and hopefully not story-wise).
It’s fun. It’s chaotic. It’s like a sort of Saints Row leaving the office for the day and letting the interns take charge. Fun, cool new ideas, but still not as good or with as much substance.