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Agents of Mayhem PlayStation 4 Review

As a kid, I used to wake up Saturday mornings to watch cartoons like Transformers, Thunder Cats, He Man and a whole range of others. It’s interesting, because while I didn’t ever see anything directly like Agents of Mayhem as per se, it really struck that nostalgic chord of what a Saturday morning cartoon was. Well, if it were littered with F-bombs and sexual innuendo that is. Agents of Mayhem comes to us from Volition and published by Deep Silver, the people behind the SAINTS ROW series, while you may think this is an all new series, you’d be wrong. This is directly linked to Saints Row, existing in their world. Spinning off from one of the endings of GAT OUT OF HELL, an expansion to Saints Row 4, AOM sees you controlling multiple agents of the agency MAYHEM  (Multinational Agency Hunting Evil Masterminds) as you take on LEGION, (the League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations). There’s a real 80’s feel to this, especially in the character designs, straight out of GI Joe, each bad guy and girl has a ‘theme’ to them, each bad guy and girl has a specific way of attacking they don’t deviate from and each one sticks to this theme religiously and somewhat stupidly. It’s quite fantastic in its execution, often to its detriment, in how it sticks to its 80s sentiments honestly.

Gameplay:

With three heroes initially unlocked and twelve in total to attain, Agents has a fair bit of variety to play with. Each character is distinct to some degree, and there’s a hell of a lot of diversity going on in the ranks, with a lot of nationalities represented, a lot of cultures and beliefs. However, they do come across feeling a little one dimensional, with their dialogue quality coming into question. With this many characters, the amount of dialogue that had to be written obviously stretched the writers, who had to account for all the characters potentially being chosen at any given time, resulting in a lot of the lines feeling ‘incidental’. While they’re executed in often excellent manners, the actual jokes themselves are quite often sub-par or miss the mark entirely. This is where Saints Row elevates itself, as while it was no Monty Python classic, it had writing that stood out, especially part 3. The clear hook of Agents of MAYHEM is “ITS AN 80S CARTOON, BUT WE DROP F BOMBS GALORE!” and while this is fun, it does eventually wear off. This leaves you with the gameplay, which, while I took a while getting here to this point, you must understand is both a problem and a curse for the game.

Let’s understand why: Agents of Mayhem has NO true multiplayer. “But I don’t want to play multiplayer!” you say. I don’t mean adversarial, competitive multiplayer. Oh no, I mean cooperative multiplayer. This is a game that CLEARLY would have benefited from a two player option, honestly it would have. The Saints Row series benefited greatly from this, in fact my friend Norm and I spent countless hours messing around in Saints Row 3, creating different characters just to run around Steel port, messing with the locals, it was fantastic. MAYHEM would have benefited here immensely, just with cooperative alone. With the absolute threadbare plot, the missions structured like episodes of a cartoon, the rather short campaign and ultimately the underwhelming conclusion, Agents of Mayhem IS a fun game, it’s a fun game at times, but it’s a single player game that in the end, feels like it’s missing something. It’s missing multiplayer and that’s no small thing in this case.

One of the best aspects I liked in Saints Row was the carnage, the fun, the carnage and the hell you could bring to the gangs. When you find LEGION encampments, when you want to take over their little outposts, it’s truly great fun. Zyndaks outposts in part 4, or Gang hideouts in 3, they’re back in Agents of Mayhem and then some. In fact, I guess that’s both a strength and weakness of Agents of Mayhem, it takes elements of Saints Row that have pretty much all existed before and constructs an innovative approach to attack them with. Leveling up each agent is fun, giving them, new abilities opens new ways to approach each new scenario, new weapons, new abilities, new effects, it gives you new options, to a degree. But ultimately, to some degree the maps been done, the outposts have been done, the side mission approach, it’s been done. Hell, the threadbare story modes been done. But it all works together to some degree. Many have described this as ‘Overwatch meets Saints Row’ because of this, because of the threadbare story, the single function characters, the style of combat that this promotes, and they wouldn’t be wrong.

Controls:

The controls are simple, they’re designed to be a basic pick up, put down third person shooter essentially. There’s nothing here that isn’t intuitive. Your characters all have one basic weapon, one powered up move and one super move. This leads you to utilising rather simplified controls, with no need for a weapon wheel, no need for arbitrary buttons to select extra things and results in a streamlined experience. What impressed me the most, was the response time with the characters. Heavy characters felt suitingly heavy, nimble players felt exceedingly nimble (especially as they leveled up (more on that later), this was important, as the reaction timing in the controls conveyed this). However, when you start, I do endorse the idea of turning your X/Y axis sensitivity on the right stick up to around 80 percent. If you don’t, quite frankly targeting sucks. When you do turn it up, targeting becomes a pleasure, with the character spinning easily, targeting becomes a much more pleasing affair and you watch the enemy fall to the floor in front of you as you devastate them one by one.

Now, the negatives. Volition, you’ve made such a fun game. But for Christ sake, IT NEEDS A COVER SYSTEM. You may say it doesn’t, after all Saints Row didn’t, but when you play this you will understand, MAYHEM is NOT Saints Row. At all. This is a game screaming for a cover system. Wave after wave of enemies come, and it would have been nice to hide behind a wall. No blind fire option is needed, they could have left that out, but a cover system is sorely missed here. The inability to hug a wall while engaged in gun fights, instead running out into the open to stupidly pop off shots feels incredibly anti-climactic in a sense to your more fragile characters, especially those who aren’t likely to want to engage upfront. This isn’t a small issue, but it’s not an overly large one, it’s just something to note. It won’t break the game but you will miss this option honestly.

Graphics:

Agents, like its forebearer, Saints Row, plays out in a stylised world. No one’s going for realism here. In fact Agents has a somewhat cell shaded approach allowing a more cartoon appearance than Saints ever went for. What I do like, is the attention to detail on the characters. The smug, asshole like look to “Hollywood”, the white male bro character straight from Los Angeles, the big tough African American sailor, Hardtack, who can’t help but shout out naval lines every so often. Fortune, the pirate like Spaniard, and her kickass, dual pistol wielding nature. There’s far more characters though, with a special appearance by one Saints Row favourite alumni, Johnny Gat, now transported to this world with fresh memories of being basically this worlds version of Lethal Weapons “Martin Riggs”. Gats slight redesign works, the older look, the badass cop design, the cell shaded graphics look fantastic on him (You can’t tell I’m a Gat fan, can you?). The world around them is decent too, however instead of being in a rundown Steel port or Stillwater, AOM opts for the real-life location of Seoul. However, this is a Seoul of the future, with upgraded buildings, futuristic cars, neon signs everywhere, a utopian futuristic Seoul, everything still looks slightly removed from reality. The textures are quite nice though with primary colours popping everywhere in a visual orgy of colour, the neon colours, the deep blacks, the bright purples, whites and reds blowing off the screen, the lens flares, the explosions, everything becoming a sumptuous experience for your optics. It’s not the most intricately designed game visually, but it knows its theme, it plays to its strengths of being a well-designed cartoon and in this sense, the visuals are beautifully done, I really like this design and I hope we get sequels that expand upon them further.

Sound:

The audio is stunning. It really is. The music is fantastic in how it replicates the old cartoons, jumping from catchy theme song to energetic combat music quickly and the voice acting is *just on point*. From the maniacal insanity of LEGION to the overly cocky, confident tones of the Agents who make up MAYHEM, to the ominous tones of the suspicious leader of MAYHEM herself, Persephone, a former villainess it’s all so great to listen to. I particularly loved the banter of the trio you take on missions, with them whining, bitching and laughing about who is currently on the ground (you switch between characters as you progress, with someone teleporting in, then the others ‘waiting’ back on your Homebase, the “Ark”) or giving you commentary on your progression, or general banter on the mission itself. Sometimes, such as when you’re in a mission for new agents you’re acquiring, the dialogue will be mission specific moving the rather threadbare storyline (more on that soon) forward. However, all up, the voice acting is goddamn A+. If you love your hockey, cheesy Saturday morning cartoons, you’re going to eat this up with large ladles in a big way.

Value/Conclusion:

At the end of the day, AGENTS OF MAYHEM presents decent value. If you loved the Saints Row series, you’ve already made your mind up, chances are. You’ll pick this up. You’ll like it, I don’t know about love it, but you’ll enjoy it. It feels familiar, it’s fun. If you’re new, it has a nostalgic feel of the 80s to sweep you away in, it’s fun enough to keep you entertained, but it’s about as deep as some kids wading pool with combat that echoes that same sentiment. There’s enough to do in terms of side missions, map activities, new agents and whatnot to keep you entertained a while and Volition are adamant new content will be forthcoming for the game. So, if you can pick this up at a discounted rate, do it. Full price? If you’re a fan, go for it. If you’re not, well, it’s a tough call. I don’t think you’ll regret it, but this is a difficult call to say, ‘dive into this franchise at this point’. It’s good, but it’s possibly not AS good as it could have been, especially without coop multiplayer. Overall, Agents of MAYHEM is a well-constructed game, with decent combat, outstanding voice acting, great graphics and its heart is in the right place. It stumbles and falters in a few places, but blow me down if it isn’t fun when you go off task and decide, like with all free roaming games, to make your own chaos away from the threadbare campaign.

Pro’s:

  • Character variety
  • Voice acting
  • Cell shaded graphic style
  • Audio is fantastic

Cons:

  • Gameplay feels a bit samey after a while
  • No cover system for characters that need it
  • No true multiplayer yet/at all

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