Video Games Review: Agents of Mayhem (PS4, 2017) revives the Saints Row series with a fresh, flawed twist

Agents of Mayhem is Volition Studios return to the Saints Row universe, with a little twist. Gone are the days of criminal mayhem and gang warfare, in order to make way for a classic tale of heroes and villains. Agents of Mayhem offers a variety of new and engaging ideas, but falls just short of greatness on nearly all fronts.

As previously mentioned, Agents of Mayhem takes place within the Saints Row universe, and from the get go this is made clear from the crisp, colourful and vibrant visuals, over the top characters and an even crazier open world to mess around in. Working for the Multinational Agency for Hunting Evil Masterminds (Mayhem), you take on the League of Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations (Legion) as the evil doctor Babylon hatches a scheme to destroy the world. It’s unoriginal yet hilarious stuff, which is great as the same spirit which made the previous saints row titles so fun and enjoyable is present here. However, that’s all there really is to the story. While it throws a couple twists and turns at you, the story is not necessarily the focus, providing itself as more of a backdrop to the world and its characters.

The open world of Seoul is vibrant and colourful, but after a while I found myself seeing the city as one big blur, as colours and locations do little do differentiate themselves from one another. Transportation within this world is okay, as driving is light yet stiff, but provides some fun arcade thrills. Nothing within this world is meant to be taken seriously, so while it lacks a certain grounded feeling, it’s hard to love when similar looking games such as Crackdown and previous Saints Row titles infused a crazy world with so much variety in location and lasting appeal. Mission structure within this open world is much of the same, it’s just okay. Story missions are fun and varied, while side missions based around specific characters can also be quite interesting, as a few stuck out to me as on par with main story missions. These missions can then unlock new agents and further money and XP, making them more than worth your while. Too add to the variety of mission structures are the legion lairs, which serve as bunkers for Legion as well as the games dungeon-like missions where you must traverse through these lairs to uncover what lies within. While these lairs look and feel the part, they all meld into a blur as the look of these lairs never change. It’s just a shame that the game throws so many things at you that just fall victim to repetition or blandness. The main issue here is, after every single mission is completed, including story and side missions, the game does little to grab your attention elsewhere.

Players can choose from multiple agents, all with varying and interesting personalities and abilities. The catch here is that you can take a team of any three agents into each mission, encouraging a sense of creativity and experimentation which I was admittedly a fan of. As characters are so varied, picking the perfect 3 to fit your play style and switching on the fly can yield some incredibly fun and destructive results. Each agent is upgradeable and customisable, and while the customisation options are quite limited, they’re still fun, drawing inspiration from various pop culture references. Upgrades are a nice touch, equipping characters with different abilities, and upgrading those abilities kept me engaged and motivated almost the entire time I had with it. The agents are definitely the focus of the experience, it’s just a shame that everything else pales in comparison.

The game mechanics tie all these things together in a nice little bow. As previously mentioned, the driving is a little stiff yet functional, but the gunplay is pretty solid. While aiming can feel a little stiff as times, some sensitivity adjustment can help in order to suit what feels best for you. Agent weapons are varied and most importantly feel different. A range of ultimate moves, upgradeable and interchangeable abilities keep things as fresh as you want them to be, with these options being customisable before you enter each mission and during, proving that the game wants you to experiment, and there is almost more to bite off than you can chew. I never got bored of the mechanics per say, but a lack of enemy variety from time to time put a damper on the mechanics as the customisation can only take you so far within a slightly bland and lacking open world.

Performance wise the game ran relatively smooth, and playing on a standard PS4 system, I had little in my way to diminish my opinion of the game. Sure, I had some clipping issues where enemies and NPC’s would walk through and partially into buildings, as well as entering vehicles looking a little awkward, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with the implementation of a patch or two.

Overall, Agents of Mayhem is a fun, bombastic experience that just manages to grab your attention while it lasts, and does nothing to keep you around after the fact. A fun, vibrant and uplifting tone is appreciated, but does little to reinforce the overall mechanics and style when games like Crackdown exist and do a much better job. It’s not to say this game is bad, it’s actually quite good. But after all it tries to entice you with, Agents of Mayhem may be a jack of all trades, but it’s most definitely a master of none.

Score: 7.0 out of 10

Highlights: Hilarious characters, inventive upgrades and functional mechanics.

Lowlights: Bland open world, little end game extras and content.

Developer: Volition

Publisher: Deep Silver

Release Date: Out Now

Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC

Reviewed on Playstation 4.