As Agents of Mayhem begins, you’re treated to a Saturday morning kids’ cartoon starring the titular Agents and leap straight into a tutorial to confront the evil Doctor Babylon. And then the swearing starts. This juxtaposition is immediate and jarring, and remains so throughout the duration of the game.
The tutorial introduces you to three heroes; Hollywood, Hardtack, and Fortune. The differences are obvious, Hollywood is the generic ‘action-guy’ – literally – from starring in many actions films, he is obsessed with his looks and explosions. Hardtack is a tank with a shotgun and an attitude, and Fortune is the quippy slender female, agile and deadly.
The introductory area is clinical, barren and purple. It serves the purpose – you’re learning the controls after all, but it won’t be a massive surprise to anyone who hasn’t played a shooter before. Set in the third person, you’re blasting bad guys with copious amounts of snap lock-on over the shoulder and have at your disposal a type of grenade, a melee attack and an ultimate. Yes, the ‘ultimate’ as is popular in every MOBA ever and Overwatch (and coming soon, every first and third person shooter ever) sneaks in here. Get the full amount of required currency and you can unleash hell in an over-the-top fashion. Hollywood, with his obsession with action movies basically enables ‘Michael Bay mode’ with music, flashing lights and lots, lots, lots of explosions.
The tutorial also introduces the major USP in Agents of Mayhem; Hero switching. For every mission you can take three heroes into battle, and using the left/right d-pad, switch at any point. Injured heroes will heal up, and you can mix your strategy on the fly. This again has more of a bearing semblance to Overwatch and may well be how Overwatch would work if it had a single player campaign.
Overwatch however probably wouldn’t be quite so dull. The blandness of the tutorial sadly seeps through to the remainder of the game. Very quickly you realise there isn’t a lot else here – which is a shame as the mechanics are sound and the introduction is actually quite fun. Set in Seoul, streets are fairly empty and missions range from chasing a marker and blowing things up to more of the same. I quickly found myself scrabbling for more to do, but aside from explosions and swearing, there really isn’t. It’s frustrating as to actually play Agents of Mayhem is enjoyable. It feels a lot like Crackdown one – the jumps aren’t as high but the locking on and shooting and the (moderately) high jumping bears a familiarity to it. Crackdown also had an open-world/empty-world issue.
I’d also expect a bit more interaction between characters. Agents of Mayhem is set in the Saint’s Row world. I’m not sure why – this basically means everything is purple and Johnny Gat is in it. Maybe it’s a license for bad language and crude jokes, but without some dude-bro banter and maybe a bit more story this would have been a lot more engaging. It is, of course a single player (only) game.
I wonder how much more time may have been needed to really add some depth to Agents of Mayhem. The roster of characters is surprisingly big actually, and means that the combinations you can deploy are certainly varied. In essence you are pretty much just changing games in some ways as there are no need for Overwatch style healing or shields. Nonetheless, there is a lot of variety and coupled with this the ability to change outfits and gun skins adds a layer of customisation. Having to spend money in microtransactions for some of these costumes however, especially since it’s an offline game only seems harsh given it’s only ever you that has to look at it (and given you’ve already paid for the game!). Despite some old stereotypes it’s a shame that the personality of these characters doesn’t get more spotlight.
Going back to the mechanics, the swapping of the characters is very smooth and never breaks the flow of action. The vast upgrade screens and options do dent this slightly, as it’s not always the most obvious to understand the RPG elements at play but they do the job well enough. Special mention has to go to the ‘car-jacking’ animation which has your Agent basically teleporting through the windshield.
Ultimately, you come back to the same problem. Agents of Mayhem just isn’t varied enough where it comes to keep you playing. Missions and side-missions are all painfully similar and the grind sets in very quickly. The lure of more cartoons isn’t quite enough, and the story not really engaging to see what happens (it’s fairly obvious). The lack of co-op in a game like this is a painful omission as well as it feels like the whole thing is designed for hearty back-slapping and laughing at the expense of the baddie you’ve just blown up and issues a scathing put down at.
Reviewed on PS4