Agents of Mayhem by developer Volition looked like an over-the-top purple-hued homage to GI Joe set in the Saint’s Row universe. International organization M.A.Y.H.E.M. is out to stop the evil organization of supervillains known as L.E.G.I.O.N in a futuristic Seoul. While sounding awesome on paper, Agents of Mayhem fails to deliver anything other than a mish-mash of ideas that never really shines in any single capacity.
While not a main series Saint’s Row game, Agents of Mayhem shares the Saint’s Row universe and takes place after Saint’s Row: Gat out of Hell. Earth has been restored after its destruction earlier in the series and L.E.G.I.O.N’s presence in Seoul, South Korea is being challenged by the agents of Multinational Agency Hunting Evil Masterminds – M.A.Y.H.E.M. The normal type of humor found in Saints Row games is present in Agents of Mayhem, but most of it fails due to bad delivery or just plain cringe-factor. The plot itself is reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons of the late 80’s and early 90’s, and Agents of Mayhem plays this up by having pretty cool hand-drawn art in their cutscenes. There are references galore in Agents of Mayhem, both to popular culture and previous Volition developed titles, but none of the Saturday morning appeal helps to bring Agents of Mayhem above a level of mediocrity.
With 3 agents available at the start, Agents of Mayhem eventually allows you to unlock 12 different agents, all with their own stats, skills, abilities, special abilities, weapons, etc. You can take 3 agents with you, but you can only control one at a time by hot-swapping between them. Different agents are able to withstand more damage than others, do more damage, or have other specialties such as armor piercing abilities or superior hacking abilities that are needed to overcome specific obstacles or defeat certain enemies. Often, agents must be swapped constantly through battle to deal with ever-changing threats. Unfortunately, the vast majority of gameplay is: go somewhere, kill stuff and hack computers – that’s it. If the combat was fun or the hacking consisted of more than pressing a single button, it would be enough to redeem it. But Agents of Mayhem’s combat has no weight to it. At higher difficulty it can be a challenge, but hardly fun. Agents can move fast, triple-jump, and climb onto ledges.
There’s an open world, but it feels mostly dead. You can drive and steal cars, but it never feels worth it. The city of Seoul is beautiful and has an awesome future aesthetic, but most of it feels so lifeless and worthless, existing only to have scenery from one mission to the other. The open world isn’t very large, so travelling often doesn’t take long. When I finally decided to unlock all of the warp points I was able get to all of them in less than 10 minutes. The agents’ home base is not part of the open world, but a separate staging area where you can manage agents, craft gear, change skins, etc.
Agents of Mayhem wants to be so many things, but it fails to be anything great. It doesn’t do anything different or better than any other game of its type. It has RPG elements, squad management, and even dialogue boxes celebrating double and multi-kills – something rarely seen outside of multiplayer player vs. player games. As much of a missed opportunity as it was for Agents of Mayhem to not have any sort of multiplayer, it tries to invoke the same feel. Unfortunately, most of it feels like an MMO grind without the payoff. With so many currencies, skills, and other details to micromanage, it all just ends up being a jumbled mishmash, like that ugly brown that comes when you mixed all of the watercolors together as a kid. It seemed like a great idea, but it wasn’t – neither is Agents of Mayhem.
There is a bit of fun for those who love open world games, but the lack of polish and amount of bugs makes Agents of Mayhem truly abysmal. Often I found game breaking bugs and other annoyances that made it a chore to play. Sometimes my agent would get stuck in a car, requiring me to restart not just the mission, but the entire game, sometimes losing 40 minutes or more of gameplay time in the process. Agents float on edges of buildings, unable to land or grab onto them, and pedestrians would randomly be walking on top of signs or other places they couldn’t possible get to. These issues were so consistent throughout my playthrough I can’t recommend the game for that alone.
Agents of Mayhem had such potential, but it’s squandered trying to be too many things. Poor and sometimes badly delivered dialogue, weightless combat, and mindless hacking would be bad enough but on top of that there is a mishmash of half-baked ideas that complicate a game that should be all about purple lasers vs red lasers. It’s too bad, as now I really want an open world GI Joe game. Agents of Mayhem is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows.