Agents of Mayhem is Volition's latest addition to the Saints Row universe -- kinda. The game continues from one of the endings of Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell in which the Third Street Saints are erased from existence. This open-world third-person action game definitely shows it's Saints Row pedigree, but can it match up to previous titles?
In this world that never was never influenced by the Saints, LEGION, a shadowy organization bent on controlling the world, has conquered many of the Earth's Nations. However, Seoul, South Korea Still stands and is the home of our protagonists: MAYHEM.
MAYHEM, in their attempts to thwart LEGION, dispatch agents into the field to disrupt its nefarious operations. At the beginning of the game, you'll start with access to 3 agents, but this lineup will eventually expand to 12. Each agent has their own weaponry and abilities, and you control 3 of your choosing when on missions. You can only use one of them at a time, and each of them has a separate health and armor bar. You can basically think of each agent as one "life." You can switch your agents out to recover, and one or two of them can even die while you play on as the third one. But, if all three die, it's game over.
When in Doubt, Add Cultural References
Agents of Mayhem isn't subtle with its main thematic gimmick. It's very much tapping into the spirit of 1980s pop culture. Both MAYHEM and LEGION are over-the-top organizations that immediately channel G.I. Joe versus COBRA. As you play through the game, you'll notice small references to shows like Knight Rider, The A-Team, and others.
The game also tries to channel Saints Row. However, you'll find that compared to Volition's previous titles the crude humor has been dialed down a notch. The bad thing with all this channeling and references to other works is that Agents of Mayhem never completely feels unique. It has a big open world that feels empty and unutilized, and the use of the fleur-de-lis and purple color scheme of the Saints makes it feel weird that this isn't just a Saints Row game.
Why Wasn't This Saints Row 5?
We have a total of 12 Heroes including ex-military roller girl Daisy, aspiring actor (and ex-porn star) Hollywood, and professional soccer hooligan Red Card. The unfortunate truth with this game is that while the cast has interesting backstories and designs, they never really develop past your initial meeting with them. The characters in Saints Row weren't exactly the deepest, but the games were so zany that they could get away with it. With Agents of Mayhem pulling back on the wackiness, we are left with a void I felt the entire time I was playing.
This feeling of narrative emptiness wasn't helped by the fact the gameplay is incredibly repetitive. A good chunk of your Agents of Mayhem playthrough will be spent clearing out underground lairs filled with the same copy-pasted, bullet sponge foot soldiers. From time to time you'll get to go through a unique area or fight a new boss, but this game uses a lot of procedural generation.
Saints Row was repetitive at times, but for the most part, the geography was varied, and there were a ton of new weapons to try out, new clothing items to dress up your character in, and whenever it felt like the plot was getting stale some weird new twist would be introduced. In contrast, Agents of Mayhem seems almost like a step back in-game design compared to Saints Row 4.
You're introduced to a game that's obviously meant to be some successor to the series. But instead of the freedom and deep customization, you got with Saints Row you're locked into these 12 characters. This could have been less of an issue if the three characters you select from your team had to work together, and combine their powers in interesting ways. Instead, the only consideration is to pick the three agents you like best since you only have to deal with one of them at a time.
While I do feel like Agents of Mayhem has a bit of a generic streak, I don't believe it's a bad game. The controls are smooth, the graphics are decent, and it's fun to play at least in the short-term. But, I just can't shake the feeling though that it's all a shell waiting for an actual narrative to be injected. Like the characters, the open-world, and the plot are just stand-ins waiting to have Saints Row 5 pasted onto them. As it stands, if you like third-person action games there's plenty of worse ways to spend your time. However, 2017 has already seen some magnificent game releases, and we're going to see even more throughout the rest of the year. Compared to them Agents of Mayhem is just an also-ran.
Brittany Vincent is an Editor at GameRevolution. You can follow her on Twitter @MolotovCupcake.
A PS4 copy of Agents of Mayhem was provided by its publisher. Agents of Mayhem is also available on Xbox One and PC.