November 15, 2019 at 1:49 AM #1234
Agents of Mayhem
Rating: 3.5 – Good
A thoroughly fun game that’s not without its flaws.
As a long time Saints Row fan, I followed Agents of Mayhem with caution. As a spin off from the Saints (for those wondering, it comes from one possible ending of the Gat Out of Hell dlc from Saints Row 4), how could I not? The original studio, Volition, is behind it and it’s what I was getting instead of Saints Row 5. Is it a worthy alternative? No. But there’s a solid foundation for the next Saints game.
Agents of Mayhem is set in a futuristic Seoul and stars a roster of 12+ agents with differing stats, skills and personalities. I say 12+ because the actual number available will depend on what dlc you were lucky to get when you bought your game. Being a spin off of Saints Row where God reboots the same universe (seriously, go play through Gat Out of Hell if you don’t believe me), the game doesn’t have to adhere to any preset story or past events. In doing so, it reimagines certain characters like Johnny Gat and Pierce Washington as alternate reality versions of themselves, complete with their original voice actors. Each character plays somewhat uniquely from one another, which happens to be one of this games greatest strengths. If you start getting bored with one set of Agents, you can swap in another as you see fit. I was constantly surprised each time I’d settle into a trio I liked, only to unlock a new agent and HAVE to start using them because they were so fun.Thankfully, leveling up rookies is not hard thanks to a multitude of varying difficulty levels and tons of activities to do.
I’ve mentioned "trio" and "set" a lot because you get to field a team of 3 agents at a time. At nearly any given moment, you can swap between them, so it pays to build a balanced team with varying strengths and weaknesses. For example, some agents can pierce shields, some can hack terminals better than some, and others still can handle combat situations differently than others. There are your obvious "meat shields" with high health and strong close range combat skills, some long range "glass cannons" that deal high damage but can drop quickly if overwhelmed, and others that can best be described as "casters". These are characters that rely on their special powers more so than other agents (Pierce is a great example) and can often be leveled as such. The leveling system consists of typical xp and skill points, but also gadgets that can be unlocked (think powers) and a set of "core abilities" that define each agent. These skills are unlocked by finding crystals scattered across the city, much like orbs in Crackdown or Saints Row 4 and they’re just as addictive to get here as they were in those games. I loved leveling up and coming up with new builds for my agents as I kept earning xp and gadgets. The game is designed to keep rewarding you no matter what you’re doing, so that’s great.
On the technical front, the graphics are a great example of modern day cel shading. Seoul is beautiful to look at and the various characters, both playable and npc, look distinct without that weird cartoonist artstyle brought about in Saints Row the Third. Yes, they can look comic book-like here, but it FITS. The various tunes tend to get lost in the background of explosions, gunfire and the humorous script so they didn’t feel noteworthy to me. Volition regulars fill out the cast, so Saints fans like myself will be in for a treat. The frame rate, for the most part, stays pretty consistent, with only occasional drops when things get too chaotic (and get chaotic they will), but it’s hardly noticeable. Controls are spot on. Everything just FEELS so tight and precise, from the gunplay to combat to the driving and platforming. Volition should be commended for this and I hope they use it as a base for any future games, especially Saints Row 5.
Ok, so far so good, right? So why not a higher score than what I’m giving it? Well, that’s the thing. While the game looks and plays amazingly, it all ends up being pretty shallow. The story, being a comedy at heart, means there’s no real weight to wanting to beat the bad guys. Seoul may look great but it doesn’t feel ALIVE like Saints Row 1 and 2 or pretty much any Rockstar game. The various citizens end up feeling, ironically, like simulations from Saints Row 4. I never got over that disconnect I felt, like Seoul is simply a playground and not this living, breathing character like Stilwater or Los Santos. And while this may sound good on paper, all activities seem to be active even during story missions. This led to many annoying situations, especially during races I kept failing because I’d run into a roaming target the game wanted me to take out that would then attack me. The most glaring flaw are the Legion Lairs. These are basically dungeons that you often have to infiltrate that look the same and just devolve into the same endless shooting galleries over and over. Toward mid game I began to loathe doing them. During one characters’ recruitment mission, you have to do FOUR of them back to back. If some 10 years or so ago we were giving Mass Effect grief for this, then a modern day game shouldn’t be exempt, either. And this may be more an issue with the Xbox one than with the game itself, but I am not a fan of the autosave only system that then requires you to quit to dashboard to exit. Again, that happens in other Xbox games like Sunset Overdrive, so maybe it’s not fair to blame Volition. And one thing that didn’t bug me as much as other players was that this is strictly a single player game, despite being perfect for co op.
Agents of Mayhem is a good game but it’s not a great one. There’s plenty to love, especially if you’re a fan of Saints Row. I love the gameplay, I love the character building and unlockables and I love the overall graphical settings and controls but I grew bored of the story and repetitive Lair runs. Definitely give this a look but just remember the above and also don’t forget the fact that this is only for one player.
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