One thing I’ve noticed in the past few years is a concentrated effort on the part of the gaming literati to eliminate everything fun about video games. No, really, hear me out! “First-person shooters are okay, I guess, but what if there was a whole genre of first-person shooters with no guns or combat?” “RPGs are great, but what if someone made an RPG where the game tried to make you feel bad for gaining levels?” “You know open world games? What if we added meters that nag you if you don’t do enough chores on time?” “Games are ART, they don’t need to be fun!” That’s all pretty insidious, right?
The perpetrators of this shadowy scheme especially hate games that don’t take themselves too seriously, since that qualifies as fun; we saw noted fun game Sunset Overdrive take some hits for this a few years ago, for instance, and I think Agents of Mayhem is going to run into the same issues. It’s loud, violent, comedic and at no point does it try to make you cry about something. These are all qualities deemed verboten in 2017, and kudos to developers who are willing to take a chance on a game like this.
The bad guys have already won, as it turns out – on Devil’s Night, the combined forces of LEGION (the League of Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations), an organization comprised of supervillains and their henchmen, successfully managed to take over the world. That’s not the end of things, though, because MAYHEM (the Multinational Agency Hunting Evil Masterminds) is still around and they’re not ready to give up the fight just yet. Standing against LEGION are the Agents of MAYHEM, skilled operatives who work together to throw a wrench into LEGION’s evil schemes, and you’ll take control of squads of Agents as they go on missions to fight the bad guys.
Agents of Mayhem is a spinoff from the Saints Row series of comedic open-world adventures, so you can expect that this game wont’ take itself too seriously. Volition was aiming for a sort of Saturday morning cartoon feel with over-the-top heroes battling bombastic baddies and that’s basically what you’ve got here. There’s little “the more you know” segments during loading screens, characters banter and throw juvenile humor around like it’s going out of style and all in all the atmosphere is light even when the stakes are high and the world’s about to be destroyed.
In terms of gameplay, Agents plays somewhat like the Crackdown series from the Xbox 360: run around, find collectibles, blast baddies and so on. The big twist here is that your Agents act in trios to get the job done, so you’re able to select three characters and switch between them freely when you’re on a mission. Each Agent carries a signature weapon and has unique abilities, so choosing your squad with an eye to covering up your weaknesses and being able to engage foes in many different situation is key. Along with their combat abilities, it’s worth mentioning that the Agents are all memorable characters in their own right; some are even returning icons from the Saints Row games, like Pierce, Oleg and Johnny Gat. It’s a nice touch for franchise fans, even if Agents doesn’t play much like Saints Row at all.
Missions tend to focus on blowing things up, blowing people up, driving around while doing both of these and so on. It’s not a hugely innovative affair outside of using three characters at once, but there’s a fair amount of gameplay depth to mess around with involving synergizing special attacks to achieve the best results. You can collect upgrades for your Agents that provide stat boosts and alter how their abilities work, as well as special generic weapons that all your Agents can use and new vehicles to drive around. It’s a nice, crunchy experience all around, especially since the game never really forces you to do any open-worlding if you’d rather not; if you want a mission, you take a mission and are thrown into the action with minimal fuss. My sole complaint is that some Agents aren’t that enjoyable to play; the first character you’re given is action hero Hollywood, for instance, whose assault rifle lacks the kind of punch you get out of some other characters and who isn’t much fun to use as a result.
Agents of Mayhem’s look and feel is where the game really shines since, as mentioned, it aims for this “forgotten Saturday Morning action cartoon” thing and nails that feel pretty well. The humor is aimed precisely at the lowest common denominator, which, bizarrely, feels less condescending than a game that’s trying too hard to seem “smart.” One boss yells about their balls (antimatter spheres, of course) and how they’re going to destroy the world with them, for instance; if that kind of thing doesn’t get a chuckle out of you, well, there’s plenty of LiveJournal games about crying released on a weekly basis these days that might be more your speed. From a technical standpoint the game works fairly well on PC, though one Nvidia-specific option in particular (enhanced sun rays) caused performance issues on my top-end system and at times I encountered audio glitches.
It doesn’t revolutionize the gaming landscape as we seemingly expect from every game these days, but Agents of Mayhem is a perfectly acceptable run-and gun adventure that’s bound to elicit some laughs. Dodging bullets while you blast away is a good time and it’s nice to see returning favorites from Saints Row back for another run. I’d call this one a guilty pleasure but that would imply I felt guilty at all for enjoying it – give Agents of Mayhem a look.