Agents of Mayhem may not be a true Saints Row title, but the game certainly has the attention of the usual Saints fans. The new title from Volition and Deep Silver definitely has its own cartoon-inspired aesthetic, but very many lives in the bizarre world established in the later Saints Row titles. The game isn’t without its flaws, but it does manage to stand out from the existing franchise and create a brand new cast of characters with original mechanics to explore and master.
In Agents of Mayhem, players find themselves controlling a small squad of Agents who, despite their vulgarity and bad habits, are the world’s best hope against villains and mad scientists. Most missions allow players to hop in with a rotation of three agents (though they only play one at a time) who run, gun, and drive their way through hordes of enemies and a never ending lineup of explosions.
The ability to rotate between Agents is one of the game’s most interesting and fun features. Each mission has multiple components, some of which might be better suited for a tank or a high DPS character, while others might want a stealthy soldier or a jack of all trades. Entering each mission with a good variety of Agents and understanding when to swap them out is a challenge that remained engaging throughout the full campaign.
Players have the ability to revive downed Agents if they find certain special items, but a lot of the time letting an Agent’s health drop down to zero means completing the bulk of the mission without them. This adds a layer of tension and difficulty that forces players to use strategy and plan out attacks, rather than run in guns blazing.
The game starts off with only three Agents available, but players can quickly unlock the rest of the roster by successfully completing each Agent’s corresponding mission. The diversity of the Agents, in terms of both personality and abilities, is part of what makes Agents of Mayhem a game that is so easy to get lost in for hours on end. In addition to a unique set of weapons or abilities, each Agent also has their own level progression that players need to work through to power-up the character. Most players will likely find a handful of Agents that they stick with, but leveling up and outfitting every Agent will offer hours of entertainment for completionists.
The game’s leveling up and crafting systems are incredibly deep and make the end of every mission as exciting as opening a loot crate. Players are constantly racking up XP and picking up items from bad guys, so the first few minutes after each quest are usually spent exploring new gadgets, spending ability points, and deciding what to craft or buy next. This RPG aspect to the game provides an excellent carrot on a stick to keep players motivated to both complete as many missions as possible and to never leave a treasure chest behind.
Gamers who are used to twitchy, fast shooters will likely have a bit of a rough transition into the world of Mayhem. The aiming is slow and not very precise and will be a major adjustment for players coming over from the usual action-adventure sandboxes. Embracing the auto-aim functionality makes this a little less painful, but it still felt awkward for the first four or five hours until we adjusted to the game’s style of movement and combat.
Vehicles, on the other hand, felt pretty responsive and were very convenient for traveling around the big map. Obviously, this isn’t Forza or anything, but the car missions were entertaining and provided a welcome palette cleanser between gun-heavy missions. Unlocking the long list of extra vehicles was also another fun goal to chase.
Another way that Agents of Mayhem falls behind the other big budget sandbox adventure games is in terms of world-building. The game’s characters and items are over the top and very entertaining, but the setting itself, Seoul, tends to feel a little generic. This may be partially caused by the frequent load screens that are encountered while rushing from mission to mission with frequent visits to the main hub in between. For whatever reason, the world of Agents never feels quite as realized or polished as those of Watch Dogs 2, GTA 5, or any of the recent Assassin’s Creed games.
Despite these flaws, Agents of Mayhem truly does offer a unique and fresh spin on the Saints Row world. By distancing itself from the main franchise’s core characters and conflicts, the game is able to embrace its own aesthetic and create a new world that is just as weird and addicting as the original.