|Platforms||PC, PS4 (reviewed), XBO|
|Release Date||August 15, 2017|
Review code provided
Agents of Mayhem is an open-world action RPG that puts players in control of the titular MAYHEM – an organisation of good guys whose sole purpose is to stop the villainous LEGION, a collection of bad guys who control the cities of the world following a global attack. The game takes place in an open-world, futuristic version of Seoul, where you and your diverse cast of agents will take on Doctor Babylon and his gallery of rogues.
If you’re thinking that all sounds like the plot of a Saturday morning cartoon, then you’d be correct. Agents of Mayhem is heavily styled after cartoons such as G.I. Joe, albeit with more foul-mouthed, mature-rated content than the family friendly shows it’s drawn inspiration from. There’s entertainment to be found in its absurd, over-the-top presentation and its likeable cast of Super Agents.
There are twelve agents in total, each with their own distinct play styles, weapons, abilities and personalities. There’s a lot of variety to these characters and their one-liners, characterisations and interactions are easily the best part of the game. Agents of Mayhem is a game that wants to be primarily driven by its humour, clearly, and it’s these characters that got almost all of the laughs from me.
The trouble is that the game that stars these characters feels almost redundant. Agents of Mayhem is as generic an open-world game as they come. All of its mechanics and activities feel like they exist simply to fulfil some sort of criteria for releasing an open world game. After a brief introductory mission that sets the tone and narrative of the game, you’re dropped into Seoul and can open a map littered with icons that point you towards the many side activities you can partake in.
You drive your agency vehicle around Seoul bumping into as many of these icons as you can stomach to engage in a bunch of different activities. There are all manner of different side missions to partake in, from clearing out bases of LEGION troops to racing, personal storylines for your agents to undertake, a bunch of LEGION things that need to be blown up and many more things you’ve already done in the countless open-world games you’ve already played before.
Completing these side activities feeds into the game’s upgrade and crafting mechanics (because of course there are extensive crafting mechanics). The Ark, which is an Avengers-like Helicarrier that acts as MAYHEM’s home base, comes equipped with all manner of different departments that allow you to craft things for your agents, which are mostly cosmetic items or upgrades that can buff or improve their abilities, or upgrade the agency itself.
Upgrading your characters lets you equip them with gear that can change or buff their abilities. You also gain skill points to spend that let you…buff their abilities. While levelling your characters is important to keep in step with the exponentially more powerful enemies you’ll face it never really feels necessary. Changing your agents’ gear or levelling them up so their abilities charge up a few percent faster never actually feels like it makes an impact on the gameplay at all.
It’s the agents themselves that are the single bright point of the game. Agents of Mayhem’s twelve playable characters are distinct from one another. They all play very differently, each with a variety of attacks and abilities that will suit different players. It’s easy to start playing favourites based on play style and character preference (Daisy, the foul-mouted, hard partying roller derby champ is my favourite and I love her).
When you’re in the thick of it, blasting away at waves of enemies and switching between your three preferred characters on the fly, Agents of Mayhem is actually an entertaining game. It’s biggest secret is that the combat is quite fun. But for some reason Volition have tried to bury this under layer after layer of tedium, as if they didn’t actually want anyone to find out that there’s a pretty good game hidden beneath a ton of generic content.
But in the end, even the combat becomes a grind thanks to the amount of repetition on offer in the game. Pretty much everything you do revolves around fighting waves of the same enemies in locations that all look remarkably similar. After an hour or two everything begins to bleed together. The city of Seoul is bland and the many locations you visit are all constructed from the same few assets stuck on an infinitely repeating loop.
Grind is most certainly the keyword in Agents of Mayhem. But there doesn’t really feel like there’s an end goal. You do things so that you can do other things, which are actually the same things you were just doing. A few hours in I was left contemplating the futility of continuing the game, save for the fact that I was down to review it. It’s a game with a decent combat system and some awesome characters that does everything it possibly can to get in its own way.
It can be summed up by describing how every single mission starts. You drive to an objective marker and interact with a spinning logo to get the mission started. You’re then treat to a brief conversation where another character explains that the mission is actually 600 metres back the way you came and you have to go over there to actually start the mission. Once there you need to interact with a thing that then points you another 300 metres somewhere else where the mission actually takes place.
It’s a perfect metaphor for the game itself – there are several steps between you and fun that could easily be cut. Even the humour suffers from repetition – the joke about shooting Hammersmith’s glowing balls was funny the first time, annoying the thirtieth. With just a little bit more variety and a lot less repetition, Agents of Mayhem could have been an entertaining game. It’s not a bad game, nor is it a particularly good one. There were pockets of fun in the game, for sure, but this is a mostly forgettable experience.
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