Agents of Mayhem
Agents of Mayhem may just be Volition’s Jazz Odyssey. Hope you like the new direction.
While still keeping one foot planted in the Saints Row universe, Agents of Mayhem is Volition’s bold attempt to create something a bit different. Whether or not you think it succeeds depends on how deeply you’re willing to immerse yourself in a colorful, yet almost sleepy, city, taking out waves of enemies with the intelligence of Afghan Hounds, in an action game where the shooting is serviceable, but not outstanding. The backdrop in Agents Of Mayhem is a futuristic Seoul where the game’s villain, Dr Babylon, rules over an organization called Legion. His aim? World domination—bwahahaha, and indeed, ha. Working from Mayhem’s Ark high in the sky, controlled by the all-knowing Persephone Brimstone and her assistant, Friday, your job is to stop him.
You’re launched into AOM’s tutorial with Fortune, Hollywood, and Hardtack, three of 12 agents you can play as over the course of the game—the remaining nine are unlocked as you progress. The campaign follows a set pattern, with Dr Babylon’s lieutenants being introduced in turn, each character’s story being fleshed out with a handful of missions. Dr B’s roster of underbosses include not only misguided brainboxes from the realm of applied science, but also a Justin Bieber-alike, and a girl group from the saccharine world of K-pop.
Unfortunately, a few hours into AOM, it hits you that Seoul has a seemingly infinite number of underground lairs, and that you will have to spend an awful lot of time in them in order to unlock every agent. But despite having to clear the same lair every time, I was as much consumed by these missions that revealed the personality, weaponry, skills, and unique animations of each new agent as I was with the main campaign. Even some of the agents’ backstory missions eclipse the less-interesting boss episodes.
Squad experimentation is the cornerstone upon which Agents of Mayhem has been built, and while you can choose any three unlocked agents for a mission, you’re never fighting side by side with them. Rather, you morph between the three by using the mouse scroll wheel. This is useful to help an agent recover when they’re low on health. Should an agent die, you can fight on with two or even one, but if all three perish, its time to start again.
Ten of Mayhem’s agents are equipped with guns, while the spiritual Rama has an energy bow and the ninja Scheherazade wields a katana. I spent most of my time with the latter teamed with Fortune and Braddock. Guns are balanced so that, for example, Oni’s silenced pistol deals similar damage to Daisy’s minigun, so bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. Skill upgrades, character buffs, and gadgets come at you swiftly as you progress, while character movement is smooth, each agent having a triple jump ability to help them platform and dodge attacks while in combat.
Seoul has a seemingly infinite number of underground lairs
The Seoul in which you’re battling Legion is a city of massive modern edifices, expansive open plazas, and ancient temples surrounded by vibrant pink cherry blossom trees. With laneways and cut-throughs abound, it’s ideal for massive-scale battles—however, apart from hearing what sounds like the occasional looping of ‘Korean Crowd Panic’ from the BBC sound effects library, it feels populated rather than ‘lived in’.
AOM’s appeal lies in the variation of characters and while its campaign chugs along amiably enough, there’s also plenty to do in Seoul outside of the story missions. Its systems are generous, and with—I kid you not— 15 levels of difficulty, it can be as intense an experience as you care to make it. It is noisy, brash and, despite some carps, fun, but personally I feel as if I’ve just watched 20 hours straight of Nickelodeon while listening to a random cuss generator. I’m off to lie down in a darkened room for a while.