If you went around asking gamers about Volition, you’ll find out that they’re primarily known for two things: the Saints Row series and the special brand of humor that grew alongside it. It’s been a whopping six years since the company worked on a game outside of the Saints Row series, but they still haven’t broken away from it with Agents of Mayhem. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Agents of Mayhem is still technically part of the Saints Row franchise, despite its looks. The true ending of Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell resulted in the world being remade from scratch, resulting in the world of Agents of Mayhem. You’ll find plenty of references to Stillwater’s infamous ne’er-do-wells scattered throughout the game, and again: this isn’t a bad thing. These are presented in a way that won’t confuse newcomers, but fans will be able to appreciate them for sure.
While Agents of Mayhem does know its roots, it also does still have a personality and design of its own. It ditches the character customization that the Saints focused on, instead putting you in control of a team of three elite agents with unique weapons and abilities. This is possibly the strongest part of Agents of Mayhem. Each of these characters has a story behind them and is packed with personality.
The game’s personality also shows just how Volition has managed to mature – in most cases. It’s a far cry from both Saints Row 3 and 4 being dominated by mostly juvenile humor. While the game remains light-hearted in tone, it also manages to keep that tone balanced. A single piece of dirty humor here and there is funnier than twenty of them in a row, basically.
Finding the right balance for your team of agents is an interesting part of the game. You can have three agents in a single squad, and each agent has a variety of upgrades and gadgets that can be applied. While there are some permanent upgrades for every agent, there are three different classes of gadgets. Only one item can be equipped in each class, meaning you can have some wildly different character builds at the different points in the game.
The next step after assembling your team is simple: dropping into the streets of Seoul and taking part in missions you’ll find across the game’s open world. While I didn’t find the world particularly interesting to explore and spent most of my time playing the story missions, the presentation is stunning. Volition’s vision of a futuristic Seoul is a beautiful one for sure, and the game’s magnificent art style helps with that. It’s almost a shame that you’ll spend most of your time wrecking it.
Or not, as the real shame is the performance drop you’ll likely see when that wrecking begins. We’re reviewing the Xbox One version of the game, which features regular drops below 30FPS in the open world and intense battles. To be fair, you’ll spend way more time at 30FPS than below it, but you’ll still see lengthy segments drop to what seems to be around 25.
The gameplay is mostly what you would expect: it’s a third person open world action-adventure game made by a company with some very distinct and memorable third person open world action-adventure games under their belt.
The previously mentioned agents and their different abilities do a good job of setting some of the combat apart, but maneuverability is also interesting. Every agent has a triple jump available, and some agents also have a dash they can pull off as well. Other agents have different abilities in its place (such as climbing to the top of a building when the triple jump isn’t enough) and some of these can be helpful in combat, like instant cloaking.
Each agent also has their own unique mayhem ability, which is a super move that is only usable after filling the mayhem meter. Each agent has their own separate mayhem meter, meaning you could potentially unleash three of these abilities in a row.
Despite all the abilities at each agent’s disposal, having a vehicle is still the best method of transport in Agents of Mayhem. Not just any vehicle, however: your own vehicle. There’s no point in hijacking most vehicles, since calling in your own provides you with the best possible vehicle instantly. Civilian cars and trucks are too sluggish to be useful, and you can call your car at any time by pushing up on the D-Pad.
The different missions are generally pretty good. You’ll find standard story missions, but some of the more interesting missions are the ones that introduce you to new playable characters. These require you to play as that lone character for the entire mission, letting you figure out all of their different abilities and weaknesses.
The game’s story is simple at its core, but excellent presentation and fun, likeable characters help it to rise above the average. Most of the story is told through animated cutscenes, helping Agents of Mayhem to achieve the mature Saturday morning cartoon vibe it’s aiming for. None of this is shoved in your face constantly, however – it plays it straight and does it well.
It’s also worth noting that each playable agent will comment on events in their own way. The active agent will be the one speaking, and you can swap through members of your team during a conversation to hear their takes. It’s a nice touch.
Finally, there’s a variety of unlockable items throughout the game. These range from vehicles to skins to a showdown in Moscow – and everything in-between. Completionists will certainly have their hands full with the game.
Everyone else will have an enjoyable game that both tries and succeeds at being just different enough to keep what made Saints Row 4 fun while also being its own thing. It is brought down by some performance issues, but they’re still manageable at their worst and could potentially be fixed in a patch later on. Agents of Mayhem is worth your time.