- Review Price: £TBC
- Release Date: 2017
- Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
- Genre: Open-world action
- Developer: Volition
Available on PS4, Xbox One and PC August 18
As a big Saints Row fan, I’ve been particularly intrigued by Agents of Mayhem. A new IP set within the Saints universe – although developer Volition has been at pains to note it’s definitely not another title in that popular series. After playing, I’ve come to the conclusion that it feels an awful lot like its spiritual predecessor. While I really like the core gameplay mechanics, an uninteresting world and performance issues severely hampered the experience.
The opening two minutes sees the game’s premise excellently presented: a nicely animated opening cut-scene establishes the two rival factions, as well as introducing the funny and eclectic gang of playable characters. Up first is Hollywood, a cocky-yet-humourous jock with a penchant for big explosions; very much like Johnny Gat, sunglasses and all. He’s joined by Hardtrack and Fortune, and taking advantage of the trio presents Agents’ best mechanic.
Throughout the game you’ll be able to switch between three agents – you’ll recruit more in bespoke missions – on the fly, with each possessing their own play style and special abilities. Hollywood is the all-rounder, Hardtrack the up-close shotgunner, and Fortune the agile pistol-wielder. Each controls in a very different way and requires the adoption of various approaches when dealing with enemies. It reminds me of The Club, the underrated arcade shooter of the previous console generation. Wrapped in a gorgeous aesthetic that looks like the spiritual successor to Perfect Dark Zero, Agents of Mayhem makes a brilliant first impression.
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Gameplay-wise, the similarities to Saints Row keep coming. Characters move around at a slow pace, but the gorgeous visuals and motion blur make it work. Shooting is satisfying, thanks to overwhelming strength against most baddies; difficulty comes through enemy volume, rather than isolated foes. However, the slower aiming and movement can at times feel sluggish, particularly when combat becomes heated and requires a little more finesse, causing frustration as a result of inaccuracy.
But much like Saints, Agents never takes itself too seriously. Instead, it focuses on the fun, highlighted by the Agents’ Mayhem abilities.
Mayhem abilities are the equivalent of super-moves that can then be triggered to unleash devastation in spectacular fashion. Hollywood’s Blockbuster allows him to live out his movie fantasy with constant explosions kicking off everywhere. It looks brilliant and creates a level of chaos that’s great to watch. It’s here where Agents of Mayhem shines. Unfortunately, performance issues cast a huge shadow, and great moments are often spoiled.
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In this build, the frame rate very rarely ran steady. The greater the action on-screen, the worse it became. This severely hindered the experience, and made the controls – which already felt a little sluggish due to the slow aiming and character movement – feel awful at times.
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Also an issue are the environments. While Agents of Mayhem is pretty decent graphically, aesthetically it can be bland and uninteresting. The first location is Seoul, South Korea, and the neo-futuristic look means that much of the locations feel a little same-y. Whitewashed buildings are used all too frequently to offset for some of the more interesting architecture. I hope that the other locations in the game have more going on, and that there are more interesting ways to explore these environments.
But outside of these two main concerns, Agents does plenty to retain my interest. Having the capability to upgrade and change perks, as well as Agent abilities on the ARK (the hub base), is great – enabling the spend of power cores, which can be collected throughout the world. It feels very Crackdown, and gives greater reason to climb towers and look into all the nooks and crannies. As someone with an obsessive need to find everything, I can already envision myself grabbing these.
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Although I played only a few missions in my limited hours with the game, what had me most excited was the missions in which new Agents are unlocked. It felt like collecting Pokemon, with these characters added to the roster as soon as the mission was completed. Plus, all the character missions appeared to be available from the get-go.
The first, Rama, is a bow-wielding hunter from Mumbai. In most cases, I hate bows in videogames, but Agents’ generous auto-aim meant I felt like a true badass with Rama at the helm. It also added variety to the game, as each character genuinely offers something unique; I hope this continues with the entire roster.
While the world of Agents of Mayhem didn’t excite me, the core shooting and running around was enjoyable enough to keep me playing. Plus, the prospect of unlocking new agents from the very start really relieved that itch of earning “new stuff”.
However, the performance issues are a real sticking point. It’s a shame, because I really want to love Agents – but when its greatest strengths are held back by a huge flaw, it’s difficult not to become incredibly frustrated.
I was told a patch will be arriving around launch day, but it will need to drastically address the frame rate in order to allow this game to shine to its full potential.