Agents of Mayhem introduces Mayhem (Multinational AgencY Hunting Evil Masterminds), a group of misfit superheroes who have united to combat LEGION (League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations). It’s sounds super corny but in many ways, that’s why it works. This is an 80s Saturday morning cartoon for grown-ups, full of high octane combat, cheesy lines and lots of bad language. The universe feels suitably fleshed out, partly because it exists in the same space as the Saints Row series (long-term fans of that series will see a lot to like here).
The story, however, is the weakest part of Agents of Mayhem, which is a shame because having a campaign is the main thing that differentiates it from the other hero-based shooters that are out there at the minute. Your job is to battle against Dr Babylon’s evil plan. He’s not really given much of a motivation for being this evil – but then when do super villains ever need a motivation? Babylon has come across a dark matter warhead and wants to use it to destroy reality – he’s that bad. Sadly, the narrative is relatively disjointed and it pretty much feels like you’re being passed from A to B while following objectives that don’t add up to much. It’s a shame because the style and personality of the Agents are strong (more on that later) and it could have been improved just by focusing more on them.
It probably goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway. The most fun thing you can do in Agents of Mayhem is cause some Mayhem. The characters, enemies and environments are all designed to help you get the most fun out of the action. Big guns, explosive abilities and crazy ‘Mayhem’ moves (which need to be charged before they can be used) help you inflict maximum damage on your targets with maximum enjoyment. Explosions seem to be everywhere on this game which of course only adds to the fun.
Damage numbers pop up as you shoot enemies and give you a sense of the scale of destruction you’re causing. The different characters all have different weapons too which allow for different play styles. You have everything from a shotgun and assault rifle to freeze canon and energy bow to really shake things up. It’s impossible to overstate how fun it is to change between three different members of your team at the flick of a button to – even right in the middle of a fight. This is necessary because the different types of enemy you face often require you to change to the character best places to deal with them.
There’s also a fairly complex upgrade system for players to have fun with. Playing with each character levels them up and unlocks gadgets which grant new passive and active abilities. All of these can be upgraded and built upon within the base of Mayhem (the Ark). The characters that support you with these upgrades are almost as interesting as the playable characters. The first time I met the hilariously stereotypical Scot that upgrades weapons I laughed out loud. The upgrade system includes gadgets, upgrades, upgrade cores (made of crystal shards) and legion tech. Basically there’s a lot going on but that’s no bad thing as once you see the affect they have on the already high octane battles you’ll want to learn everything about everything.
As I mentioned, the characters are absolutely the most interesting part of Agents of Mayhem. Every one of them has their own unique style and backstory (not to mention weapons!). For example, everyone starts with the same three characters – the best of which, in my opinion, is Hollywood. He’s a classic handsome douchebag who acts like a super cheesy action hero. His special move is a rocket called the ‘attention seeker’ missile and when he uses his special Mayhem move he throws on some shades and shouts ‘cue the action music’.
Now that’s just one of the more basic characters in the game but he’s an absolute treat. The best part though is the character episodes that allow you to learn more about the heroes. Mostly these are how the heroes are introduced. In Hollywood’s case, his first character mission is pursuing an obsessed fan who has threatened to release his ‘early work’ (code for pornography I think) onto the Internet. These insights into the larger than life characters are what kept me motivated when playing the game and they were always my first choice of mission when available.
Agents of Mayhem is unusual in that it’s not set in the West – it’s set in a near future Seoul, South Korea where the city has become a hub for technological development. Exploring the city (by foot or car) is enormous fun. The characters have all been designed with mobility in mind with all of them receiving a triple jump to allow for amazing verticality. Exploring the city is great and it just oozes an insane amount of style. It’s a great setting and it’s nice to explore another part of the world in a modern video game like this.
It’s not just Seoul that oozes style though. The whole game does but there’s a very special place in my heart for the gorgeous 2D cutscenes that introduce different parts of the game (including the individual character missions). They look perfect. Everything about them screams of the most stylish cartoon you could imagine and it adds so much to the game. The 3D cutscenes are also pretty good but the 2D really hit the nail on the head.
Overall, Agents of Mayhem is a stylish and enjoyable third person shooter but unfortunately, it’s let down by a lacklustre story and repetitive missions.