No announcement yet.

Article: Final Review: Agents of Mayhem (PC)

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Article: Final Review: Agents of Mayhem (PC)

    Final thoughts and final score
    It has been a few days now since I put up the initial "review in progress" for Agents of Mayhem. Chances are, you can just read that below these words as I do not plan to edit or alter that content in any way. Has my opinion on the game changed in that time? Slightly. Did the full public release of the game do anything to change some of the egregious shortcomings I encountered? This question is the one that I'm not sure I have a definitive answer to.

    My numerous complaints about the game ranged from the poor experience with a mashup of menus, to underwhelming attempts at humor, to things like broken quests, to the lifeless city, to the identical feeling Legion lairs and everything in between. These problems are indicative of a much larger issue and are not necessarily something that can be readily fixed in the short span of time between a review copy and the final public release. In fact, many of those complaints could really only be addressed by creating an entirely new game. It may be important to note that my review copy turned retail release updated with two separate downloads on launch day. What these were for, I have no idea. I can only assume that at least one of them was for any last minute changes, while the other may have been some downloadable content that I was unable to access during the review period (ex: the Johnny Gat content).

    Why then did I say my opinion of the game has slightly changed if none of the highlighted issues were actually addressed? Well, I was able to spend some time with the game without the pressures of an approaching deadline or having to write up a comprehensive review. With that weight off my shoulders, I did find I was enjoying the core gameplay to a greater degree. Granted, it's still a very repetitive game at heart but the combat and ability to combo moves between characters is still quite enjoyable. The Saturday morning cartoon presentation was still quite good. The diversity of characters, including their designs and personalities are all still great. Obviously things like that weren't going to change.

    There is no doubt about it, Agents of Mayhem does become more enjoyable as you unlock a greater number of Agents. The combos you can form feel more and more unique as you swap in new faces. Don't get me wrong, I still feel as though this is a fundamentally weak game, especially when compared to Volition's own offerings. However, the little bit of extra time I had with the game managed to squeeze just enough to go from a high two out of five to a three out of five on our scoring system. I wondered why this was and I believe it's because Agents of Mayhem is a game that is best enjoyed in smaller, bite-sized chunks and not one that should be powered through in just a couple of days. With this more leisurely approach I was able to play until I felt content.

    Even with that bump in score for the final review update, I strongly urge interested parties in waiting for a sale. I also hope that Volition takes a look back at what fans enjoyed from this game and from their previous titles to understand what they may need to work on for their next open world experience. I am also strongly against trying to tie this world in to the Saints Row universe. I genuinely feel as though these winks, nods, and outright direct plot ties to Saints Row did this game a grave disservice. When people think of Volition, they tend to think about the fun times they had with the Saints Row franchise (yes, some probably do think about Red Faction, I get it). When you poke and prod with these winks and nods, you start to give the consumer a certain expectation of what your product is. Agents of Mayhem is a drastically different beast than Saints Row and all of that poking is only serving to constantly make the consumer aware that this isn't necessarily the game that they expected, nor wanted, it to be. For Agents of Mayhem to ever get off the ground and come into its own, it really needs to sever those ties.

    Final Score

    Review in Progress (August 15, 2017)
    Agents of Mayhem is the latest from Deep Silver Volition. Volition, as you may recall, is the studio behind the much loved Saints Row franchise. Naturally, the comparisons to Saints Row are going to be out there in force with Agents of Mayhem reviews. While I try to keep such comparisons to other franchises to a minimum, it almost feels like an impossible task with this particular title. The cross-over is quite real with characters, location nods, and more from Saints Row. And given that Agents of Mayhem can be seen as a direct spin-off of the Saints Row franchise, I would say that many of these comparisons are fair. With that said, Agents of Mayhem is no Saints Row. It lacks the much of charm of the later Saints Row releases, Gat Out of Hell notwithstanding. It lacks the humor and charm of the latest Saints Row games. And frankly, it just isn't as good as its closest comparison.

    Agents of Mayhem comes across as a competent but highly flawed gameplay experience. It has an identity crisis, the likes of which I haven't seen in a game in quite some time. The writing feels all over the place, unable to settle on if it wants to be taken seriously or if it wants to be humorous. Though sadly, even some of those attempts at humor fell flat. The user interface often left me scratching my head in confusion, even after hours of game time. Fortunately, the "Saturday Morning Cartoon" presentation works well, making each mission or Agent unlock feel like its own compartmentalized story. The Agents themselves are diverse in every way imaginable, allowing each to have their unique personalities shine through during random "one off" conversations both inside of missions and when freely roaming around the small city of Seoul, Korea. One little touch that really stood out to me here is that the responses given in conversations will depend on which Agent you are currently playing as. Sadly, the overall writing feels like a major weak point in this game. One liners here and there are great and all but the overall tone of the game is a roller coaster that never rises above mediocrity.

    The action in Agents of Mayhem is great, albeit repetitive. The means of creating combos of debuffs and abilities as you switch between your three selected Agents brings a fresh spin on the genre that is typically limited to playing as just one protagonist at a time. Beyond that, you are free to mix and match your trio to your personal play style thanks to a rather hearty selection of Agents that you can unlock both from main story missions and optional side-missions. Each of these characters makes use of their own weapons, special moves, and "ultimate" Mayhem ability. Every character has a triple jump. Some characters have the ability to utilize a short dash in any cardinal direction, while others ditch the dash in favor of a short period of invisibility. The Mayhem abilities can almost be viewed as the Ultimate moves in Overwatch. They are powerful but they do not guarantee a kill (or more) against tougher foes. The game compliments this focus on action nicely by allowing you to choose up to 16 different difficulty levels every time you leave the Ark. As you level Agency members up, you can raise the difficulty in order to keep the challenge at a level you enjoy with the bonus of earning more money and rewards on harder difficulties. You can also step back the difficulty if you have newly acquired agents that need to get their feet wet for the first time against some baddies.

    Speaking of foes, the game includes a fairly wide variety of L.E.G.I.O.N. to square off against. When out in free roam, the Legion are nothing really more than dudes with guns and are fairly easy to take out. Progressing through the story will unlock more challenging foes to contend with that are introduced through brief character title cards. Some of the enemies utilize armor or shields, which can be negated by using Agents that specialize in countering those specific types. So while you are free to play with whomever you want, you may still find it beneficial to have a mix of characters that can counter the enemies you may run into. This is less important when simply out roaming around the world taking on most side-quests.

    This does beg the question: Why is this a single player only game? The entire premise is centered around a group of three Agents taking on a number of missions. You would think that maybe the game could have at least three-player co-op, right? Well, yes and no. Yes in the sense that most main story missions allow you to freely swap between characters at any time. And no because there are some missions, namely the ones where you are introduced to a new Agent, that are strictly limited to that single character. Given how much co-op was such a huge part of the enjoyment of the previous Saints Row titles, it is more than a bit disheartening to see that functionality completely removed. The only "multiplayer" you will encounter with Agents of Mayhem is through the game's Contract system. Contracts are best described as "Weeklies" and those who play any MMO will probably know what I mean by that. Some contracts task you with killing set numbers of specific enemy types. Others may have you earning a set amount of money. In the pre-release there weren't too many variations on this formula, so it could change in the final release. Once a contract is decided on (you can do more than one at a time), you can either start it solo, you can start it and allow others to join if they also have that same contract, or you can simply join someone else's contract that they have already started. Completion of said contract will provide you with rewards, typically money, after they are completed. Contracts feel like a way to appease those who want multiplayer, but without actually providing any sort of multiplayer in the game. Frankly, I don't really see the appeal in this system, especially for a game that already rewards you quite handsomely simply for completing missions or side-quests.

    The user interface in this game is a bit of a mess. Crafting addition special consumable abilities, called Gremlin Tech, can be purchased only from an NPC aboard the Ark. The Ark being the main Mayhem hub that you are free to teleport to at any time. Once purchased, you cannot equip the Gremlin Tech from that menu, despite every single one of them being listed there. Instead, you have to open up a different menu ("TAB" on PC), selecting your inventory, then selecting the Gremlin Tech option from three available options listed there, and then you can equip it. Then there's Legion tech. You can unlock certain Legion tech for use by earning it through mission rewards. These character specific enhancements can then be crafted at the same NPC where you craft the Gremlin Tech. Oh, but then in order to actually equip it, you need to go to another person on the Ark that handles all Agent upkeep.

    Why is none of this just contained to one menu? Why do I need to jump through all of these hoops just to unlock and equip these abilities? That isn't even everything. Character level upgrades can be accessed by hitting TAB, selecting your squad, selecting the character, selecting upgrades, and then dumping their earned levels into one of four unique traits. Characters also have three "Core Upgrades" that further enhance their abilities, which is in a separate option on each character's page. They each have their own active, passive, and weapon abilities that can be changed in yet another section on the character page. If you want to upgrade characters that aren't currently in your trio, you can either head to the Ark and do it at the NPC I mentioned previously, or swap your squad around and do it once you travel back to main world. Cars can be unlocked by finding parts in chests scattered around the city or through mission rewards. You can only have one car out at a time and it can only be selected from a specific NPC on the Ark. The NPC that handles Gremlin and Legion upgrades also handles Agency upgrades. These upgrades are unlocked by money after hitting specified level requirements. They provide passive benefits such as being able to pick up loot automatically from a larger radius around the character.

    Another example of an Agency upgrade benefit is being able to send out three Agents on Assassin's Creed Brotherhood style "Global Conflict" missions. You start at being able to just send out one agent to various non-Seoul regions around the world. After a few minutes, the Agent returns and you either get new contracts, a bit of loot, or you are given an option to take over a Legion Lair. Taking over a Lair really doesn't do much outside of making you feel like you're doing something for these world events. The mildly frustrating thing about this system is that the Agents you send out don't level up from their trip. It's literally just there as a way for you to get more money or more contracts to undertake. Even more frustrating at the lack of Agent progress is the fact that if there is an Agent you want to send out but they're currently in your squad, you need to first go to the separate squad selection menu, change your squad, and then back up to the previous menu. God help you if you accidentally hit "Deploy" on the squad menu, because it will just drop you back in Seoul instead of taking you back to the screen that lets you select the Agents to send out on the world missions. Why couldn't they have just auto-removed the Agents from the squad Have I mentioned yet how the UI is kind of bad?

    When you want to do a main mission, or really any mission, you are given the option of picking what you want to have your GPS focus on before you drop into the world. You can also do this while on the ground as well, you aren't forced to return to the Ark except in some cases. So, you drop from the Ark into Seoul. Around you are some generic cars playing generic music (no licensed tracks this time around) with generic citizens doing generic things. You summon your selected Agent car with the press of a button and you make a flashy entrance into it since you were standing inside of a special indicator. It doesn't actually do anything for you, but it looks cool every so often even if the car still comes to a near complete stop after you get in every time. Now what?

    Now, you have to drive to the mission start icon out in the world. You get there, you get some brief story and more often than not, you need to go somewhere completely different to actually start the mission. After a few times of this, I really started to wonder why they bothered to put the mission markers so far away from where the missions actually took place. Was it for story purposes? No, not that I could see. If there was any spoken dialog, there really wasn't any point because most of the dialog was long finished before I ever got to the indicated point. It just really did not make sense and it really started to bug me the further in I got with the game. Couldn't you just, you know, place the mission start markers near where the missions actually start? If there is a silver lining here, it's the fact that getting around Seoul is actually quite easy. The horizontal area of the city is actually quite small, made up for with a decent amount of verticality both above ground and below. One of the first cars they provide to you is a speedy sports car that has a turbo boost. If you would rather go on foot, the triple jump and dash abilities of your Agents makes that a viable option.

    Outside of main missions and character missions, there are a small handful of optional side-quests to undertake. These include finding Core Shards. Finding 10 of them will reward you with a new Core that you can use to upgrade a character ability. These are fairly easy to find, especially since they all emit this tone that you will become quite familiar with the longer you play the game. More often than not, you can snag a ton of these shards simply by hopping from roof to roof, especially in the early parts of the game. You can take down Legion patrols, which are typically only a group of three non-threatening soldiers that walk around the city streets. There is almost no threat with these encounters so long as you leave the area before your alert level gets to be too high and tougher enemies are called in.

    Other optional tasks include ramming Legion vehicles off of the road. While I found that the damage you do with your car to Legion vehicles to be lacking, they seem to be taken out quite quickly if you give them a moderately powerful nudge into a stationary object. If they don't explode outright, you can at least get out of your vehicle to shoot them since their AI is too stupid to back up and free themselves. Sometimes you will find civilians strapped to bombs that you must rescue. Slap a bubble shield on them, blow up the bomb and watch as they literally bounce around the world. Seeing them bounce and sometimes go flying off into the distance really never gets old. Maybe you can go take down a "Hate Machine" that serves only to turn civilians into rage filled enemies that kind of just… slowly run at you without posing any real threat. Oh, you can take out these giant fracking machines that pop up a bit later on in the story. These are perhaps my favorite of the random tasks because they mix some brief hacking with a decent number of enemies. They also keep you on your toes because these fracking machines are causing damaging areas to pop up under your feet on a regular basis. Plus, once you shut down these machines, you're treated to a fairly spectacular sight of seeing them crumble back to earth in pieces.

    You can take over one of four Legion controlled outposts. Though all you really need to do is destroy a bunch of Legion tech, do a quick hacking mini-game and voila, the Outpost is yours. Weirdly, all of that Legion tech is usually just explosive red objects like missiles, or red crates, or cameras, or nondescript machinery. Hacking is fairly straight forward, usually takes just a few seconds each time, and will reward you with a small bit of experience points the better you are. Honestly, as far as hacking mini-games are concerned, this is probably one of the better ones out there. Sure, a ton of Legion are constantly coming at you during these Outposts sequences, but if you focus on completing the objectives, they aren't too bad. The city also allows you to unlock special hideouts for Gremlin. Again, each of these is simply a matter of find the location they want you to, go place maybe five or so beacons on rooftops around the area, and you're done. Four vending machines will provide you with some passive income. Activate them, fight a few waves of enemies, and it's yours.

    Now, the problem I have with all of this is the fact that I had to redo a lot of it roughly half way into the game. At a certain point, the game goes "oh by the way, these Outposts can be re-taken by Legion, go take them back." What? Excuse me? This is easily the biggest issue I have and one that I absolutely loathe when it happens in any game. At this point, I had already taken over three of the four Outposts. I had taken two Gremlin hideouts. I had taken three vendors in order to make that cash money. It was all undone because of some weak plot device that came out of nowhere. I immediately recaptured the Outposts that were taken from me and as I'm heading towards the fourth Outpost, I noticed something. One of the Outposts that I have now taken twice already was again taken by Legion right before I began to take the fourth Outpost. I then went took it back for a third time along with one of the money making vendors. By the way, this particular vendor mission glitched out on me every time I did it. What is supposed to happen is that you need to stay near the vending machine while defending it from waves of enemies. After some enemies are dealt with, an armored enemy shows up as a "final boss" of sorts. Take him out and the vendor is yours. This particular mission had no waves of enemies spawn in. I literally stood still for about a minute waiting for the timer to tick over and the armored foe to show up. He does, I kill him, and the vendor is mine. Again, this happened all three times I did this mission. I honestly just stopped looking to see if I still controlled all of the outposts after a bit. I really just kind of stopped caring.

    Other "interesting" story decisions includes the fact that while new enemy types are introduced as part of main missions, they can still be found while out free roaming. This creates this weird situation where you could already have encountered enemies like snipers or heavily armored grunts long before they're given a "proper" introduction as part of the story. Nothing takes away some of the magic of being introduced to a new foe more than having already encountered them multiple times before.

    The PC specific features of the game are plentiful. There are in-game graphical settings for pretty much everything you could want. It also includes Nvidia Ansel support, which allows you to take some gnarly screenshots at insane resolutions. In fact, many of the screens you've seen here are resized from 5760x3240 resolution shots that I took using Ansel. All graphical options have been cranked up with the exception of motion blur and screen shake, which I have disabled because I hate them in almost every game. The game ran "fine" on my machine (specs at the bottom) but would sometimes dip down into the sub-60 range. It should be important to keep in mind that most of the performance dips came while using boost in an already speedy sports car with literally every graphical option turned up to their max setting. There is also a matter of visual pop-in. Far too often I saw civilians and vehicles appear and disappear right before my eyes. This even happened when just driving around normally without using boost. On a positive note, I'd like to also give a nod to the game's animated cutscenes. Though not PC specific, I really liked the style used in these scenes and felt they deserved a little recognition here. They did a great job at introducing characters, both good and bad, and pushing the story along in some cases.

    At its worst, Agents of Mayhem is an extremely watered down Crackdown and at its best it's a moderately watered down Saints Row experience. Thankfully, the combat is great fun as is the ability to swap between three characters on the fly. I give high marks for the sheer number of diverse characters that you can choose to play as. I love the fact that they are all unique in terms of their personalities, their weapons, their style, their attitudes, their dialogue, and their abilities. Though many of the missions feel very samey, at least the boss fights are damn good fun. However, these positives just aren't enough to make up for the rest of the game's shortcomings. The UI may forever be a mess. Elements of the story and progression (or "regression" in one instance) are severely lacking, mainly thanks to the inconsistent writing quality and lack of cohesive tone. The sameness cookie-cutter style of underground Legion lairs does the game absolutely no favors either. With so many better alternatives out there, some of them even made by Volition themselves already, there just isn't much of a reason to choose Agents of Mayhem.

    With all of this said, I am leaving this as a review in progress as of the embargo date and time of August 15 at 3:01AM (ET). The review is largely unedited, may be incoherent, and is certainly still up in the air as far as the final score is concerned and this is for a couple of reasons. First, I want to see if there is a last minute patch to address some of the issues I encountered in the game. I do not expect them to do a last second overhaul to the entire UI, but a patch to address some glitches may happen. Secondly, an Nvidia Ready Driver came out on August 14 for Agents of Mayhem. I would like to see if this has any impact on the game be it when it comes to performance or visual fidelity. As of this writing, the game is a being given a two out of five. If I see any change with the game once it's released on Steam proper, I may adjust this score prior to finalizing this review.

    Additional Information
    Agents of Mayhem (Developed by Volition, Published by Deep Silver)
    Starting at $59.99 (USD) for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One (Reviewed on PC)
    Reviewed on Intel i7-6700K, 32GB DDR4-2666 memory, GTX 1080 Ti (1080p resolution with 120 framerate cap)
    Rated M for Mature for Blood, drug reference, sexual themes, violence, strong language
    This game was provided to Total Gaming Network for review purposes.

    Additional Assets