Not So Good vs. Evil

Welcome to Seoul, Agent, where you'll assemble a team of 12 (13 if you include the pre-order of Johnny Gat) agents to do battle with the villainous Doctor Babylon and his many troops, agents and Ministers in the organisation known as LEGION. I'm not going to explain the acronym's behind both MAYHEM and LEGION though, a quick google will let you in on that.

This is the bit where I tell you what I think about the game. Ultimately, so you don't have to trawl through the whole thing if you don't want to. It's all about choice, and in Agents of Mayhem you'll have a lot to choose from in terms of how to approach missions, what side things you want to do, and which agents you take into the field - because there's really no dream team of agents unless you're accomplishing a specific thing.

Anyways - AoM is a game I've been having a lot of fun with, and thanks to PR for the code for this. I dig it, I really do. It's a game I'd happily recommend to a friend (and have done) with a sharp combat system and a solid engine to bring Seoul to life. There's some nice traversal in the game, lots of verticality and ways to get up higher and higher, and with no fall damage you're a damn superhero agent. Nice.

What is AoM?

It's a third person shooter action RPG-lite game set in a spin-off of the Saint's Row Universe. Familar faces abound, familiar names of organisations and the premise is what you'd get if you allowed Volition to write Saturday Morning Action Cartoons, only those shown by Adult Swim or some other network that allows gratuitous violence, innuendo and swearing as part of its daily intake.

I must have the right sense of humour for this too, because there were moments where I laughed at the dialogue and banter.

There's even a little bit of light Agency management here and there.

What do you do?

I'm not going to dive too deeply into MAYHEM's story, only that you play agents in the fictional organisation known as MAYHEM, agents that will do what it takes to kick LEGION ass and save the people of Seoul. Agents that have an anime-style intro to many of their cut-scenes which has been beautifully animated in many cases just like the anime and comic style they mimic in the game. The Agency is run by Persephone Brimstone and digging into her office aboard your HQ the Ark will reveal a few things about her, interesting things that I won't spoil.

You assemble a 3 person team, made up of agents you can unlock via missions throughout Seoul (either picked up from the Ark, or from the tap of a button on the Xbox One controller, or if you're already deployed in Seoul you can just find the icon on the map and start the mission that way.

AoM delights in making getting to where you need to go as fun as is human or in-humanly possible.

There's a plethora of missions in Seoul and the LEGION forces will always keep you on your toes, because as much as you take over outposts, trading companies and other locations for your agency, they'll push back and deploy more operations across the city, taking back said outposts and that means you've always got a solid stream of XP, upgrade materials and the like flowing in, you never feel as though to need to capture everything across Seoul to progress. You can play it your way, and do it your way.

Dive into the expansive main story missions and you'll unlock a lot more content on the way, side missions and personal stories for the agents themselves.

Or you can mess about doing the side content like hostage situations, little races, LEGION Lairs, and more.

Whatever you do you'll get money, XP and a bunch of other stuff. Which will help you level those agents and the Agency of Mayhem itself.

There are a lot of gameplay loops in the game so I'll try and break it down.

Agents of Management

As you progress through the game you'll unlock stuff for your agents, this is random and can be picked up from mission rewards, loot chests strewn about in the Lairs, game world, missions and so forth. Sometimes a drop from an enemy commander. You can level your agents up to 20 (and beyond if you use upgrade cores) and with each new level up comes a point you can spend in one of the agents key ability stats, allowing them to do more damage with their main weapon, or accruing a lot more Mayhem for their special ability.

You can switch out gadgets on the fly once you've got some, and these fundamentally alter the way the agents various weapons can act. You get 3 gadget slots to play with, one for a passive, one for the weapon and one for the special ability.

Then there are upgrade cores, found as crystals around Seoul, get 10 and you get a core. Or found in other ways. Use these to add up to 3 additional powers to the agent's abilities. It's all clearly explained and labelled in the various menus too, that's something that AoM is really good at, telling you what the hell things do.

There are other ways you can alter the agents powers and weapons as well, including back at the Ark where you can build LEGION Tech which slots into your gadgets (3 slots can be filled) to give you even more choice how you build your agent. LEGION Tech can be changed at any time too, moved about, so if you switch up a gadget you can take that tech with you.

So in short, you can upgrade your agents RPG-style and choose how you want to build your dream team.

The Ark of Mayhem

Early on you'll unlock the Ark, the HQ of Mayhem's ops in Seoul and through various missions and so forth you'll be able to unlock areas aboard this flying fortress. You'll get access to R&D where you can build new Gremlin Tech (think one-shot special powers that let you turn the tide of battle) and LEGION Tech, the additional powers to add to your gadgets unlocked through missions and LEGION Lairs mostly.

Then you'll gain access to the Armoury, where you can equip new stuff like LEGION Tech for all your agents (not just the 3 you're playing) as well as upgrade them and change stuff.

Quartermile owns the vehicle bay and once you've unlocked the vehicles (through blueprints found in chests and so on) you can change their skins, pick the vehicle you want to take in via the menu.

Requisitions gives you upgrades to the Agency, passive bonuses bought with cash that let you round out Mayhem how you want. You can also get bonus cash per minute if you've taken over a Relic Trade company from LEGION in the city, and access a DLC menu for new stuff later down the line.

Operations hosts the Missions screen, the Agency Status menu, and the Global Conflict screen - think of the Assassin's Creed games with the Brotherhood. In Global Conflict you have a world map and you unlock regions with Region Keys, this lets you investigate the region with off-duty agents. Actually, it's a lot like Dragon Age: Inquisition's War Table too, at the end of a successful investigation you'll get rewards like money and contracts as well as other things, all random.

Contracts are little bonus objectives that deliver rewards too, things like: kill 30 troops with Rama's Mayhem ability over time etc.

There's a few more things on the Ark, but you can find those out yourself. In short, there's lite-base Management and facilities that let you do more with that hard earned cash and resources than just hoard em.

Shoot, Shoot, and Shoot some more.

Agents of Mayhem is delightfully simple in this gameplay loop, with a robust combat system and a good sense of action style it delivers action on tap when things get hot. Push LEGION too far in the open city and you'll call down a wanted system which increases with every LEGION minion you dispatch, with squads that rock in with more and more power until you bring down the big bad to end the alert. It's like Saints Row 4 before it and Gat out of Hell, it works and it's a lot of fun to poke the bear just to see how far you get.

See Agents of Mayhem has a lot of difficulties you can choose from and like Torment levels in Diablo 3 they give you better rewards the higher up that scale you go. You can also play at your own pace, pick the one you like and stick with it as long as you remember that as you level up the game will auto-set the difficulty to the squad's power that you're rocking with.

So you might need to change the difficulty if you're getting wasted out there. You can do this from the deploy menu on the Ark or if you're about to deploy into a mission from the squad menu.

You have a main weapon, which never runs out of ammo, you have a special ability which works off a timer, and you have a Mayhem Ability which is a big ott power that can really pour on the hurt. Every character is different, every power is different and the Mayhem Abilities of some of these characters are downright awesome.

Hollywood, the face of Mayhem for example. He puts on sunglasses, goes all action movie, and gets his own badass theme song playing in the background as his gun powers up and his ammo never runs dry.

Fortune, the sky pirate uses her drone to deliver a devastating array of shocking effects whilst she gets to shoot the bad guys in the face.

Johnny Gat goes all John Woo and gets to play with Gun Kata, locking in position and auto-murdering his foes with every press of that RT.

It's great stuff and totally works.

Drive Time!

Vehicles handle really well in Agents of Mayhem and you can summon in your talking sarcastic AI at any time with a tap of the d-pad. Stay in the area and you'll auto enter your chosen car with a little animation that's unique to that agent. The handling varies between your rides and so far the Torch has been one of the best cars to drive. You can do aerial control with stunts and getting big air is easy, this is basically the best Volition stunt driving simulator ever.

Agents of Dejavu

One thing that'll I say right off the bat with AoM is that it repeats stuff a lot, you'll do the same thing over and over again as you play. But isn't that the nature of every shooter out there, regardless of the mission or the backdrop, you're shooting bad guys and moving from room to room, shooting more bad guys. Even if it's open world like Ghost Recon: Wildlands, or GTA V, you're still shooting bad guys at the end of the day. If it's fun? That's the big question. In AoM yes, yes it is.

You'll repeat a lot of the same tasks in AoM, LEGION Lairs appear over Seoul and when you enter these dungeon-like areas they'll be generated off a set of tiles and entry points, with random chests and secret rooms thrown in behind normal looking doors. They'll give you more loot, more XP and more chances to level those agents.

It reminds me of the end game in Diablo 3 aka Adventure Mode.

I love that mode, so I'm down with this.

If you can handle that kind of repetition I reckon you'll dig Agents of Mayhem.

Agent Roster

13 diverse agents from all across the globe provide a lot of scope for different styles, but each agent has a particular speciality that you're going to need further down the line. Some are Master Programmers, capable of hacking Master Level terminals and security (done through a quick mini-game), some are Shieldbusters, ripping through enemy shields like they were tissue paper. Some are Skinpiercers, doing the same for enemy armour and hard armour.

It's knowing the agents strengths and weaknesses, levelling them up so they hit 10 and access their top agent ability (see previously) and working out who works well with whom that provides a lot of the fun in this game for me.

I love that stuff.

Collecting all the agents and levelling them up is great fun, experimenting with the powers of kick-ass bow-wielding immunologist Rama for example, learning how she works in conjunction with Hardtack (our badass tank style character) or Hollywood (the showboating gun-bunny).

Switcheroo!!!

There's also one thing I haven't mentioned, agent switching, which is done on the fly via the d-pad left or right. Tag an agent in and you have a new player to mess around with, new powers to bring to the fight. Need someone who can rip through shields? Rama will tell you if she's on your squad... it's wise to listen to her or any other agent who recommends you switch if you're having trouble with your other choice.

Later on you can also gain bonuses for when you switch agents in battle, extra boosts and buffs. Also, you can switch out a wounded agent to let them recover. They'll regain health whilst not being directly controlled.

If they do drop before you can switch, fight on, fight hard because there's a chance a Fleur will appear from a downed enemy and you can not only get insta-Mayhem power from that, you'll revive any downed agents!

Saturday Morning Mayhem

Graphically not only is Agents of Mayhem smooth on the Xbox One, but the aesthetic is an action cartoon brought to life, kind of like Crackdown 1 and 2. Only better if I'm being honest. I love the design of Seoul itself and the designs for the agents are great with superb levels of detail on the models as well as visual design of the agents personality in their costumes.

Talking of which, you can get a variety of unlockable skins and weapon skins too, all changeable via the squad menu when you deploy. Want Yeti to look like the Incredible Hulk, you can, as long as you get the skin as a reward from a random chest or bad guy. There's also some DLC named Legal Action Pending which you get for pre-orders on Day 1 (available to buy later) that has Man of Iron (Iron Man) skins for Hollywood and a Galaxy Guardian skin for Fortune, to name but two. Oh hell, Braddock has a Cable Skin? SOLD.

Anyways, it's a great looking game with personality in every single bit of of and even though the LEGION lairs repeat a lot and look the same? That's the idea, it's very in-theme since LEGION's goons are a bunch of carbon-copy bad guys who use modular design in their buildings.

So great graphics, smooth animations.

The Sound of Mayhem

The game's sound design is another spot-on thing, lots of audio cues lead to hidden places, tip you off on enemy Boombot ambushes and more. There's neat ambient sound in Seoul that conveys the city's futuristic design nicely.

Personality in the Voice

Yeah, the voice work in the game is top notch. There's a lot of dialogue, banter between agents as you're exploring Seoul and even the agency has inter-agency banter between the various people there. The agency has relationships going on within it and if you listen in you'll learn some lore stuff as well.

Dubstep BOOM BOOM

The music for the game varies between action-movie cartoon style for actual play, and Volition's favourite dubstep for when you're driving around. It's pitch-perfect stuff when you're in mission and there's a nice nod here and there to some of the more action-driven movies of the past hidden away in much of the soundtrack. I'm also reminded of XCOM when you're deploying from the Ark into mission.

Good stuff.

Recommended Mayhem

It's a great game, I've had some AI pathfinding bugs now and then with the bad guys, but nothing truly game-breaking. So I can happily hit the recommend on this one and hope folks have a good time with the game. For me, since Crackdown 3 has been pushed back yet again, Agents of Mayhem occupies that Crackdown spot in my heart and in many ways exceeds it.

Time to help Persephone Brimstone take down LEGION once and for all, watch out Doctor Babylon, I'm comin' and I'm bringing Rama, Fortune and Hardtack with me.

Roll out!