Video games: ‘Agents of Mayhem’ is fun, but sloppy and sometimes boring

Video games: ‘Agents of Mayhem’ is fun, but sloppy and sometimes boring

Deep Silver Volition has established its reputation with the “Saints Row” series. The open-world game stood out from its rivals by dialing up the absurdity to 11. It became a series in which a street gang rose to celebrity status and grew so powerful that it took the White House and led the free world against an alien invasion.

It was a refreshing take on the genre, but even “Saints Row” needs a break after two great efforts. With “Agents of Mayhem,” the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Volition describes the new game as a version of “G.I. Joe” made for adults and featuring new characters, a new locale and a new concept.

It takes place in a world where LEGION (the League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations) imperils civilization after a surprise attack called Devil’s Night. With its superior technology, LEGION successfully cripples the world’s nations and steals their nuclear weapons.

To combat this evil, the global community turns to MAYHEM (the Multinational Agency for Hunting Evil Masterminds). (Volition loves acronyms.) Headed by former LEGION leader Persephone Brimstone, the organization is funded by the conglomerate Ultor and built for taking down the enemy.

Stocked with a roster of multicultural heroes, MAYHEM is the G.I. Joe side of the equation, while LEGION takes on the Cobra role. It is led by Doctor Babylon and run by a series of villains who are less memorable. The organization’s ministry of pride has set up shop in Seoul, South Korea, and it’s up to players to stop them.

Unlike “Saints Row,” in which players control a single-hero, “Agents of Mayhem” lets players control a three-person squad. Players switch among them using the left and right buttons on the direction pad. The key to success is coming up with successful combination of heroes to complete a mission.

That’s where the strength of “Agents of Mayhem” lies. The game gives the player a cadre of heroes, and  each can be customized to fulfill a specific role. Yeti and Hardtack are dedicated tanks who can soak up damage and give time for allies to heal up during an assault. Braddock and Oni are great at eliminating foes one by one. Kingpin and Hollywood are great all-around fighters who can clear hordes of LEGION henchmen.

What gives “Agents of Mayhem” balance and depth are the strengths, weaknesses and styles of each hero. Rama can deal plenty of damage as the sniper, but she can’t take much damage and is cumbersome in close-quarters fights. Joule can hold down an area with her sentry drone, but it doesn’t do much good against bosses who move around. Adding more nuance are the options to customize each character according skill trees and to boost their stats with LEGION Tech.

To make up for character shortcomings, players can load them up with Gremlin Tech — disposable weapons that can turn the tide of battle.

All this is a solid foundation. But “Agents of Mayhem” stumbles on mission design. The futuristic city of Seoul feels tiny when compared to its peers, and players spend a lot of time attacking LEGION bases that are too similar to each other. The repetitive nature makes missions, especially the global conflict side quests, a chore. Side quests scattered around the map are busy work. Some triggered events, such as the doomsday machine, get in the way of main missions.

Fortunately, “Agents of Mayhem” tends to have more well-crafted storylines and asks players to do more than kill LEGION thugs or drive vehicles from point A to point B.

Still, the game is sloppy. Players run into bugs, and at times the game will freeze. Though that problem is inherent in open-world games, it’s part of a mixed bag that can leave players frustrated.

‘Agents of Mayhem’

2 ½ stars

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Rating: Mature

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Published at Wed, 16 Aug 2017 23:00:19 +0000