At first glance, Agents Of Mayhem might be mistaken for another Saints Row video game because of notable references such as various shades of purple applied to the theme, a futuristic representation of the fleur-de-lis logo and the character model design. And, if you have played the last Saints Row instalment Gat Out Of Hell, one of the choices you make at the end leads to the set-up of this universe.
You play as different personalities of the agents of M.A.Y.H.E.M (Multinational Agency Hunting Evil Masterminds), who are recruited to combat an insidious commander of an organisation known as L.E.G.I.O.N (the League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations).
The cutscenes are presented like a season of Saturday-morning cartoon shows from the 1990s. They introduce each agent and their motivation for joining M.A.Y.H.E.M. For example, a bow-wielding operative agrees to come on board in exchange for a cure to the plague terrorising her people. And a brilliant engineer wants to use her inventions to protect helpless people after her parents barely escaped from a raid to their home.
From a mobile headquarters hovering above a futuristic depiction of Seoul, you start off with a squad of three operatives. When deployed, these agents will skydive down and embark on various missions. As you recruit more agents, you will be able to switch them around within a roster of 12 to determine the best synergy of skillsets and your preferred play-style.
Each agent has a standard set of skills, comprising a decent amount of special abilities, costume skins, weapons, passive skills and so on. Skill points are earned from levelling up to level 40.
Obtaining other enhancements requires a keen eye in spotting crates and shards conspicuously placed all over the city.
Saints Row was initially dismissed as a clone to the Grand Theft Auto series. But it has managed to carve out its own identity by its third title, through over-the-top customisation options. This feature is restricted here because the game wants you to focus on the 12 agents.
PRICE: $79.90 (PS4, the version tested; Xbox One, Windows)
GENRE: Third-person-shooter action adventure
Regardless, their encounters and banter during story missions add humour and identity to their personalities. Kudos to the developers for their attention to detail, and the voice work invested in each character. There are also some cool easter eggs waiting to be discovered. I hope to unlock all of their character outfits which have many tongue-in- cheek references to pop culture such as comic book icons, divine figures, movies and video games.
As you amass enough resources, upgrading the mobile headquarters will net more rewards and options. I find the ability to send other agents out for specific reconnaissance tasks all over the globe especially useful and productive.
The setback of this universe is the sparseness in variety of the missions. While there is a lot of fun in endless shooting with unlimited ammunition, the same scope of activities - shooting, jumping, driving and hacking - starts to feel dull after a while.
And, without a multiplayer or cooperative mode, you are doing all the superhero work alone and there's no acknowledgement from a buddy to spur you on.
It feels like you are in an open world environment within a single- player campaign.
Nevertheless, Agents Of Mayhem is a decent blueprint to start from and I hope this is a precursor to a bigger follow-up to the Saints Row legacy.
•Verdict: Agents Of Mayhem is an enjoyable game that makes you wonder what will be announced next in the Saints Row series.