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Agents of Mayhem Review

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Gameplay:

In a word, mixed. That is my current feeling on the gameplay, but that is partly because I cannot help but compare Agents of Mayhem to the Saints Row franchise. To be clear, nothing is coming to mind right now that I actually disliked, it is more that there are things I wish were done better and that we have seen done better. Before getting to those, the things I do like.

Something unquestionably defining for the game is the multiple agents you can play as, and it is a nice change. Just having a weapon loadout to build up over time, you are not encouraged to try and develop different strategies. As these agents each have their own playstyle based on their weapons and abilities, you get exposed to them when you run their solo missions. Some agents you might think on paper you do not like could become a favorite for you, or one you realize is too good to not have in your party. For example, on paper, you might think Scheherazade, being a melee character, is not that effective in such a gun heavy game, but she is very powerful. Her sword can do a lot of damage and she has a teleport ability that is just fantastic. After I realized how awesome she was I knew I wanted to max her out as quickly as I could. She is a little of a glass cannon, but really only when surrounded or going up against powerful AOE enemies, but hey, that is balance.

These characters are not without depth, too, as skill points can be used to improve their stats or give a benefit to the team, and you can find gadgets and eventually Legion Tech to alter and upgrade their abilities. Seriously, the agents are fun and I do look forward to getting them all up to max level, which is half by leveling and half by spending upgrade cores you find and earn on Super Agent levels. At one point I had some 72 of these, so while you can go through that many quickly, they are not hard to collect, especially if you are not paying attention.

It is not only the agents that can level up, but the Agency can, too. As this happens you gain access to upgrades you can purchase to benefit everyone, like increasing experience gain, reducing upgrade costs, and unlocking two more slots for the Global Conflict missions, which are accessible from the Ark, your base.

The Global Conflict missions are kind of a mini-game where you send unused agents out to do something, and after some amount of time you either reap a reward or get close to one. That one is the Legion Lair that you can find Elite Legion Tech at. Legion Tech is essentially gems that can be slotted into gadgets to convey some kind of benefit and the Elite versions are especially powerful. For example, Johnny Gat's can give him explosive rounds, which both I want for him and I am sure he wants for himself. Global Conflict missions can also give you less rewarding Legion Lairs, as can exploring Seoul, so getting the normal Legion Tech is not that hard. As it appears, the lairs are procedurally generated, my guess is so they will not run out. You will also, as you progress through the game, unlock Gremlin Tech, which are consumables that grant various buffs or do something powerful/silly.

 

 

This does bring me to the first criticism for the gameplay and that is the lack of the smartphone. In Saints Row games, you had access to a smartphone, where you could manage a lot of your gang, like collecting the revenue from different properties, calling up new vehicles, and calling on friends to help you. Somehow in this futuristic world, these do not exist. If you want to collect the revenue you can earn from businesses freed from Legion, you need to return to the Ark or visit one of the stores on the map. If you want to change the kind of vehicle you can summon with a key press, or change its skin, you need to return to the Ark. If you want to change who is on your team, you need to return to the Ark even though visually teammates just beam in and out from nowhere. Equipping gadgets and assigning skill points you can do anywhere, but the lack of the smartphone feels like a step backward. Besides, it is annoying to have to go through the loading screen back to the Ark and the transition of the team dropping down to Seoul each time. This is further compounded by the Global Conflict missions, which have rather short time requirements so to advance through them quickly, either stick in the Ark or bounce back and forth between it and Seoul. This is definitely something I would have wanted to see in a smartphone.

Something else I would like to see, although this could stay on the Ark, is a way to design your own teams because currently, you have to select the three agents you want individually. Let me build a list of the combinations I want, along with the in-game, established trios, so I can pull up what I want more quickly.

Another positive for the game are the difficulty options, because there are a lot. With increased difficulty comes increased experience and money, so there is a benefit for pushing higher, but you do not have to come down too far if you are in over your head. One annoying thing is the game changed this a few times on me without my knowing, so I went from a mission I was having fun with and doing well into one that was really knocking me down. When I looked at the difficulty then, I found it to be higher than I had set it previously, so for some reason the game kicked it up and never warned me.

Another thing I like with the design of the gameplay is that some of the open-world missions, like capturing outposts, can be undone as Legion pushes back, giving you more to do. The thing is Legion pushes back in response to you, so the more you do, the more you lose. I do not find the current balance between action and reaction healthy, as I found myself just running in circles around Seoul, recapturing things that I had recaptured just within the hour. Luckily, it appears the campaign missions do not trigger this push by Legion, so you can freely do those, but at the same time, it is annoying to have to leave some of the city under Legion control just because freeing it will cost more than is gained.

 

 

You do want to capture as much of the open world as you can, by the way, if only because areas under your control will not have the different weapons and obstacles Legion will put in place to interfere with you, and these can be very annoying when you are driving around. One thing I have found helps some, in general, with driving is to just take the fastest car you have got. Cars have three characteristics: agility, strength, and speed. Strength will help you ram and destroy Legion vehicles, which is a kind of mission, but seriously, go with speed and agility. Ramming is only helpful if you can catch up to your target, and when you are just barely faster than it, but not necessarily a better driver, you will wish you had speed over strength. Besides, even the lowest strength vehicle you unlock is still strong enough to take on any of Legion's vehicles.

This leads into two more criticisms about the vehicles. One is that they are all unlocked so you cannot build a collection from the vehicles you find and hijack. I kind of liked being able to build a collection, but I will admit it was annoying to scroll through a long list to find what I wanted in other games. The other, more significant criticism is that none of the vehicles are truly offensive. I want a tank! If I need to go out there and destroy enemy vehicles, give me something with a cannon. I would also be happy with a better system of getting your car. Currently, when you call it, its AI has it drive up quickly and stop in an identified spot, and if you are in that spot when it arrives you jump onboard. The catch is that it rams through vehicles in front of it, possibly running them into you. It will not kill you, but does hurt you and knocks you away, making it annoying.

According to the game, I spent 24 hours and 56 minutes to do every campaign and side mission (and some circuits of the open world missions). I still have a number of agents to get up to level 20, but I do have a number there already.

Overall, the gameplay is fun, I have enjoyed it, and will continue to enjoy it. The only real criticisms I have are questions for why we seemingly lost features from prior games, like the smartphone. Just having that would make the experience much smoother. Still, this is a fun game and one that will hopefully launch more games.

 

One last thing I want to mention, and keeping it a little separate I think is appropriate, as not everyone has a Tobii eye tracker. To put it simply, when I learned that Agents of Mayhem would have Tobii eye tracking features, I was happy to see the technology coming to more games, but was not particularly excited. The reason is that this is a 3rd person game and eye and head tracking just have not seemed to work that well in that point of view. I think that makes sense, too, since it is not going to reproduce the movements of your eyes and/or head. But, that is, at best, a foolish reason to not try it, so I did and was very nicely surprised. The extended view feature, which will turn the camera when I turn my head or look to the edges of the monitor, works very well and even naturally in the game. It never felt like the camera was being pulled in too close to the character or was doing some other odd, uncomfortable behavior.

It felt right, but it is not the only feature in Agents of Mayhem. You can also aim at where you are looking, which when combined with the target locking option, works quite nicely, although the lock is not permanent (which is fair). (When I stopped playing with the eye tracker enabled I also turned off the locking because for normal play and tracking, I do not think it is needed.) There is also the Clean UI feature, which is something I broadly like. This will have the different UI elements become mostly transparent unless you are looking at them. This lets your peripheral vision see more of what is going on around you, without removing the important information the HUD presents you with. Seriously, this is a very good implementation of Tobii eye/head tracking and was better than I would have expected for a 3rd person game.

I think it is safe to say that game integration of eye and head tracking is still somewhat young, but it is developing and this is a good example. I hope we will continue to see it in more games, and if they are 3rd person games that the developers take something away from Agents of Mayhem. (Really, try to learn from all of the games you can, but I do feel this is a good example.)




  1. Agents of Mayhem Review - Introduction
  2. Agents of Mayhem Review - Graphics
  3. Agents of Mayhem Review - Story
  4. Agents of Mayhem Review - Gameplay
  5. Agents of Mayhem Review - Additional Gameplay Images
  6. Agents of Mayhem Review - Conclusion
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