Agents of Mayhem Review

It’s strange to complain about a game based on what it’s not trying to do, but it’s almost impossible to avoid with Agents of Mayhem. It’s an absolutely fantastic, entertaining, polished, funny, fairly deep single-player experience. But it should have been a co-op game.

Agents of Mayhem is the latest game from Volition, famous for the Saints Row franchise, and this is evident in every part of Agents of MAyhem. Beyond the obvious links through the colour scheme and icons (and being able to play as Johnny Gat if you pre-ordered), AoM feels like a Saints Row game. The humour is on point, if a little crass, the violence is ridiculously over the top and gameplay trumps realism at every turn, and the missions tend to follow a similar structure. If you played Saints Row IV (and why wouldn’t you have, it’s amazing) you’ll be vaguely familiar with this take on the world, with superhero-esque powers and a massive open world city that serves more as a playground than something that feels alive. Certainly, with regards to the world and much of the game, you can see this has been partly inspried by Crackdown, with collectables shining on rooftops to clamber over and a wealth of ridiculous powers and vehicles to supposedly help you save the town as you ‘accidentally’ mow down innocent civilians in crossfire. This is Saturday-morning style superhero shenanigans at it’s best.

The basic structure of the game sees you choosing a squad of three agents from a pool of twelve to go out into Seoul and kill enemies, defuse bombs, and occasionally take part in a car chase. Down on the ground you can choose between the three agents on the fly and jump into any vehicle or call your own agency vehicle. Of course if you want to free-roam you can, and there’s plenty of collectables about to help boost your abilities and the agency, or you can just cause some mayhem with the tools at your disposal.

The city itself is by far the weakest part of AoM. It feels dead and lifeless, the civilians don’t react naturally and it’s hard to cause GTA-style chaos where your actions seem to have significant effects on the area. There’s no real destruction mechanics and car explode in a very unsatisfying way.

Thankfully the game is saved by just how much fun the mechanics are. Each agent plays differently with a unique main weapon, ability, and ‘Mayhem’ move. Each of these can be swapped out or modified for others back at the base. One uses a bow to get critical hits, one uses a freeze gun, one uses an SMG. Each character suits a different playstyle and you can switch between them at any time using left and right on the d-pad. Like tag-based fighting games when one gets low on health you can switch to another and let them heal up meaning the action never really stops and you get a lot of variety even within a single fight.

The enemies aren’t particularly interesting, but they are challenging and there’s a wealth of different difficulties (the menu seems like the one from Diablo 3) with the idea that you can push yourself to higher difficulties with higher rewards as you level up your agents and unlock more abilities.

The constant loop of missions, upgrades, exploration is unbelievably engaging and it’s wrapped up in some very funny writing and a visual style that is at it’s best when there’s a lot of chaos breaking out around you. If you hated the humour in Saints Row, you won’t be won over by this, but if you enjoy things that are a little more puerile and you enjoy the over-the-top excess of cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or the animated X-men series, you’ll feel right at home. It’s hard to get across just how important this is, the game is just plain fun.

Which brings us back to our main complaint about the game. It should have been co-op.

You play the game with a team of three heroes, each hero has a range of abilities that work best in different playstyles and situations, the levels are big and usually quite open, there’s loads of jokes and teasing between the characters. There’s even a per-character progression system. It feels like the game was built for co-op then it was yanked out at some point to save time on production. As it stands, we can easily recommend this game to Saints Row fans. If they brought out an update adding co-op, we would recommend this game to everyone.

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Foxhole Preview

Foxhole is almost certainly unlike anything you’ve played. It could be compared to Cannon Fodder, to ARMA, perhaps even to Age of Empires – but none of those are quite right. It’s a WWII-era massively multiplayer combat game that features a persistent world, crafting, and a top-down view.

When you spawn in Foxhole there’s very little guidance on what to do – other than players rushing past in trucks yelling at you to get out of the way. Open the map and you’ll see your side (green or blue) has a number of bases, and the enemy has a number of theirs. Your first instinct would probably be to pick up a gun from the town hall and some ammo, then run off to the front line, where you’ll almost certainly get horrible murdered by someone you can’t see. You’ll then slowly realise you just wasted a uniform, a rifle, some ammo, maybe a pistol and some bullets. All of those things were crafted from raw materials that were mined out of the ground. Those then got taken (usually driven in a truck which was also crafted) to various factories, where they were put in a queue to be built. Once complete they were collected and shipped to the spawn points. Like I said, not like anything you’ve played.

The biggest turn-off for some from Foxhole is going to be evident from the screenshots, the view. It’s top-down 3D and your field of view is exceptionally small. Cover breaks your view of even your own team, so if you hide behind a wall, everyone on the other side of it will disappear because you can’t see them anymore. To shoot you hold right click to aim, drawing a line across the terrain, then you shoot with left click, firing a bullet somewhere close to that trajectory. It’s slightly inaccurate and you’re often shooting at people you can’t see – a bit like the real WWII I guess. When it gets dark your view shrinks even further and only a few items (like binoculars) can increase it. Using binoculars, of course only lets you see further when standing still, so you have to relay all that information to the rest of the team.

Finding a team to start out is very daunting, you don’t get placed in a squad like in Battlefield or ARMA, instead you just bumble about until you find someone. There is an official Discord set up to solve this problem, but it’s vital that you group up with people – your carry limit is so low there’s no way you’ll be able to carry all the gear needed for a serious attack.

Once you’re spawned into the game with a team and have a little directions, it all seems to make sense a little more. You could become a scavenger, collecting the metal needed to create the tools and machines of war, doing runs backwards and forwards as efficiently as possible in relatively safe territory. You could become a truck driver, taking the crafted supplies to the front line where there’s a little more risk of ambushes, but people will be more likely to thank you as they are directly affected by what you are doing. You could become a medic, holding back a little and crawling to the wounded to heal them up and get them out of harm’s way. Or you could become an infantryman and master the art of moving through cover, scouting, and then committing to a big push with your team. Some people like to stand around and open gates for people, that’s fine too.

While the game undoubtedly has its epic moments, currently it starts to get quite tedious quite soon. Lots of the jobs simply aren’t that interesting and take a long time. If you want to build tanks for your team, you’re looking at hours of gathering and crafting. Even as an infantry soldier you’re not going to see a great deal of progress very quickly unless the enemy team completely falls apart. Instead you have lots of incredibly long stalemates where nothing interesting happens.

There’s no stats to speak of other than a basic xp levelling system, so nothing you do seems to have any weight. Either you stay in one server for hours and hours playing until you win or lose, or you leave the server half way through a fight and come back to join a different one later, it makes no difference and no successes are going to be particularly remembered.

This tedium and lack of obvious progression have put me off the game for now. If it had lots of dramatic emergent gameplay, that’d be fun. If it had a really fun progression system, the grind would be more bearable. But without either, you’re left with an interesting experiment in a new type of war-game, but not enough to be a really good game.

Now, moreso than usual, I am aware this is very much just my opinion. A friend has been absorbed by the game and lots of people have put hundreds of hours in already, so clearly there’s something there that grabs some people. You can get a decent idea of how the game plays by watching some streamers, but be aware that for every front-line hero, there’s ten more running the supply chain to keep them stocked. That supply chain isn’t a whole lot of fun.

 

Foxhole is available now on Steam Early Access

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