Saint’s Row’s Achilles heel was always combat. It hid this fact by peppering each game with a handful of absurd weapons, from a recliner that fired missiles to the Dubstep gun to the iconic purple dildo bat—still the weapon I most associate with the series.

But even armaments that creative couldn’t hide the fact that combat was often a by-the-book affair. Enemies were brainless, and each encounter involved simply trying to get through it as fast as possible without dying. It’s telling that most of the memorable moments in Saint’s Row had nothing to do with combat, be it the Tron-esque “Deckers Die” mission, singing Biz Markie in a car with your friends, or an Aerosmith-backed rocket ride into space.

With that in mind…why build a Saint’s Row game around combat?

Peaceful easy feeling

Okay, it’s not “technically” Saint’s Row. That’s the most technical technicality I’ve seen in gaming though, given Agents of Mayhem’s propensity for purple fleur-de-lis, as well as the crossover presence of multiple characters (including face-of-the-series Johnny Gat if you get the DLC).

Agents of Mayhem IDG / Hayden Dingman

Agents of Mayhem is a spin-off, abandoning the Third Street Saints to focus on a G.I. Joe-style conflict between the good guys at M.A.Y.H.E.M. and the evildoers of L.E.G.I.O.N. Headed by Dr. Babylon, LEGION’s goal is the usual take-over-the-world nonsense of Saturday morning cartoons, and the game has you traipsing around Seoul, South Korea trying to head off various doomsday plots.

It’s a stellar concept, and props to Volition for leaning into it. Nearly every mission begins and ends with a short hand-animated cartoon, and I can’t imagine how much work went into these. Battleborn had one short segment like this. Agents of Mayhem must have nearly an hour of cartoon in its 15 to 20 hour runtime. The quality ranges from excellent to lackluster, but in any case a lot of effort went into presentation.

If only the rest of the game were as creative.

Agents of Mayhem is boring. There’s no way around it. My first instinct was to blame the writing, because there are certainly a bunch of story beats that don’t land. (More on that later.) After thinking on it though, it’s clear that the bigger issue is the rigid and repetitive mission structure, which completely undercuts any potential strengths in the writing.

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