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Agents of Mayhem – Everything I Dislike (and a few things I like)

Welcome to yet another one of my reviews where I list all the things I dislike about something, and a handful of things I like. Since I initially wrote this review on Steam, and eventually ran out of space, I will be keeping my review up to date here. While I am sort of enjoying playing this game, I cannot recommend it at its current price ($60US on the Australian Steam Store as of game release – 15/08/17). Here is a list, that I will update while I play the game, detailing things I’m not happy with, or problems with the game. Most of this is opinion and therefore is subjective, but as a big fan of the Saint’s Row series, and having bought this game due to the developer and their previous work, I am unfortunately mostly disappointed. This review is a work in progress, which means I’ll be changing it as I play the game, or the game gets updated. This article will contain some spoilers, but they are mostly minor.

This review covers release and the small patch a few days after and is up to date as of 22/08/17 additionally I have added a section where I will be moving certain “bugs” as they are fixed or patched.

Note: Most of the things listed in this review will be specific to the PC release only, despite the fact that I’ve tagged this article as both a PS4 and an XBOne article. Undoubtedly, a lot of the things I’ve listed will be platform agnostic, but there will definitely be some things that are isolated to PC only.

Things I Dislike:

  • The dialogue, the characters, everything is extremely poorly written. It’s extremely basic and generic. I doubt the same writers of Saint’s Row wrote this. Edit: Then again they might have. I think I have rose-coloured glasses on for Saint’s Row 3 and 4.
  • The humour misses the mark, hard.
  • I cannot tell who the hell the demographic of this game is, the characters swear, but the game is “safe”, in that a child could play it very easily without hassle, the game holds your hand a lot, the enemies are pretty simple, it is just not challenging, even if you crank up the difficulty. Edit: the enemy difficulty and density gets better as the game progresses…but…so do you. You gain levels, and health/shield which better protect you from the many more enemies thrown at you.
  • There is only one weapon, an alternative fire for that weapon, plus a “special” attack per character. Unlike the weapon wheel full of fun guns SR had, you have to choose a different character if you want different weapons.
  • Weapons auto-aim. You cannot turn this off. Since some people say you can, you can switch it to disabled, and your camera won’t follow your target around by itself, but certain weapons will still hit your target even if your aim is very off. Rama is the best example.
  • It feels like a single player third person Overwatch clone (by clone I mean it shares a hell of a lot of similarities with Overwatch, and feels like it was steered in that direction to appeal to a similar audience, it’s not literally a third person Overwatch) on the SR engine with its skill-set independent heroes you can change around between on the fly. I don’t dislike Overwatch, but I don’t particularly enjoy it either. This feels like I’m playing that without any humans to actually challenge me.
  • When in motion, either on foot or in a vehicle, the camera controls snap back to behind you constantly, even though I have a MOUSE to move my camera around with. This cannot be turned off.
  • The Mayhem ability. It’s your special ability and it’s supposed to be super powerful and ultra useful. It is not. It lasts about 3 seconds, which lets you kill about 3-4 enemies (if they’re spread out, which they usually are) and takes FOREVER* to charge. In a mission you get a chance to use it once or twice maybe. On the other hand the “alternative attack” charges in about 5-6 seconds and it usually much more useful (e.g. being able to launch a grenade that splash damages everyone around it if you’re playing Hollywood) Spending skill points increases Mayhem time and effectiveness, however you won’t end up having those upgraded for a long time yet. *Edit: If you have Hollywood in your team, and his group passive is upgraded, you get Mayhem abilities very often, and some characters are actually useful when their Mayhem goes off. Johnny Gat is the best example in my opinion. Edit #2: It is really dependant on who you’re using in your team as to how effective your mayhem attack is. Some characters just stun everyone around them which isn’t particularly useful compared to actually doing damage.
  • Not a big deal to me, but no cooperative play. You can select three heroes at a time, you would think the game would let you coop with 2 other people, but it doesn’t. I believe Saint’s Row 2, 3, 4 and Gat out of Hell are coop friendly, why this isn’t I have no idea. Edit: The game does have multiplayer, but it’s not story mode cooperative.
  • The character customisation just…blows. The upgrades don’t even seem particularly useful. Edit: most aren’t useful. They’re just alternative methods of play, sort of.
  • Hardtack is one of the characters you start with. His main weapon is a shotgun. A shotgun that does zero damage to anything about 3 metres (10~ feet) away. It just doesn’t connect with anything past that range. It’s the most useless shotgun in any game ever. You can get an upgrade that increases the distance the shotgun makes contact in….but it also decreases it’s damage. Absolutely pointless. Edit: Trying to level up Hardtack really sucks, because even with upgrades his shotgun isn’t anywhere near as powerful as Johnny Gat’s or Red Card’s
  • Hardtack’s triple-jump barely ever works. Edit: actually a handful of player characters triple-jumps seem to work with varying degrees of success.
  • On further observation, almost all weapons have very short range. Much, much shorter than you would expect. Of course, the enemies don’t suffer from this ailment at all.
  • Every single one of the civilian cars sucks. They’re all utterly useless. Edit: there’s also only about…20? different ones. They’re also all as slow as shit.
  • You can’t get into the LEGION military cars, even after the LEGION soldiers get out of them.
  • I don’t have any graphics issues because I updated my drivers. But occasionally a lot of things explode on the screen and my fps dips for about a half a second. Not really an issue.
  • I’m decently far into the game now (edit), and there aren’t any mini-games like Saint’s Row had. There are things scattered around the map that you can blow up, but they’re not really “mini-games”. The one where you put a shield around a person strapped to a bomb then detonate the bomb is kinda fun though, because the person with the shield ends up in a bubble that bounces around the place, and if your physics glitch out (which I believe is intended) they go flying.
  • There are some shitloads of physics glitches. Floating enemies, trucks loaded with cargo exploding once you’re in range enough for the physics engine to kick in, items bouncing around. Edit: The small patch fixed this a tiny bit, but it’s still a problem
  • Cannot fire from vehicles. Which is a step backwards from the Saint’s Row series.
  • For some reason on the “pause” menu, is an option to “Erase all save data”. This seems…well…bizarre, and increases your risk of accidentally clicking it and erasing all your data.
  • Johnny Gat in this game is only Gat in voice and model. He is not the Gat from Saint’s Row. I mean, for one he’s a cop. This is explained by the whole “alternate universe” thing, but still. He definitely has some of the best dialogue in the game though. If you don’t want to cringe much, make sure Gat is your main character. Avoid Braddock (even though her weapon is one of the better ones) because her voice sounds so fake and put-on that it gets old very quickly.
  • The radio is terrible. It’s just the same electronic background noise on every channel.
  • You can’t ride motorbikes, there are none in the game on the streets, and the parked ones are not able to be ridden.
  • There is no vehicle customisation other than 8 different skins per vehicle (10 vehicles total).
  • There is also no player customisation except for 6 or so skins for each character and then 6 or so skins per character’s weapon.
  • Warping. No one opens doors or anything, they just…warp around. Like straight through the car’s window into the drivers seat. Enemies also warp into the area instead of arriving in vehicles or helicopters. Edit: can be explained by the futuristic setting, but it’s still a bit of a cop-out
  • While driving, vehicles within your draw distance but far away disappear randomly. In fact the draw distance in general is sort of broken.
  • There’s a cooldown on melee attacks. The cooldown is about 3 to 4 seconds.
  • Cash is a bit useless. I never used any until I was level 8, and then I had so much left over after I had bought upgrades that it didn’t really matter. This isn’t really a negative, since cash ends up pretty much worthless in Saint’s Row after a while too, including it in the game just seems kinda pointless. There’s like 5 different typed of resources you need to be running around picking up constantly, which is ridiculous.
  • Apparently everyone in Korea speaks American English.
  • I only really just realised this, but the map is tiny. I’m not sure if I’m into the game far enough yet, or if any more maps unlock, but the map size is about half of Steelport (Saint’s Row 3 and 4) and about a quarter of Stilwater (Saint’s Row 2). Remember when Volition made Red Faction Guerilla and the map was gigantic (albeit empty). Everything to do in this is very close together.
  • Repetitive LEGION lair dialogue over the PA system gets annoying after you’ve heard the same line 5 times per lair, and I’ve done about 8 lairs so far and there are at least that many more to do. It’s funny the first time, but it gets old fast.
  • When you first load the game, or teleport back into the Ark, you are not given control over your character for a minimum of 3 seconds, and a maximum of about 15. Everything has loaded, you just can’t do anything until the game randomly lets you.
  • Friday has really shitty dialogue. It’s just extra shitty and I can’t stand it. She’s also a bit of a creeper.
  • Can’t change the contents of your squad unless you deploy
  • There are “Mayhem Knows” load-screens where some of the characters from the game show up and a soundbite plays detailing something “witty” (see: stupid) about them. This extends the load screen much longer than it needs to be.
  • You CANNOT run over enemies. They either dodge your vehicle, or even if you hit them dead on, they don’t take enough damage to die and bounce off your car. I have yet to kill anyone who wasn’t a civilian (who are easy to kill) with a vehicle yet.
  • There’s no way to upgrade melee strength, so the more you level up, the progressively more useless your melee attacks get.
  • Each time you return to the Ark, the game penalises you by uncapturing one of your outposts you’ve captured, giving it back to the enemy. THIS IS NOT A BUG IT’S A FEATURE AND IS FUCKING MORONIC. THIS IS IN BOLD BECAUSE OF HOW FUCKING ANGRY IT MADE ME.
  • Despite being able to apparently climb walls, most of the heroes suck at actually doing it.
  • While unlocking the vehicles is alright, each vehicle has an arbitrary amount of unlock blueprints needed. No two have the same number. Some cars have 1 blueprint needed, others 10.
  • Everything after this line added on 22/08/17
  • After antagonising LEGION enough to max out their response (like you max out the police in Saint’s Row or demons enforcers in Gat out of Hell, the game throws difficult super soldiers at you. But they are seemingly endless. They keep coming forever, and the only way I found I could get rid of them was by going back to the Ark.
  • Dead bodies jiggle around on the floor a lot, constantly causing me to think they’re still alive and shoot at them.
  • Johnny Gat’s shotgun occasionally does no damage to certain female-only enemies.
  • Some of the “side missions” (like the above-mentioned rescue-the-guy-stuck-to-a-bomb-by-putting-them-in-a-bubble mission) glitch through the floor, making them impossible to complete.
  • When driving, a lot of things are still indestructible, causing your car to dead-stop on things. Especially heinous when racing and the game forces you to take certain jumps that if you misjudge  slightly, make your vehicle stop.
  • Civilian vehicles plough over you without slowing down or stopping. The vehicle-driving AI is terrible, and doesn’t give a shit about you at all. It will absolutely run you down in the street.
  • Vehicle damage is not representative of the health shown on the car’s HP meter. Car looks totally fucked before it is anywhere near it.
  • The game tells you to repair your car and shows locations you can have it repaired…when you’ve got about 10% damage on the car. Even the weakest of the player cars takes a hell of a pounding before it blows up. The civilian vehicles on the other hand are weak and will blow up just by being shot at – but only if you’re driving them. They’re significantly harder to destroy if you’re just shooting at them yourself.
  • Slight Spoiler: A character mission for Kingpin has you driving vehicles to beat an “unknown racer” at certain circuits around the city. The time limits given are long enough that you could probably sprint them on foot if the game would let you, and you’d still make the times with plenty to spare.
  • Doomsday weapons all follow the exact same, boring formula every single time they show up. If they didn’t take pot-shots at you constantly, there would be absolutely no reason to destroy them at all. Unnecessary time wasting bullshit.
  • Your callable vehicles are equipped with an AI. The AI has no real purpose other than to say “witty” things. Instead it’s an annoying fucking pile of wank that says dumb, annoying shit.
  • Terrible FOV (field of view) and zoom. No option to change either.
  • Johnny Gat’s mayhem ability causes him to fire against walls and into the air sometimes as it’s not able to be redirected or aimed at all. It even does so when there are targets out in the open.
  • Joule’s melee often fails to connect.
  • Everything in the game telegraphs, making avoiding things without thinking simple.
  • While doing a lair invasion, the AI on the PA system continuously told the LEGION NPCs to “protect the captain”. It continued to do so even after I killed everyone in the base and reached the extraction point. So did I kill the captain or not?
  • Game occasionally draws objects on top of each other. Example: I was driving as fast as I possibly could, using the nitrous and then stopped dead, the game already had 3 cars parked on the side of the road, and then decided to draw 3 more on top of them, causing them to jump out of the parked cars and explode.
  • Daisy moves about the same speed as everyone else runs…when she has roller skates.
  • You need to rely on RNG (random number generation – where you hope the game “rolls the right numbers” and gives you proper items when you loot the crates strewn around the game) for character/weapon/vehicle skin and vehicle blueprint unlocks.
  • Red Card, a German (and a good guy), seems to ADVOCATE FOR FUCKING EUGENICS. WHO WROTE THIS SHIT?

Things I Liked:

  • Plays like a Saint’s Row game, which is why I bought it in the first place.
  • Driving is top notch, better than Saint’s Row 4 or Gat out of Hell.
  • Game is smooth as butter, seems pretty well optimised. This could be isolated to my machine, because a lot of people have told me that I’m wrong about this.
  • The world is pretty nicely crafted, if a little…boring? Seoul has no soul. But it looks shiny and futuristic.
  • You can still murder civilians. You can’t seem to kick them in the groin or throw them around, but you can shoot them to death
  • It appears that vehicles from Saint’s Row 3/4 are unlockable by finding “blueprints”
  • The unlocked cars from Saint’s Row have been given a very slight face lift
  • The one-use craftable items are actually useful
  • The upgrade cores actually make your characters a lot better. Except Hardtack.
  • The usual collectibles everybody loves that Volition is known for strewing across their games. (this is half sarcastic, but seriously, it wouldn’t be right if this game didn’t have 50 million collectible items)
  • There are robot cars, some drive ads around, some are utility vehicles. Also robots float around showing ads which is kinda cool
  • There are upgrades after a certain level which show collectibles on the map.
  • Pressing X and calling in your car is handy as fuck
  • The game does get better the more you play it, but doesn’t really reverse anything I’ve listed in the negative section unless otherwise specified
  • The game has NVidia Ansel, which is pretty awesome if you’re into taking super high resolution screenshots with an adjustable camera
  • A bunch of characters (not sure if all of them – Johnny Gat doesn’t seem to have one) have a skin reminiscent of Marvel superheroes (e.g. XMen, Iron Man,
  • Once you get your hero to level 10, it unlocks a secondary trait, so you can lose your weaker characters. e.g. Johnny Gat becomes armour piercing, so you can get rid of Fortune or Kingpin
  • Took me a while to realise that Kingpin is Pierce Washington’s alternate universe alter-ego.
  • Enemy speech has context depending on which hero you’re playing. For example, Braddock was a military commander who trained many of LEGION’s troops before they defected from her command and joined LEGION. They say snarky remarks about the training and joining LEGION out from under her.
  • The game has a very diverse cast of people, which, before someone calls me an SJW, so did Saint’s Row. Instead of having the usual muscular white dude/s it’s got someone from everywhere on the globe.
  • Everything after this line added on 22/08/17
  • Some of the explosive barrels kinda look like Daleks (Okay, not really a positive, but I found it amusing)
  • Slight Spoiler: The Johnny Gat mission with the robot police officers was actually pretty amusing, and enjoyable.
  • The game is actually VERY stable. I have not had a single crash yet in (as of writing this) 24 hours of playing. I have tabbed in and out constantly, and abused the game a little bit and it’s been fine.
  • Each character has unique dialogue recorded for it, for each time one of the mission givers talks to the group. Whoever is your currently selected character will do all of the talking. You can change it on the fly.

Fixed Issues:

  • Game resets itself to windowed each time I start it. I prefer it on Borderless or even Full Screen, but it insists on starting on Windowed.  This seems to have been fixed. EDIT: OR NOT. Sometimes it seems fixed, sometimes it fucks up again.

Even Yahtzee shits on this game.

Alan Wake: Review

You know… “horror” is a very hard thing to produce. Sure, you can give people tension. You can give frustration without even half trying. Humor’s well studied, if a bit hit-or-miss. But horror has one major problem when you try to put it in a videogame… specifically, you can’t die.  The absolute worst thing that will happen to your character if you badly err is that you will have to make another attempt at the section. No amount of ambiance, nor shock, nor exposition shall ever change this aspect of gaming.

Now, for a more complete review, I did play, not just the basic game, but the “Nightmare” difficulty level. This is coloring my perspective, as I wasn’t going to sit through every cutscene, read through every bit of exposition… I just bulled through in the version where the monsters had about twice the health.

Now, when I first played this game through, I enjoyed the hell out of it. Okay, it’s ripping off the primary gameplay mechanic of “Obscure” with monsters that have shadow-based armor and light strips it. And even the insane “boosting” of flashlight beams. As combat mechanics go, it’s not exactly overused. Although there is certainly some room for refinement. In this case, the enemies do not lose health from being shot until light strips off their smoky armor. To remove it, shine a light. Make it bright. When it’s on target, a bit of faux lens flare shrinks until the armor goes out with a bright flash. Also, there’s a high-pitched hiss as it’s burned off. Bit like nails on chalkboard. This rather replaces any ambient music you would normally have to indicate combat.

Adorably, the enemies do not like having light shone upon them, and will back away, strafe… and eventually put an arm up to shield their eyes and advance on you anyway. This is actually a fairly useful way to stun them briefly without wasting precious ammo. Just remember to turn down the high beams when they put their arm up so they’ll drop it and you can blind ’em again. 😀

There’s a nice, brief variety of tools. Flares for extra light that forces foes back as it dents their armor. Revolver, shotgun, pump shotgun, hunting rifle… because making the horror vulnerable still means you have to kill it! And then we get the useful weapons. Flashbangs that you throw badly that are like IFF-capable grenades. And a flare gun that works a lot like a missile launcher, and leaves a flare effect at the point of impact. And the odd explodable tank that can be shot for a nice firework effect… a few searchlights that are a bit like machine gun emplacements… and tons of generators that turn on one light to save your ass.

The most fascinating aspect of the game’s limited weapon system is that they take it all away from you frequently. Since you can’t be sure (on the first playthrough) how long you get to hold those nice weapons… use ’em or lose ’em. This forced me to play a lot less conservatively than my usual. And made the game a lot easier. I usually try to get by as much as I can with pistols, melee… whatever won’t run out of ammo soon. This is, of course, stupid, and gets you killed when you’re facing more than one foe.

The plot rather rips off In the Mouth of Madness. Fun little flick… about a writing project gone inadvertently eldritch, surreal, and omnipotent. You find pages of the manuscript that controls and foretells the game events as you play, and so do other characters. This is at least a new form of the old audio log exposition method. It rewards the observant player with information on scenes not visited, or yet to occur.

The bit that truly surprised me about this game; was its writing. The characters get good lines, the voice actors deliver well, and the overall intent is for you to enjoy meeting these folks. Your colorful sidekick isn’t a worthless idiot, though he is used to comedic effect. He’s not a bumbling fool, but a good-hearted friend to your character. The brief stretches of the game where you have companions, they’re armed, carry flashlights, and kick ass.

Although, the game premise of having the plot written by a sleep-deprived, madness-touched author in one week does excuse some of the comically lampshaded bits, like the sheriff brushing off your inquiry as to why she has a key to the bookstore (you have to go through, the roads are blocked!). Though it does suffer from a few instances where the characters absolutely must go the long way around because there’s a 3′ fence in the way.

There are a couple bits that disappoint. First, after beating the game in either normal or hard mode, you unlock Nightmare. Which gives the wee perk of letting you collect the rest of the manuscript. A few pages in each level just aren’t there in the lesser difficulties. After collecting them… I can’t see why they bothered. Half were song lyrics and poems already in the game… only a couple really added anything. It was a bit like deleted scenes on a DVD. Some of them, you can see exactly why the darned things were deleted.

Next disappointment, is in the DLC. One’s out. Another’s due. And the thing that’s going to be put in the one that’s not out yet? The ending.

No, seriously. An ending. The game we have so far is, like a lot out of hollywood, cut off at the climax. No “happily ever after”. Well, it’s actually horror genre. Make that no “Oh no. Please for the love of God no!” ever after.

The first DLC adds a chapter. Couple cute gameplay elements with shining a light on floating words to create things… like a minefield of “bad words”. The problem is that the plot never really goes anywhere or resolves anything. It’s a fantastic production of… filler.

Curiously, we have a story about a horror story with the ending not yet written… and the ending to it hasn’t yet been written. : So… incomplete review, for now. I’ll just have to leave you hanging in-

Amnesia: The Dark Descent review

Yes, this is another of those cliched tropes where the main character starts out with a bad case of “WTF just happened to me?” At least this time around it’s not the product of a blow to the head. It’s self-inflicted, via… well, magic potion, basically.

But for a good reason.

No, seriously. There was a good reason for your character to drink a vial of “fuggedabowdit” and leave a note saying “If I can still read English after that, I need me to kill the guy that owns this creepy-ass castle. He’s in the Inner Sanctum. Best of luck. Trust me, I’m you.”

Now, being the clever fellow that I am, I stared at that for a while and realized my character’s prior self was a bit of an idiot. No map whatsoever to navigate through this crumbling castle. No confidence on his part that there’d even be much of a mind left to follow instructions…

And it hit me. Whether or not my mission is a success or not is immaterial to my past self. He wasn’t trying to win. He was trying to commit suicide by killing who he had become!

And on that, you embark on a horror game, a quest of discovery and redemption… taunted by semi-hallucinatory revelations and memories… and an encroaching unreality as the world itself grows grotesque crimson tumors that hurt to touch.

This isn’t your typical survival horror game as brought to you by… Capcom. How Resident Evil ever became the brand name for the genre escapes me. This game has atmosphere. It has style. The voice acting is good. The writing is good. (Not great, but good.) RE games give you “horror” by giving you barely enough ammo for an action game. I call BS. This game gives you NO ammo. No weapons. You aren’t a fighter. You aren’t capable of going up against even one shambling horror from beyond. You are just barely up to hiding in a dark closet and praying the bad thing leaves on its own.

The key question to me, with this type of story, is whether or not the payoff lives up to the buildup. And it has actually a very good buildup. Unfortunately, what’s difficult to detect is that the actual payoff/climax is in the final scrap of diary that explains why you took the amnesia tonic. The three endings available to you in the final confrontation are simply a choice and three sets of consequences… and this being a horror game, it’s fair that even the best ending is not necessarily good.

Unfortunately, this sort of game is not for everyone. The… I hesitate to say “combat” with reference to the frantic scramble that follows an encounter with a monster; from the perspective of the monster, it is combat, so we’ll go with that. When you see a monster, your vision blurs due to insanity effects (the mind does not wish to see!) and your only hope is to shut a door between yourself and it, then hide for a bit.

So the most action the game has to offer, really, is you staring at the wall of your hiding space, hoping you don’t give your position away, and hoping the foe leaves before you go insane or it kills you.

Needless to say, while this is quite effective at producing tension, after you figure out good hiding spaces in the level, it’s boring as fuck.

Of course, when you find out your hiding space is inadequate… then you get shaken out of your boredom quite effectively. The atmosphere, noncombat mechanics, and sheer deadliness of everything that isn’t you combine well to induce adrenaline in those moments. And since this trick only works when you’re not used to it, the paucity of foes keeps it pretty fresh.

The puzzles are generally along the lines of finding things in one area and using them to reassemble something in another area so that you can reach the next area. With a few twists here and there. The game has a physics engine, but seems to leave it for immersion instead of puzzles. It was refreshing to see a barrier in the form of a raised bridge… and to simply throw a rock at the chain holding it to release it.

Those puzzles that are tricky to solve typically have nice “hints” in the various papers lying about. Either they refer to the plot or puzzle solutions. So if it’s not disturbing, it must be useful!

That covers the important bits. The game’s big “I’m different!” draw is the use of the mouse as a sort of physics gesture tool. You want to open a drawer? Click on it and drag it out. Same for doors, levers… everything, really. Need to break loose a pipe? Bend it back and forth a bit. Need to crowbar open a stiff door? Set the crowbar and PULL.

The not-so different, your character is afraid of the dark. Understandable for a number of reasons. You have 4 options. Stay in well-lit areas. Pull out your lamp with limited oil. Use a tinderbox (a WHOLE tinderbox) to light one unlit item in the area. Or run through and accept the “temporary” loss of sanity. Insanity mostly just makes the screen shift a bit, and late in the game, you get effects like bugs crawling in the monitor.

Is it worth getting? Well… that depends on your character. If you need violence in your videogames, avoid. If you like horror and being made uncomfortable through good storytelling, come on down!