E3 2016: Agents of Mayhem is Quirky, Insane, Fun

Imagine this scenario; an AI Asian popstar has been kidnapped by a group of technology obsessed people. One of them, Steeltoe, intends to marry her and you have to stop him. Midway through the mission, however, the AI turns against you, deciding she wants to marry Steeltoe and attempts to kill you. After crashing the ceremony she uses her super awesome dance skills to make Steeltoe more powerful. That sounds insane, right?

Anyone who’s a fan of Volition’s previous work on the Saints Row franchise might find the scenario routine. Indeed, Agents of Mayhem is Volition’s new IP that, while still taking place in the Saints Row universe, manages to stand on its own. The story is focused on Legion, a group broken into different ministries led by Doctor Babylon. It’s up to our agents to team up and stop the villainous Dr. before it’s too late.

The twelve agents are the core of Agent of Mayhem’s gameplay. Though only four were playable in the demo, each gave a unique view into what we can expect from the game. Every agent comes equipped with their own unique abilities and weapons, and some of them are pretty crazy. Hollywood is your typical shooter character coming equipped with an assault rifle and grenade launcher. Hardtack is the brute, carrying a powerful shotgun and teleportation harpoon. Fortune is the techie of the group wielding dual machine pistols and can summon a drone companion. Finally, there was Rama, a scoundrel with a powerful bow.

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Players choose up to three agents take with them into battle who can be swapped between at any time. Now, you might be thinking Agents of Mayhem would be co-op, and you’d be wrong. This is strictly a single player game where players continually swap between their three agents. Putting together a team of agents is all about strategy. The futuristic city of Seoul is a huge place with big open areas, tight corridors, and far off distances. Putting together a team that will allow you to counter the different types of gameplay is key to success.

For example, imagine a team consisting of Hollywood, Hardtack, and Fortune. The beginning of the demo was above ground, offering plenty of space for mid-range combat. Hollywood and his assault rifle were perfect for this scenario. The next section took the agents below ground with tight corridors and narrow hallways, thus making the shotgun-wielding Hardtack a necessity. Steeltoe waited at the end of the level on his massive warship wedding Aisha with his groomsmen in attendance. Completely outnumbered, Fortune was able to save the day thanks her drone’s stunning capability. With the groomsmen stunned, picking them off was a piece of cake. finding the perfect team synergy and executing it against your foes is what Agents of Mayhem is all about. Adding to that synergy is each agent’s Mayhem ability, a powerful move capable of dealing some massive damage. In one playthrough, Hollywood unleashed his Mayhem ability, a barrage of missiles, sending enemies panicking for cover. Switching to Rama and her sniper happy bow allowed us to pick off those hiding away.

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It was an exciting demo that culminated in a rather disappointing boss fight with Steeltoe. Despite being imbued with Asian pop star dancing powers, Steeltoe went down without much effort. All he really did was stomp around. Saints Row had some very imaginative bosses, so it’s quite disappointing that the first boss we get to see out of Agents of Mayhem is so wimpy. Hopefully, this is not the case with the rest of the bosses.

Despite being a pretty lengthy demo, there was never a chance to explore Seoul. Volition did confirm that Agents of Mayhem will be open-world, but did not disclose how big of a space this is or what activities we’ll be able to participate in. There also appears to be a lack of customization outside of abilities and character progression. Considering Volition’s past games were built on giving players the ability to customize their character however they wanted, Agents of Mayhem’s lack of it is disappointing.

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Speaking of their last franchise, Volition did not shoot down the idea of classic Saints Row characters and weapons returning. There are already hints and homages to the franchise in the game and Agents of Mayhem is canonically set within the Saints Row universe. We’ll just have to keep our eyes peeled for anymore Saints Row references.

Agents of Mayhem may be part of the Saints Row universe, but it has its own identity. It’s more grounded than Saints Row, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t know how to have a good time. The action is fast-paced, the weapons feel good and the different gameplay styles of the agents keeps things fresh. There’s plenty to like here and there will be plenty more to reveal in the coming months.

Agents of Mayhem is out sometime in 2017 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.