Agents of Mayhem was a game that I was somewhat confused about up until I went hands on with it. As a fan of Saints Row 3 and Saints Row 4, I was curious as to why Volition would opt to make a title that looked so Saint’s Row-y but not simply make it Saint’s Row V. I didn’t know what that change meant for the gameplay, and I hadn’t seen enough of it to truly craft an opinion on it.
Fortunately, I got the chance to go hands on with Agents of Mayhem at this year’s E3, and can now see why the game’s style and hero abilities allow it to stand on its own as a new IP outside of story context, even if it is very much like Volition’s older Saints Row titles.
I started the demo at The Ark, which functions as the HQ of the titular Agents of Mayhem. Here players can upgrade and customize their agents to fit their liking. I was directed to talk to Agent Friday, who would assign the Agents a mission. I went to her, and she educated me on my new target: August Gaunt, an evil pop singer (that is totally not based off of Justin Bieber) who works for L.E.G.I.O.N, the League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations. He was introduced through a well animated cutscene; each hero and main villain has one of these.
August had a really annoying voice and was absolutely full of himself. His jokes were hit and miss, so I’m afraid that’ll be the case with most of the writing in this game — focusing on one specific trait on a character and blowing that out of proportion for the sake of humor can get quite repetitive after awhile. Still, there was some novelty in taking a Justin Bieber-esque villain down. After his introductory animated cutscene, I was able to choose my team of heroes.
There will be 12 heroes in the base game, with other ones likes Johnny Gat being available as DLC. Players can bring three of them into each mission; for this one I choose Joule, as I needed a character that could hack things for this mission, Redcard, as I wanted a heavy hitting tank, and Oni, as I have a soft spot for Japanese assassin characters. I could customize their weapons and ability loadouts before I brought them into battle. Once I was ready, I launched the mission and headed for Seoul.
While you can only bring three characters with you to Seoul at a time, those characters can be switched between anytime. After getting used to the controls, the first thing I did when I entered the giant sandbox was carjack a civilian, like you do. The developer standing by me when I played was disappointed that I got in such a boring looking car, so he directed me to call the Agent’s vehicle — a sports car that sometimes talks to you Knight Rider-style. I set my waypoint for a club he was supposed to be at. When I found I wasn’t there, I changed course for August’s garage.
Once I made it inside his garage, I started to blow up some of his cars, this caused him to call in some guards to fight me. Agents of Mayhem’s third person combat is similar to that in Saints Row, what spices it up is the hero abilities, such as Oni’s Critical Strike that he can chain to kill enemies. This mix of Overwatch-style abilities definitely helps Agents of Mayhem stand on its own, even if its gameplay isn’t radically different from Volition’s previous Saints Row ventures at its core.
After defeating those groups of enemies, I stole August’s favorite car and made my way to Ancestral Temple, the last place Gaunt was spotted. There wasn’t a direct entrance, so I had to track the disgusting smell of Gaunt’s cologne in order to make progress; unfortunately, he had already left, and I was ambushed by a group of enemies. I swiftly defeated them, and then decided to head for a rave he was holding in a nearby shipyard.
When I got there, he attempted to stop me by mind controller his fans with VR headsets they were wearing. After destroying three disruptors, I was able to free the fans, but not before Gaunt escaped. The mission ended, so I was not able to stop Gaunt in my time with the game, instead deciding to tackle one of Oni’s personal missions.
In it, he is trying to free his wife and daughter from his ex-Yakuza associates. This led me to a tall skyscraper that was under construction. As Oni alone, I climbed up the tower, fighting waves of enemies. The developers stated that this mission was inspired by the long action sequence in films like John Wick and the tower-climbing premise of the recent Judge Dredd film.
It was very fun to play, and highlighted the game’s well-built third person shooting mechanics. I was able to reach the top of the tower and fight a boss, but the Yakuza were able to whisk Oni’s family away before he could stop them. The world was also populated with other smaller side objectives, like races, so Agents of Mayhem doesn’t look like it will suffer from a lack of content.
Not being able to stop Gaunt or the Yakuza in this demo has definitely given me a reason to return to the game when it releases this August. After having some hands on time with Agents of Mayhem, I now better understand what separates it from the Saints Row games: the Saturday morning cartoon aesthetic and hero abilities. Could this title have worked a Saints Row V? Maybe, but as it stands Agents of Mayhem looks to be a fun and enjoyable new IP from Volition and Deep Silver that fans of their style of games will be pleased with.