Deep Silver announced Agents of Mayhem right before E3 2016, which is new IP from Saints Row developer Volition. While at the show I got to go hands-on with the game running on a PC with a PS4 controller, and after completing the demo twice I can say that this title has potential thanks to its Saints Row nods, but it also doesn’t feel entirely new thanks to the obvious influences from the Crackdown franchise.
The game’s Saints Row influences can’t be mistaken thanks to the fact that Agents of Mayhem is part of the Saints universe. In fact, the Mayhem organization is funded by the Ultor Corporation, which directly comes from the Saints titles, so Volition has clearly melded the two worlds together without making Agents completely feel like the next Saints Row spinoff.
This is due to its similarities to the Crackdown IP, which also features an agency of anti-heroes taking on a league of bad guys, who also have their own bitching HQ to chill in, and plenty of firepower to get the job done against said evil forces. Agents of Mayhem also features a very stylized, vibrant looking world, that definitely shares a few similarities to the cel-shaded comic book-like graphics found in the Crackdown franchise. It’s a beautiful game to look at regardless of where its influences came from, so you should have no worries over its visual presentation.
While Agents of Mayhem may look like a Crackdown game on its exterior, its gameplay is definitely different thanks to the fact that you are always in control of three agents at a time. They also don’t have the same level of superhuman infused powers like the Crackdown agents, who could literally jump over buildings or run as fast as the Flash depending on what buffs you configured.
Rotating between your chosen agents is key to success (12 total to choose from in the final build), because not only do they all have unique loadouts and powers, but they each have a beefed up mayhem attack that can clear the screen of enemies and really change the tide of a mission. You essentially have to use each character’s special powers to build up the mayhem meter, and once it is filled you unleash it and then flip to the next character to continue building mayhem, or to follow your first super attack with another kick in the balls to the AI. Swapping characters also allows them to heal, so it’s a core gameplay mechanic and one that when mastered can really start to wreak havoc on Legion’s forces (the antagonists), while ensuring your trio is always in top form.
This mini-game of constantly managing your agents and their mayhem ability really keeps you on your toes, but it also keeps the gameplay feeling fresh thanks to each agent having their own personality and play style. In the demo I was able to play with four of the twelve planned characters, who were Hollywood, Fortune, Hardtack, and Rama. Each has abilities that cater to certain situations, so in the game’s open world setting with various types of missions and side missions to tackle, having the ability to swap to the most ideal agent for the situation is a nice touch.
It almost makes the gameplay feel like a team-based class shooter since you can swap to the best agent for a certain situation, but instead of relying on a team of humans to win the day, you can only rely on yourself and the agents you chose for a particular mission. For example, if you need a character that can clear a screen with deadly automated fire, you would switch to Hollywood who is a master of machine guns and assault rifles, and has a mayhem power that drops explosions all over the screen. If you’re in a bind and need to take out enemies from a distance you could switch to Rama whose powers and weapons revolve around sniping and staying elusive.
With these options and abilities at your disposal a stint in Agents of Mayhem begins to feel like a ballet of character swaps and move executions to dynamically quell whatever evil situation you’ve been sent to deal with, which in the case of the E3 demo came in the form of an AI pop star who wants to marry a powerful Legion boss. The narrative and tone all felt very Saints Row-ish in terms of awesome ridiculousness, so it’s definitely a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
There’s no denying Agents of Mayhem’s Saints Row and Crackdown franchise influences, but it still feels unique in its own right thanks to its rotating agents gameplay and whacky narrative. Visually it looks stunning, but familiar, and its sound design is equally impressive and cheeky thanks to the quips you’ll hear from your agents, which are very Saints Row-like. The world and characters definitely left me intrigued to find out more about what both can offer, so even though this new IP may look and sound a bit like existing ones, it’s still shaping up to blaze its own path through the gaming industry. Stay tuned for more coverage on Agents of Mayhem as more details become available.
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