Agents of Mayhem is Saints Row Crazy, But Not Saints Row
Balls-to-the-wall action, tongue-in-cheek humour, big guns, bigger personalities, Agents of Mayhem is from the Saints Row stable alright. One of its newly revealed characters, Kingpin, is even a Saints Row series stalwart, Pierce Washington. As for the rest of the cast, they're a rogue's gallery of misfits and mental cases, from foul-mouthed, hard-edged roller derby girl, Daisy, to ex-military tough nut, Braddock, German football hooligan, Red Card and former Yakuza hitman, Oni.
Together, they form the Ultor-funded outfit MAYHEM, tasked with fighting the nefarious LEGION, a villainous organisation led by a mysterious man known as Morningstar. This fight is a case of bad versus evil, we're told, with both sides prepared to do whatever it takes to combat the other, even if it means blowing up a lot of shit on the streets of Seoul in South Korea. As such, you have carte blanche to wreak unfettered havoc without having to worry about the consequences, terrible as they may be.
But if you're worried that Agents of Mayhem is simply a third-person shooter without the brains to back it up, fret not. There's a layer of RPG-style depth running beneath Volition's robust shooter mechanics and unhinged mania, with XP to accumulate, levelling up to be done, skill trees (unfortunately unavailable for our hands-on demo) and gadgets galore to unlock that grant all manner of combat perks and advantages. These include new abilities like being able to see and shoot through walls with a Rail Gun or receiving various boosts to your agent's skills, for instance. There are loads more, of course.
And with twelve Agents to choose from - enabling you to assemble a squad of any three you choose before diving into a mission - each with 40 levels of progression, there'll be more than enough to carefully consider in between all of the flying bullets and wanton destruction. Balancing your perfect team or mixing it up for Agents of Mayhem's 55 missions will be part and parcel of your strategy before going into battle. But the real crux of the Saints Row shooter spin-off is the action itself; accessible, easy to pick up and play, wonderfully daft, OTT fun.
Inspired by comic books, Saturday morning cartoons and TV shows from the 80s like The A-Team and Knight Rider, Agents of Mayhem has the same vein of sweary, screwy humour that Saints Row had, complete with nostalgia-tinged animated cut-scenes. How MAYHEM get things done is typically bombastic, resorting to blowing things up and worrying about the consequences later, and naturally, it's as enjoyable as it sounds. While missions are linear, Seoul is an open-world environment littered with side content and LEGION outposts to destroy, among other things, so there's plenty to see and do.
There are ten different Agent vehicles to commandeer too, although the ones we had the opportunity to drive felt a little bit 'sticky' in the handling department. You can't really throw them around the streets of Seoul, as we quickly find out while fleeing the orbital space laser of evil weapon designer Lt. Hammersmith. This is one of five full missions we're given hands-on time with, and while each primarily involves blasting stuff to death, it's delivered in a vibrant and exciting way that's pretty infectious.
While two of the five missions we're presented with involve taking down LEGION bosses Doctor Babylon and Lt. Hammersmith, two are Personal Missions that reveal the backstories of other MAYHEM agents that are subsequently unlocked upon completing their objectives. Daisy's involves the acerbic rollerskating bombshell retracing her steps after a violent night out while hungover, blowing away robots with her massive minigun. Meanwhile, Braddock's Personal Mission sees her tracking down and offing a former military underling who's joined Babylon's Ministry of Pride tech fetishists.
These missions limit you to one character, but the rest of the game enables you to flip between your gang of three using the d-pad, while traversal is made easy as Agents of Mayhem provides your characters with a triple jump, trumping most games' standard single or double jump. The result is something that feels a bit like Crackdown, albeit laced with charmingly coarse humour and a side order of crazy. Add badass special abilities and devastating Mayhem attacks into the mix, and you have a more than adequate selection of tools in your extensive arsenal.
Agents of Mayhem might not be particularly original and the vehicle handling could use an overhaul, but this is something that's shaping up to be a straightforward, colourful, action-packed and deliriously entertaining shooter that'll slap a big, stupid grin on your face. The dozen-strong cast of characters have their own unique personalities – all varying degrees of obnoxious – and an array of abilities that ought to ensure you've always got something to experiment with in Volition's gleefully insane sandbox.
Look out for Agents of Mayhem on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC when it launches on 15th August 2017 in North America and 18th August 2017 in Europe.
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