E3 2016: GI Joe Meets Saints Row in Volition’s Agents of Mayhem
After achieving super-stardom thanks to the popular Saints Row franchise Volition has decided to introduce a brand new group of fearsome fighters. They are the Agents of Mayhem, an elite squad charged with keeping the world safe from whatever threats may emerge. This new team is less Third Street Saints and more GI Joe, although the trademark Volition attitude and humor is still very much intact. Agents of Mayhem is a step in a new direction, and so far it’s shaping up nicely.
The demo made four of the 12 Agents available: the mid-range assault gunner and self-absorbed Hollywood, the Lara Croft-esque bounty hunter Fortune, the silent and deadly archer Rama, and the shotgun-toting Hardtack. I didn't have to choose just one though, as Agents allowed me to choose a squad of three and switch between my chosen teammates on the fly. I was able to try all four heroes, landing on a team of Rama, Hardtack, and Fortune as my preferred trio.
The mission began with a brief introduction, explaining that I was to meet a K-Pop superstar AI named Aisha in an abandoned enemy stronghold. Aisha was being courted by the evil faction known as Legion, specifically by a hulking brute named Steeltoe, to go rogue and join them in taking over the world. It was my job to put a stop to it. As I ventured into the apparently not abandoned base I realized I may be in for more than I bargained for, as Aisha pledged her intention to marry Steeltoe and sent Legion goons after me.
Agents of Mayhem’s combat system is awesome, allowing players to switch between the three teammates on the fly for some neat strategies. As Rama, I could quickly pick off a few gunners, then quickly switch to Hardtack as fleet-footed enemy ninjas closed in and blast them to holy hell. If they get too close, Hardtack’s swinging harpoon melee attack can clear the area, letting me then switch to Fortune and unleash dual pistol pain. I was very impressed in how fluid all of this action is, performing without a single hiccup as I switched from agent to agent and fought my way through the facility. I was further intrigued to learn that this entire Legion base is procedurally generated, giving players a new experience every time they play. That's a daunting promise for Volition to issue but so far the studio is making good on it.
As I continued to progress through the base and slay more enemies, a meter filled on the left side of the screen, eventually giving me access to a super Mayhem attack. This attack varies Agent to Agent. My favorite of these belonged to Hollywood, who summoned multiple explosions with an action pose that continuously destroy anything around him for a short period of time. Rama shoots a “Bad Medicine” arrow that depletes the target’s health over time, while Fortune sends her drone GLORY out to stun as many enemies as possible, making them easier to kill.
Eventually I found myself on Steeltoe’s flying airship, where Aisha and her new husband made their final stand... with a K-Pop musical number. The comedy elements of Agents of Mayhem really shine here, turning what had been mostly fast-paced action into a goofy segment worthy of a few laughs. That moment of levity was quickly replaced with a tough battle against an Aisha-enhanced Steeltoe, forcing me to become very familiar with the dodge mechanics as I took the mechanical menace down.
The biggest complaint against Agents of Mayhem is bound to be “it’s not Saints Row V,” but I would caution anyone making that snap judgment to at least give the game a try. I came out of the demo wanting more, fueled by the adrenaline of the action and the lighthearted humor sprinkled throughout the demo. It may not be the franchise that put Volition on the map, but based on this first demo it's definitely a game worthy of the studio’s pedigree. As we learn more about Agents of Mayhem and other playable characters I expect the hesitation to dwindle, and the world will be ready to take up arms with these new Agents of Mayhem.
Agents of Mayhem will be available in 2017 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.