Agents of Mayhem is very Volition. As we've alluded to in our previous coverage (more on that here), if you're familiar with the Saints Row series, you'll feel instantly at home when you pick up the controller and get stuck into this explosive third-person action-adventure. The game is on the horizon, and with that in mind, we went for one last looksy at what's in store for us when it lands on PC, PS4, and Xbox One later this month.
Most notably, and this will come as no surprise to anyone who's played Saints Row, it's very silly. We controlled four of the agents referenced in the title, and each one offers special moves that border on showboating. Each character is easy to access from your team of three, simply cycling through them on the d-pad brings up a new agent, and like you would in one of those pixel-perfect 2D fighters, you can tag them in when one character's health is getting a little low. You can feel the fighting game influence in the design of the characters too, with smaller, more spritely characters working alongside heavier set alternatives who are better at soaking up damage.
Characters have a series of personalised attacks, each one with a special on a cooldown timer. These show-stopping moves are worth waiting for, and Volition really makes a song and a dance out of these moments. Rod Stone, otherwise known as Hollywood, is a somewhat vain but otherwise unremarkable jack-of-all-trades, but when his mayhem ability is activated he stops to put some sunglasses on before explosions ring all around and he goes to work on his enemies with renewed vigour. Otherwise, Hollywood alternates between his assault rifle and firing grenades into clusters of henchmen.
We also had plenty of time with his teammates, Hardtack and Fortune. Hardtack's shotgun made him deadly up close, and his mayhem ability involved sending out explosive mines. More interesting, though, was his harpoon attack, which lets him pull enemies from far away so he can then deal with them with the aforementioned shotgun. Overall, though, we preferred Fortune. She was that bit more agile than the other two. Fortune's special involves sending out a drone to stun opponents, but she also has energy-based attacks that slow enemies and deal damage, and she looks cool as hell as she dives this way and that while firing her twin pistols.
Best of all was Rama, who we got to control during the demo. After unlocking her via the story campaign, this Indian immunologist wields a bow and comes as part of the Bombshells team (we didn't, however, get to play around with her colleagues Joule and Red Card). Rama is recruited by agency chief Persephone Brimstone following the global attack initiated by the villainous L.E.G.I.O.N (otherwise known as the League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations). After joining the ranks of M.A.Y.H.E.M. (otherwise known as the Multinational Agency for Hunting Evil Masterminds), and given her medical background, Rama has a vested interest in finding a cure to the Dark Matter Plague.
It goes without saying that her weapon defines the way that Rama plays, but if (like us) you enjoy the feel of an in-game bow, then that alone will probably be enough to draw you in. Like Fortune, Rama is a nimble fighter, and we had a lot of fun using the triple jump seemingly afforded to all characters to easily traverse the world, not just hopping between rooftops as we explore the world, but also leaping between platforms while in combat. Using her mobility and bow allowed for some satisfying shots, although it's worth noting that it seems as though aim assist comes into play quite frequently, and certain shots hit home when perhaps they should have missed. Still, it looks cool to land hits as you jump between platforms while enemy minions scurry around underneath.
We also got to see a bit of The A.R.K. (the base otherwise known as Adaptive Roaming Kommand) that links the various missions. Here players can talk to NPCs and upgrade their abilities. Characters like Friday, Persephone Brimstone's assistant (an interesting aside, apparently Friday has already been confirmed as one of three LGBT characters in the game, and is in a relationship with another character called Braddock) are based here, but you can also do things like upgrade your agents' equipment via Gremlin's R+D Lab and unlock new weapons.
Having played the game for over an hour, we came away understanding a few things more clearly. Firstly, Volition loves an acronym. Secondly, the purple fleur de lis is clear nod to the origins of this new adventure, namely the Saints Row series. Thirdly, the system of swapping between three characters is going to add lots of variety as you play, not only in terms of what each character can do, but also with potential combinations when swapping between them and linking their abilities.
While we certainly enjoyed running about and blasting low-level enemy grunts and playing around with an assortment of special abilities, the question still remains as to whether Agents of Mayhem does enough new and exciting things with Volition's own tongue-in-cheek open-world formula to make it a truly essential title. That said, we expect long-time Saints fans to warm to the new setup, and we're hoping that the studio can match the whacky gameplay with a suitably engaging story. If they can manage that, we here at G.A.M.E.R.E.A.C.T.O.R. will no doubt have a blast when we review the game later this month.