Despite some similarities, the developers of Agents of Mayhem seem eager to make it known that their new game is absolutely, positively not Saints Row 5.The two games could, however, easily exist within the same universe; elements of the gunplay might seem familiar, as will the irreverent writing – there’s even some character crossover nods.
The basic premise is pretty straightforward: it’s a third-person, single-player, open-world action game about a bunch of self-absorbed, costumed misanthropes that will plough through anything in their way to defeat their enemies. It follows an organisation called the Multinational AgencY Hunting Evil Masterminds (Mayhem for short), as it does battle with its most deadly of enemies, Legion (the League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations). The action takes place in a near-future/alternate reality version of the city of Seoul, in the aftermath of a near-catastrophic doomsday event.
Despite being what passes for the good guys, Mayhem is refreshingly not the usual squeaky clean, unwavering pillar of patriotism. Instead, the agency’s founder is a former Legion member who’s arguably more interested in leaving a sizeable, smouldering crater where a bad guy was just standing than she is in protecting the innocent. Consequently, there is a generous quantity of collateral damage as you cavort around this cartoon-like recreation of the South Korean capital, particularly when you find yourself wasting the local populous purely to power up your agent’s special skills.
The team consists of 12 extreme anti-heroes, many of whom we’ve been able to play as in various demos: Braddock, a former USMC training officer; Hollywood, a reality TV star; Daisy, a Midwestern roller-derby queen (complete with skates and minigun); beefy sailor Hardtrack; and ex-pirate Fortune. As the game progresses and new operatives are unlocked, we learn a little more about their respective back-stories, with varying depth. Braddock, for instance, is chasing down former students who turned traitor and joined Legion, while Daisy joined because she didn’t have anything better to do than get plastered and pick fights with robots. And while some of them are more colourful than others, their effectiveness varies in combat.
For each mission, you pick three characters to take with you from the extended roster. The trick is that at any one time, only one of your three chosen characters is active; you switch between them depending on the situation you’re in by hitting left or right on the D-pad. We opted for Braddock, because he’s hard as nails, Rama, the tactical archer and Daisy, because… well, why not. It soon becomes second nature to switch between characters to adapt to your situation: in a close-quarters battle we’d opt for Braddock; when we could afford the luxury of therapeutic carnage, we’d choose Daisy; and for tactical situations it’s got to be Rama – she can fire sticky trap arrows and poison arrows for a set period of time.
Agents of Mayhem encourages you to use your character’s customisable special ability – which, when activated, fills up a meter for activating another, more powerful ability. It’s a nice way of pacing the game and means you’re more likely to play as one character for longer, as you try to charge him or her up. In addition, each character has a limited-use ability that can be activated at any time, which provides a buff for a short period.
Within Mayhem HQ you’ll be able to customise characters, upgrade your base and change the difficulty settings to increase both the risk and the rewards. In addition, the fast-paced and customisable gameplay obviously leans heavily towards there being a multi-player mode, but no announcements have been made so far regarding that. Previewed by Scott Snowden
Publisher: Deep Silver
Release: 15 August, 2017
Formats: PS4, Xbox One, PC