Agents Of Mayhem builds upon Saints Row in every way

Skating around as a roller derby player who is gleefully belching and swearing as she sprays enemies with bullets from her minigun, it’s difficult not to have at least a little fun while playing Volition’s new third-person open world action adventure RPG. Taking place within the same universe as their Saints Row series, Agents of Mayhem [official site] has the same irreverent humour, and this time is poking fun at superhero groups.

A villainous organisation known as Legion (the League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations) led by a man known as the Morningstar, attacked the world in a deadly simultaneous global attack. Using teleportation technology and dark matter fuelled-weapons they appeared in multiple areas around the world in a matter of seconds, creating chaos. You play as Mayhem (the Multinational Agency for Hunting Evil Masterminds), led by ex-Legion Minister Persephone Brimstone. Using the teleportation technology and their team of misfit specialists, Mayhem are determined to take down Legion, no matter what the cost.

From the setup, as well as the trailers, Volition have made clear that this is very much their R-rated version of a 1980’s G.I. Joe Saturday morning cartoon. With the over the top characters, outrageously costumed villains, and an abundance of gadgets. It feels like a good fit for them, after their Saints Row series transitioned from a grim gangster tale to what was essentially a silly superhero romp by the fourth game.

Whether on a mission or exploring the open world (set in Seoul), the player chooses a team of three agents and can switch between them at any point. There are twelve agents in total, each with a unique personal weapon, their own special attack, and a powerful “Mayhem ability”. You’re meant to balance your group of agents, making sure you have the right team for the job. When I started playing I just chose three that looked like fun, I soon realised that despite the difficulty being lowered for this preview build, paying attention to your agent’s stats is pretty key.

The combat felt satisfying, and was genuinely enjoyable. Very quickly I found myself cycling through my three heroes, using one to blast away close range with a shotgun, then darting back with a faster character. It’s a mechanic I actively wanted to spend more time with.

One thing I found interesting was that every character was equipped with the ability to triple jump. It would perhaps seem more intuitive to reserve that for the more agile characters. I spoke to the game’s producer, Kate Nelson, about this:

“We had a lot of talk about metrics for the city building, and the reason is because we really wanted to emphasise vertical traversal in our game,” says Nelson. “So the triple jump is the standard thing. Other agents can do an air dash, so Hollywood [one of the agents], when you hit B in the air he can triple jump and then go forward. Other ones can do triple jump and then hold onto the side of a building and vault themselves up. So some of them can go even higher than triple jump, and some of them can go vertically further. So that’s how we differentiated it.”

The emphasis on vertical traversal came through in the preview build. I became reliant on the triple jump. Why dodge an enemy when I can just fly up into the air? In the missions the environments were designed for this kind of movement. Unfortunately in this build of the game we didn’t get much time in the actual open world. However, from what little I did see I’m a bit worried that this vertical traversal will be lost in favour of the usual “go along the map at ground level to get to point B”. To speed up your exploration you can call a variety of cars to you, or just steal an ice cream van if it takes your fancy. The driving handles well, though you can’t move the camera without it snapping back into position, which was irritating.

As well as ice cream vans, one of the many ways you’ll be ploughing through Legion is with a huge array of tech. These gadgets you can unlock are referred to as “Gremlin Tech” (Gremlin being Mayhem’s tech expert). Kate explained that “she [Gremlin] comes up with all these crazy weapons for agents to use throughout the city, so she drops them in caches. They’re pretty fun, they’ll make corpses explode, or they’ll call down an airstrike, or ice will shoot down from the sky. So they’re pretty out-there large moves.”

Between the huge amount of Gremlin tech, twelve characters, upgrades and other gadgets, there’s a lot to get your head around and play about with.

The variety in the actual characters themselves is refreshing, particularly the range of female characters. Kate said that this diversity was actively pursued; “It’s something that we did set out to do because we wanted to make sure that as people were playing that they can see a character and be like ‘oh you know what, I identify with this character’ and we do have female writers on staff and we do have people looking out for that, and so we’re just making sure that we’re representing a bit more diversity, as much as we can, because we are limited to twelve people.”

The humour will not be to everyone’s taste, and for me it occasionally felt forced. The anarchic writing was enjoyable in a preview build but it would definitely wear thin for me in a full game. However, the combat has piqued my interest. If the verticality the triple jump offers is utilised in the open world then I’ll be willing to forgive the constant shouting wisecracks and spend time trying to master the three agent mechanic.

Agents of Mayhem will be released on the 15th August in America and the 18th August in Europe.

37 Comments

  1. Snowskeeper says:

    Played Saints Row largely for the character customization; that’s why Gat out of Hell fell so flat for me, and I’m assuming I’m not alone in that. The lack of customization here is kind of disheartening.

    Not going to pass judgment; just don’t think we should be handing them any kudos because they’re The Guys What Did SR. If anything, SR’s flawed progression, wonky gunplay and plethora of minigames is making me more nervous than I would be if this were a fresh dev.

    Sooo “will wait and see,” I guess.

    • Gardiad says:

      I feel the same way, some Superhero / Make your own GI Joe would of gone a long way, the last singleplayer game that let me do that I feel was Freedom Force vs The Third Reich. Also the lack of co-op is rather saddening too as you have all those heroes.

      • gou says:

        no coop? Pff, next…

      • Kollega says:

        I feel the need to agree; the lack of co-op and character customization is disenheartening. But I am still waiting on the game, and will seek to buy it, because it’s the first open-world superhero comedy game in… forever. When a lot of the open-world shooter genre are still GTA clones of varying persuasion (including Saints Row itself), and very few have sci-fi settings or genuine comedy plotlines, this game is practically priceless.

      • wldmr says:

        I also hope we’ll of more customization options in the game.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        Waaaait, what, no coop? Seriously? This sounds like it was made for coop. What the hell?

      • x1501 says:

        As an owner of the entire Saints Raw franchise, the lack of campaign co-op will the single biggest factor I won’t even bother to consider buying this one. Worst decision they could have made.

    • Deviija says:

      Indeed, the biggest missed opportunity here is that they could’ve built upon one of the best parts of SR4. The superheroing and superpowers in an open world story-driven humorous environment. It was the gameplay highlight of the game, imo. They could have created an amazing superhero (or play as over the top exaggerated supervillains) co-op game that would have itched a scratch many folks have been dreaming of.

      Customization of your player character is integral in these games, I think. As great as it is to hear how diverse a cast line-up is, and how mindful they are about it, I think everyone would rather have the ability to spend time crafting their own main characters, dress them up how they want, and outfit them with the weaponry/gizmos/powers that they want.

      A co-op open world sandbox humorous superhero/supervillain game with a customizable main character, with access to a variety of powersets to choose from, and all the many ideas (humorous and spoof and serious alike) for costume clothing to mix and match and layer while out tearing up the place? That would make bank.

    • Gordon Shock says:

      Really?
      Please can someone explain to me why a lack of character customization is a deal breaker? I am not trolling here, I’d really love an insight into this because I am confounded.

      I mean it’s a game right?, if people want to create characters they are free to pick up Poser, Maya or any other character creation tool out there and they will most certainly have a blast because these programs offer your limitless possibilities.

      • Snowskeeper says:

        It’s a lot more fun to play as a character you’ve created yourself. That was a huge chunk of SR’s appeal–the ability to run around using a character you designed yourself, in a costume you designed yourself, using weapons you picked out yourself and listening to a voice-over from an actor you picked yourself.

        It’s not just about designing a character; it’s about playing as that character as well. That was a huge part of SR III and IV; that, and the humour, was what made most of the rest of the game tolerable for me.

      • TWChristine says:

        There’s a lot of people (like me! And the other posters..) who like the “Barbie” aspect of character customization. I can sit there for hours trying to get my character juuuust right. It drives my wife nuts, because she’ll look over and there I am..still customizing. Honestly, I’ve gotten to the point where if games don’t offer SOME degree of customization (at least letting me choose my own gender, but preferably everything!) then I just pass. Yea I may miss out on The Latest Big Amazing Thing, but there’s so many games, and so little time that eh..whatevs.

        Anyway, not to sound like an ass, but I thought your comment came off just a tad snide (though I’m sure it’s from honestly not getting why customization is such a big deal to some people) with the “If you like customization so much, just get a 3D modeling program and go nuts.” Maybe it just struck a nerve with me because my parents were always saying “If you like playing games so much, why don’t you become a programmer and make them?” To me, modeling/programming is just work, while customization/playing is the fun part.

      • Yglorba says:

        It’s a bit of a shame because Saint’s Row 3 and 4 had some of the best character customization I’ve ever seen in a game – it was one of the few where I felt like my customization actually defined the character, mostly thanks to the combination of excellent voice work and the writers doing a really good job of characterizing the boss in a way that left them well-defined while giving you enough room to insert your own concept.

        You could turn the SR4 boss into an angry redneck wearing an American Flag and wielding a shotgun, or a French woman in tie-dyes wearing a bandana who shoots people with a bazooka concealed in her guitar case, or an Angry Black Man made up to look like Jules from Pulp Fiction, and the game’s characterization would do an amazing job of making each of these feel like they’re natural and simply the character the Boss was intended to be all along. It was like magic, and stood way way above the flat, blank-sheet characterization you see in games like Skyrim or Mass Effect.

        My guess is that the reason it worked so well was because they were absolutely determined to make the Boss a vibrant and interesting character despite the customization, though, and they probably feel that in SR4 they were grinding up against the limits of that.

    • FranticPonE says:

      Yep, that’s why Saints Row 2 was the best and it went downhill after. Actually 1 had some fun gameplay but that was kinda squished out in 2.

      I just look at this thing and feel nothing. I don’t even care about it, I barely care enough to click and make this reply, and that’s just to say I want whoever made Red Faction Guerrilla and/or Saints Row 2 back in at their studio. Until then, I just can’t even be bothered to watch the trailers.

    • CaptainDju says:

      Agree with you, and I also won’t discourage them from doing something new-ish, but deep down I hoped for a bit more SR, even if I have to agree I’m not sure how/where they could go beyond SR4/Gat out of Hell.

      That being said I thought the same thing after SR3 so wait and see :-)

    • Furiant says:

      I really liked the superhero aspects of it, but yeah, the dress-up component was the real draw for me. These days I simply don’t play games which don’t provide a certain level of customization. If they don’t provide a female avatar, that’s also a no-go. I know, I’m needlessly limiting myself blah blah. I just don’t enjoy RPGs in which I can’t personalize the avatar to my liking.

    • statistx says:

      Yeah, I played it for the character customisation and the silly gangster style (well and Coop).
      Both of which are not in Gat out of Hell, which is the reason i haven’t played it and don’t intend to, even though i own it through bundles and PS Plus.

      Lots of people don’t seem to mind the traversion to superheros and demons, but for me that is the second no-no after lack of customisation.

  2. Pich says:

    this looks like a generic free2play third person shooter, not really looking forward to it.

    • snappycow says:

      Skimmed over the article much? This isn’t your typical FPS-MOBA-F2P-P2W-MMO deal, it’s singleplayer SR4 with the silliness amped even further up.

      • Ghostwise says:

        That most people don’t read the articles they comment about has been established for a while.

        That said, I liked how the game renews the concept behind Turok.

  3. zulnam says:

    Not impressed so far.

  4. Drib says:

    Wouldn’t the plotline feel sorta pointless? Oh, look, you saved the world from the baddies, but you also know that in SR4 earth is destroyed anyway, so… thbbt.

    • Kollega says:

      The game is actually set after one of the endings of Gat Out of Hell, so… no, it’s not pointless because it’s an alternate timeline. The connection with earlier Saints Row games is mostly just window dressing.

      • Drib says:

        Ah, the ending where you restore earth I guess.

        I think I had him reunited with his girlfriend from the previous game.

        I mostly played as cute FBI girl anyway.

  5. Kollega says:

    Yeah, I’ve got to say – the cast diversity in the game looks pretty promising. The characters revealed beforehand are a Colombian sky pirate, a shotgun-toting badass sailor from the US Navy, an action hero who’s also a TV personality, and an Indian immunologist with bow and trick arrows – and the ones revealed in the trailer seem to include an Arabian thief (who seems to be filling the ninja role), a Japanese hitman (the guy with the oni mask and silenced pistols), a heavily-armed football player (wonder about that guy), a gangsta-rapper with a hypnotic boombox (we do need more abilities in games that make your enemies dance involuntarily… the Groovitron in R&C was teh awesomeness!), and a Cryo-Communist with a freeze cannon (I’m really intrigued on whether the hammer-and-sickle belt buckle is just for show, or if the guy is actually a card-carrying communist portrayed primarily positively – that’d be pretty unusual in the games industry, but very much in line with the ethos of 1980s multinational teams from action cartoons). Overall… this is some good stuff, and I hope the game will pull off everything the devs want to do with it. The world is long overdue for a GTA-style game where you play as cartoon superheroes.

    • April March says:

      The weirdest thing is that when I saw the boombox that makes the enemies dance I didn’t think “Oh, what a cool and interesting and bizarre and funny thing to have! That’s the Volition I know and love!”, which is what I should have thought; instead I thought “Oh, just like Streets of Rogue then.”

      Then I realized that, while I’m still excited for Agents of Mayhem, I’ll probably end up playing Streets of Rogue more, and even though one is a flashy and smooth AAA open world and the other is a directed roguelike pixelated murderdungeon, they fill the same roles for me. (And it already has four-player coop, whatchaknow.)

      Anyway, just remember:
      A boombox can change the world
      You gotta know your limits with a boombox

      • Snowskeeper says:

        I think a lot of the issues with SRIV can be summed up with that dubbox, actually. It was supposed to be a silly and weird tool. It was used to advertise the franchise more than any other part of your arsenal, I think. And yet in practice, it’s just a gun with a very large area of effect that takes an inordinately long time to kill the people it hits. Yeah, it makes them do a silly dance first, and it temporarily replaces the music with dubstep, but… So what? What does that actually add, after the first three or four times you use it? It certainly got old for me after being forced to use it for the entirety of the level where it was introduced.

        I dunno; maybe I’m just being overly cynical, but that’s how SRIV felt for me. SRIV introduces a lot of new stuff, but none of it is particularly interesting, and at the end of the day it ended up being mostly just a new, slightly splotchy coat of paint on the structure III built up. Certainly didn’t help when Gat out of Hell was just the same thing [i]again[/i], with even less originality.

  6. skyturnedred says:

    As soon as I saw numbers pop up when you hit enemies I decided to give this a pass.

  7. rushakoff says:

    Builds upon saints row in every way except bringing basically nothing but the logo from saints row. This headline is a joke right?

  8. Chaoslord AJ says:

    I loved SR3 more than all the GTAs, bro-hood and less cultural cynicism, also liked Prototype back then.
    The same with superheroes sounds terrific to me depending on how creative the powers might turn out.

  9. Seafoam says:

    I wish someday someone will make a game that builds on Saints Row 2.
    I always loved the juxtaposition between the dark story and silliness. I want to be a gritty crime boss that buries people alive, while also flying a UFO in a hotdog costume in the spare time.

  10. x1501 says:

    Considering that the flawlessly implemented co-op was one of few things that made Saints Row truly great, the headline’s claim is completely invalidated by the fact that this has no co-op gameplay whatsoever.

    • Snowskeeper says:

      Is that sarcasm?

      I don’t know about the first two, but the co-op in 3 and 4 was awful.

      • x1501 says:

        Surely, you must be joking or trolling. The entire campaign seamlessly playable cooperatively (with both players seeing themselves as the boss, no less), plus the additional co-op elements like well-implemented passenger/driver combo mechanics and fully adjustable difficulty and enemy spawn numbers (via mods) turned the Saints Raw games into some of the best cooperative experiences out there. If the co-op truly was “awful” for you, it was probably the human element to blame, not the game.

        • Snowskeeper says:

          It had nothing to do with the human element. It had everything to do with the massive, intolerable lag. This was a fairly common issue, so far as I can tell, and persisted from 3 to 4.

          • x1501 says:

            Lag is not a gameplay mechanic. I’m just talking about the implementation of co-op here, which was pretty damn good.

            Besides, I played Saints Row 2 and 3 both via LAN and intercontinentally and never had a problem with lag. Things like this are often hard to blame on the developers, considering that it may just as well could have been one of myriads of possible factors with one of your PCs. The game has a known compatibility problem with older BIOS revisions of AMD’s FX CPUs. Perhaps that was the culprit?

          • Snowskeeper says:

            It wasn’t my PC. You’re the first person I’ve talked to who hasn’t had this issue. That’s anecdotal evidence, but a Google search turns up a lot of people complaining about it, especially about the rate at which it occurs while driving. Driving’s a pretty important part of the game, but, again, you’re the first person I’ve seen saying that lag wasn’t an issue for you.

            I do believe that, to an extent, managing lag is the responsibility of the developer. If a game mode is unplayable because of lag, and that lag can’t be fixed on the consumer’s end, that game mode has an issue.

  11. SaintAn says:

    Agents Of Mayhem shits upon Saints Row in every way

    ftfy