Previews

Carving a new path: Hands-on impressions with Agents of Mayhem

Throughout their recent creations, Volition has maintained a strict through line with their world, their love for the color purple, and most notably, the off the wall action. When they unveiled Agents of Mayhem, it was pretty clear all three of those would be returning, thanks in part to their new project making explicit reference to the hugely popular Saints Row franchise. After grabbing some hands-on time, it was nice to discover that despite these connections, Agents of Mayhem is very much its own thing. The thing it is? A wonderful, goofy romp filled with lovable personalities.

Granted, that sounds similar to how you would describe Saints Row, but the actions you are partaking in make it feel quite different. In the given demo, I chose between three of the four given classes, a heavy, a ranged-focus class, one with an assault rifle, and one with dual pistols. Throughout your misadventures, you can swap between your three characters on the fly. So if you are being hoarded by enemies, you may want to use the heavy who features a shotgun. The real differences in the classes are not in their load outs, but instead, their special abilities.

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You have two of said abilities, one of which runs on a shorter cool down that varies from 10 to 60 seconds, and one that only activates once you have used the lesser ability a certain number of times. This unlocked ability is called “Mayhem” and summons some sort of strong attack, dependent on the character you choose. For example, the heavy can launch around ten mines onto a surface or enemy and then watch them simultaneously explode. While it wasn’t shown at E3, you will be able to acquire different abilities as you gain experience with your characters.

While only four characters were shown (there are twelve currently set for the final game), Volition made sure to highlight their personalities. One of the main characters is a Johnny Cage-esque Hollywood type who exudes both confidence and a putrid personality. The dual wielding protagonist is a quick-witted lass who stays talking, with the archer being on the more intelligent, respectable side. Building upon that, the colorful, light-hearted design silently adds more to your cast’s appeal.

As for the narrative happenings within Agents of Mayhem, the details are heavily comic book influenced. A destructive force begins to take over the world, appropriately named League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations (aka Legion), and you must assemble your own personal force to combat these foes. As you may expect, your team features a similarly exaggerated name: Multinational Agency for Hunting Evil Masterminds, abbreviated to Mayhem. Your team of antiheroes is funded by the infamous Ultor group that allows them to dance around traditional laws in hopes of accomplishing their goal. Also noted was that Agents of Mayhem takes place in Seoul, South Korea, although Legion is terrorizing the entire world.

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While Agents of Mayhem sets itself apart from previous Volition games, it definitely shows some similarities to the Saints Row and Red Faction franchise. Most notably, the colorful, purple-heavy visuals return in full force. This type of light-hearted art style fits flawlessly with Agents of Mayhem, mainly due to its silly, superhero-esque nature. Explosions pop off beautifully, characters emote comically, and the clean, precise design of Agents of Mayhem is wonderful to look at, even this far from a final release.

Another similarity comes in the form of Volition’s floaty movement, which persists in Agents of Mayhem. Your characters dart around the environment with dashes while falling lackadaisically to the ground as they blast off rounds at enemies. That being said, enemies tend to take more bullets than they do in past Volition games which increases the reason to use your special abilities. It all builds together to create an enjoyable arcade-style gameplay tinge that is just plain fun to dive into.

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The objectives of your antiheroes throughout the demo were rather simple, simply destroy different devices that could help the foes. This brings about the ultimate make or break question, whether or not Volition can orient this style of gameplay into an open-world environment that will feature multiple opportunities for random shenanigans. They have a large history of crafting open-world projects, so it will be interesting to see what is crafted to keep the player running wild throughout Agents of Mayhem’s world.

Volition seems like a bunch of happy, go-lucky folks that just enjoy making fun video games, and that showed during the demo of Agents of Mayhem. Despite featuring a pretty dark overarching story (having the world be taken over by an evil force seems bad, maybe that’s just me), there remains a comical nature to the random action happening on screen. Volition has somehow made this odd juxtaposition of feelings just feel appropriate in their titles. There are still multiple layers waiting to be crafted around Agents of Mayhem, but if the pieces fall correctly, it will be one hell of a time.

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