Agents of Mayhem is a spin-off in the Saints Row universe, and while the oversized personalities and open world of its progenitor may be something Saints Row fans immediately recognize in Agents of Mayhem, the game goes a different direction from its source material. The third-person shooter revels in switching between a trio of characters during combat to maximize each one's special abilities as you mow down Legion forces in a reimagined Seoul, South Korea. I recently got some hands-on time with a preview demo of the title (out on August 15 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC), and found a few key areas of potential that I'd like to see grow for the final product.
The Importance of Seoul
The game takes place in a near-future version of Seoul where Mayhem agents try to take down Legion - an organization seizing control of the world with weapons fueled by dark matter. The representation of the city, expressed through a vivid art style that pops off the screen, contains the usual mix of pedestrians, traffic, and the occasional loot box or collectible.
While the characters' personalities come out loud and clear (from foul-mouth roller-derby warrior Daisy to former drill instructor Braddock) via a rolling stream of dialog, I'm curious how Agents of Mayhem's open world doles out missions and side missions (perhaps including some randomly generated ones), as well as how much it encourages and rewards exploration. The demo I played was curated in that it wasn't a specific part of the game, but rather different sections assembled to show off various aspects focused on single tasks. I'm curious what kind of attractions and distractions the final game contains to augment the main story thread. Good open worlds feel like they are a character in their own right, and I hope that Agent's version of the visually vibrant Seoul is a fulfilling jumping off point for all kinds of shenanigans.
From an architecture standpoint, the areas I saw had some verticality to them, exploitable by the characters triple-jump ability. Using this I accessed rooftops and balconies pretty quickly to get a jump on and surprise encamped enemies. Cars get you around the city (I didn't see a mini-map; arrows lead you to a destination), but I didn't get to see if they do more than take you from point A to point B.
Agents of Mayhem's ability to develop its open world will be important in engaging players as well as established Saints Row fans interested in this spin-off universe.
Agents of Power
Just one agent is a formidable force, so having three of them at your beck and call gives you myriad tools of destruction. Each of the game's dozen agents comes with their own weapon, special attack, Mayhem attack, passive ability, and other specialties, and juggling these in real time is part of the game's challenge and fun. Vain TV personality Hollywood can rain down explosions onto enemies near and far, while Fortune uses her partner drone to stun enemies and helps the squad as a whole by generating bonus-credit rewards.
Combat is fast, and it doesn't take long to get a feel for the trio of agents, which you can switch between on the d-pad. I did this not only to take advantage of the situation tactically (such as taking the time to power up Rama's bow for extra damage from afar), but to manage the health of the heroes. The three agents you take into missions are selected before you start, and while it's a little dizzying initially trying to figure out what's the best combination, that's definitely part of the fun.
With as many options you have with the different agents, and how their personalities are front and center, I'm curious how the game's enemies will match our titular heroes. The demo's stages naturally contained varying types of anonymous fodder, but we did go up against a boss known as Hammersmith, who like many higher-ups, initially delegated the situation to various waves of underlings and turrets. Defeating him also entailed destroying specific electrical panels in the environment while he protected himself, suspended in the air with a personal shield. It took me a little while to take care of the whole encounter, often switching amongst my heroes and making use of the environment for cover. Apart from these volved boss encounters, I'd like to see the regular enemies on the streets of Seoul push the agent's already formidable talents to their limits.
The Refuge of The Ark?
After completing some of the demo's missions and waves of enemies, I was awarded XP, cash, and occasionally gadgets. The latter incrementally improves the effectiveness of the character. A gadget for Hardtack called Periscopic Barrel increases the range of his shotgun while doing less damage. I asked representatives for developer Volition how the game's larger progression loop of rewards worked, and apart from a character leveling system, I was told there is a whole upgrade system and larger significance for the Agents' base, called The Ark. I wasn't given any more details about The Ark, but I hope it's part of a larger gameplay/loot loop that provides a strong foundation for the title throughout the experience.
Agents of Mayhem comes out August 15 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, and already has some promising pieces in place that distinguish it from previous games in the Saints Row universe. Hopefully it can continue to flesh out a few key areas and build upon its already outrageous hero personalities.
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