Agents of Mayhem is all about its larger-than-life heroes

Agents of Mayhem is Saints Row-adjacent. It has to be - after experiencing the world's greatest Matrix joke and then giving Satan what for, it'd be hard for Volition to top themselves with another open-world crime/super-hero game. Agents of Mayhem scales things back a bit, but finds new ways to get ridiculous, and it does this mostly through its 12 controllable heroes.

First off, Agents of Mayhem takes place in the Saints Row universe, to the point where Ultor, the corporation the Saints run, actually funds Mayhem, the organization your squad belongs to. But rather than finding humor through street gang tropes, Agents of Mayhem is a send-up of super-hero comics like Young Justice, as well as Saturday morning cartoon and 1960s spy fiction. To give you a taste of the kind of humor you can expect, Mayhem is actually an acronym which stands for Multinational AgencY for Hunting Evil Masterminds, and your enemy, Legion, is short for League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations. Also, my mission in the demo was to track down a K-Pop idol who ends up defecting to Legion to marry a dude named Steeltoe, who then uses her K-Pop dance powers to turn him into a giant. Yeah. It's quite goofy, but in new and hilarious ways.

That vibe extends into the different characters you control, who are the life-blood of Agents of Mayhem's personality. The 12 agents you control hail from around the world, but I only got to mess around with four during my hands on preview: Fortune, Rama, Hollywood, and Hardtack. Each one has their own set of weapons, gadgets, and skills, and because they're all wildly different, you have to switch between them constantly to keep up with what the game throws at you. You roll with three at a time - I picked Rama for her long-range bow, Hollywood for his assault rifle, and Hardtack for his up-close shotgun - and you can swap them out instantly with a tap of the D-Pad. 

Each agent feels uniquely qualified to handle specific situations, and they're all incredibly fun to play. Early on in the demo, I double-jumped on top of a building, realized that the Legion troops surrounding my objective hadn't spotted me yet, so I launched one of Rama's arrows in an unsuspecting mooks face for an instant kill. Then I lept down, switched to Hardtack, began mowing down the rest of Legion's forces, then swapped him out for Hollywood and used his grenade launcher to destroy my objective. A room in an underground Legion lair was filled with enemies, so I activated Hollywood's Mayhem power - earned after causing enough, well, mayhem - which caused him to throw his shades on, mug for the camera, go invincible, and cause dozens of pyrotechnics to explode around him for several seconds, damaging anyone who comes near him.

If you couldn't tell from that previous description, Hollywood is kind of a self-absorbed dick, and that character doesn't just come out in the gameplay - the dialog you hear is based on the character you're currently playing as. So Hollywood may be a giant tool when you hear him talk to headquarters or respond to enemy dialog, but if you're playing as Rama, you'll notice that she's much more reserved and patient, while Hardtack just wants to find some action. It's a small touch, but it's one that adds a lot more personality to 

Agents of Mayhem is also kind of an RPG, as much as it is a shooter. Similar to games like Borderlands, enemies here  have health bars, drop cash when you defeat them, and you'll find the occasional lootbox around town for a quick influx of income. You'll use money (as well as additional items you find) to buy and craft new gadgets to use out in the field. You'll even level up as you complete missions and take out enemies. Another thing I noticed when I played through the demo a second time - certain elements like enemy placement and even your path through a mission are randomly generated. My particular demo was mostly scripted, but one section had me hacking completely different computers, and opened a totally different door than the one I walked through the first time. I was told that some missions will be more guided, while others will turn up the randomness a bit more to allow for experiences which can radically change with each playthrough. 

It seems that Agents of Mayhem will play to Volition's strengths - big explosions, larger-than-life characters, and ridiculous and crass humor - but it's taking that Saints Row framework and inspiration and doing some really interesting things with it. Look for it some time in 2017. 

David Roberts
David Roberts lives in Everett, WA with his wife and two kids. He once had to sell his full copy of EarthBound (complete with box and guide) to some dude in Austria for rent money. And no, he doesn't have an amiibo 'problem', thank you very much.