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- Agents of Mayhem
It's been a little while since we've seen a full-fledged Volition Games title. After the release of Saint's Row: Gat Out of Hell, which was a smaller downloadable release, the developers of the Red Faction and Saints Row games went quiet for some time. Now, they're prepping a new open world IP Agents Of Mayhem for release this year. Pitched as a game where you control a group of bad guys who aim to take down some even worse people, you'll fight your way across the city of Seoul to take down the evil L.E.G.I.O.N., while retaking country of the city for your own organization M.A.Y.H.E.M.
While it's a brand new title, it's got many of the same elements of a proper Volition Game. A focus on open world exploration, some rather crass and reference focused humor, and some big action set pieces to take part in. With the launch set for August 7, the folks at Deep Silver decided to give the press extra hands-on time with some of the new characters and locations in Agents of Mayhem. Moreover, we also got to chat with Agents of Mayhem's lead designer about all things nostalgia for 80s action cartoons, and how they went out to build a brand new world to explore.
Set in the near future, and in-fact the same world created by Johnny Gat after the ending of Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, the evil criminal organization known as L.E.G.I.O.N. (League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations) amassed a large amount of resources and manpower to succeed in taking over the world. With the nations of the Earth under the control of L.E.G.I.O.N., the seedy and powerful Ultor Corporation have decided to fight back with their own organization of scumbags, criminals, and weirdos called M.A.Y.H.E.M. (Multinational AgencY for Hunting Evil Masterminds). With Bad fighting against Evil, the various agents of M.A.Y.H.E.M. take the fight to L.E.G.I.O.N. in the city of tomorrow, Seoul, South Korea, where the evil organization's influences run deep.
On the surface, Agents of Mayhem looks like a far more colorful and cartoony version of Saints Row, which isn't too far off from the truth. Though unlike Saints Row's focus on building up your own created character, Agents of Mayhem has 12 unique playable agents for you to play as and develop throughout your operation to dismantle L.E.G.I.O.N.. Each character has their particular set of skills and reasons of joining, but at the end of the day it all comes down to taking out the far more evil organization of L.E.G.I.O.N., by any means necessary. Essentially, Agents of Mayhem channels the best of the over the top 80's action cartoon and comics from back in the day, which is one of the developer's main influences.
Speaking with Anoop Shekar, the Lead Design Director for Agents of Mayhem, he spoke about their influences, while also going into what made them want to try something a bit different.
"When we came up with the idea for Agents of MAYHEM, we looked at different things from our past games, what made them successful," said the Design Director. "We were started working on it, our big inspiration for that was really stuff like G.I. Joe. and things like that, the key thing was that we had to have these very defined characters, and that's what we wanted this game to be about. […]We wanted to do something a bit different for the location as well, and we picked Seoul, as it's really on the cutting edge of technology. That city had that feeling, and we felt we could make our own version of it."
Much like Saints Row and Red Faction: Guerrilla, the agents have to retake control of enemy occupied territories, while completing various side-objectives and goals to help boost your resources. During the game's opening level, we were introduced to Hollywood, a former reality TV bounty hunter turned 'face' of the Agents of Mayhem, Hardtack, a gung-ho sailor wielding a shotgun and harpoon, and Fortune, a tomb-raiding explorer using high-tech drones and dual pistols. One of the main hooks of Agents of Mayhem is that you'll be able to switch off between three of the twelve characters at once. Before going out into the open world, you'll pick your team's loadout and level up their skills, and then jump into the action.
There's far more focus here on experimenting and seeing which heroes play best with others. I found myself really enjoying the variety in the roster, and there's plenty of perks, special skills and customization options to mess with. It definitely gave me some strong MOBA vibes throughout, as each character fell into a specific archetype that has their own learning curve to get a handle of. Each character is unique, and they've even got their own special introduction mission before you'll acquire them.
During one of the later missions in the game, we got to see one of the new agents named Daisy. By day, she's a roller derby brawler who loves to take out her opponents in the ring, but by night, she enjoys to get drunk and bust some skulls at bars and gang hideouts while wielding a large minigun, and the leaders of M.A.Y.H.E.M. figured she'd be perfect to add to the crew. During her mission, Daisy has to figure out what happened to during her previous night's exploits after getting black out drunk. As you'll retrace her footsteps across Seoul, a la The Hangover, she'll experience flashbacks during night, such as getting into fights with security bots while trying to order pizza at a Sushi kiosk. I was pleased to see that Agents of Mayhem has some serious fun with the setting and its characters, and Volition focused a lot on trying to make sure that each of the playable agents could stand out on their own.
"That was a big inspiration for us. 80s pop-culture, The A-Team, those were all big for us," said Shekar. "We very much wanted to make our version of those things, with of course the typical Volition humor and style that you'll be so familiar with. But also, to make it a bit more modern and mature. The one thing I'm so proud of that we nailed was the Agents. When we playtested this game, when we asked people what their favorite agents were, there wasn't a single answer from people. Everyone had a different answer, and for us that meant we succeeded."
As an open world game, you'll explore the city of Seoul in order to expand M.A.Y.H.E.M.'s influence, and in doing so you'll take part in various missions and side-objectives scattered around the metropolis. Aside from main objectives, you'll take part in racing missions, territory capture, invading secret bases, and dismantling doomsday weapons left behind by L.E.G.I.O.N.. The map of Seoul is fairly spacious. It's mostly urban terrain with the outskirts of the city, but I found the city to be most interesting in the style and art that's on display. We seldom see cities like Seoul as the setting for an open world, so it's especially nice to see how it contrasts to settings that are stylistically like New York City or Los Angeles.
While I enjoyed exploring the space, and summoning the MAYHEM car results in seeing some really fun character specific animations, such as Daisy breaking the fourth wall by giving players the finger, I was a bit disappointed in the lack of variety in activities in the open world. Granted, this was just a preview build and it might change in the final build of the game, I can't help but feel that the game is a bit lifeless in the city. Which is disappointing considering how colorful and vibrant things are. Content-wise, it feels a bit like Saints Row-lite, in terms of variety and how over the top they can be. Of course Insurance Fraud missions won't necessarily fit in Agents of Mayhem, but I was surprised to see how boilerplate much of the content was.
With that said, I had fun with Agents of Mayhem. While it's got some issues with some odd bugs and some disappointing mission design, I had a lot of fun messing with the various characters while exploring Seoul. The game doesn't take itself seriously, which I can say is really welcome quality in games. The developers showed a lot of love for the material being referenced in their work, and it was actually pretty fun seeing how many references I could find in Agents of Mayhem. Letting players cut loose and be the bad guy is a really interesting prospect, and Agents of Mayhem is certainly having fun with that.