Agents of Mayhem Is The Effed Up GI Joe Game You Always Wanted [Preview]
Last year, we got our first glimpse at Volition's first new IP since Saints Row dominated the previous generation of consoles. Agents of Mayhem billed itself as an action-packed adventure that poked fun at the concept of international security agencies like SHIELD or GI Joe and their rival groups, Hydra or Cobra. With that classic Volition sense of wicked humor, open-world adventure and ludicrous weaponry, Agents of Mayhem captured our attention early on. One year later, with Agents of Mayhem mere months away from release, Volition's concept has gotten that much tighter and stronger. And so has our desire to play the full game.
Okay, there's a lot to take in when it comes to Agents of Mayhem. We had about 30 minutes for our demo, and could easily have spent that much time (and more) just pouring over all the customization options on the Ark, the homebase of the good guys. From costumes and weapon loadouts, to vehicles and research stations, there are plenty of ways to make the Mayhem experience your own, and we barely even scratched the surface. As cool as the bases in Saints Row games were, they just felt like big apartments. The Ark is a living, breathing place that echoes one of SHIELD's helicarriers with its largess and layout, and it's a place that makes you feel like you really are a part of a global operation.
With limited time, we quickly jumped from the Ark right into the mission. We were tasked with taking down one of LEGION's agents, Gaunt, who was definitely not a villainous Justin Bieber caricature. Agents of Mayhem doesn't just put you in the shoes of one hero, but instead tasks you with crafting the best three-person team for the operation at hand. Some missions will let you bring whoever you want along for the ride, but others like this Gaunt hunt, will require you to bring agents with specific skill sets like hacking along. Beyond that though, it's completely up to you how you want to approach a given mission. There are plenty of sniper-like characters, more tank-ish heavy gunners, and quick close-combat heroes to pick from. Each of the playable characters is more than capable of causing a great amount of destruction wherever they go, but it's all a matter of what kind of strategies you like to employ.
We brought Hollywood, the action star and infantry expert, Rama, the Indian scientist and bow expert, and Joule, the hacker with a remote turret, on our mission, which led to some great on-the-fly strategizing. It also led to us being overwhelmed and beaten quite a few times. That's not fault of the game however, and more due to our sloppy playstyle that didn't take into account all the new ways Volition is approaching combat in Agents of Mayhem.
The gunplay here is very close to what Volition was doing in Saints Row, but the developer has added a number of tweaks to the way you can fight beyond traditional armaments. The biggest way is the Mayhem meter, which fills as you cause more and more, you guessed it, mayhem. Blowing things up, eliminating LEGION forces and just wrecking the city will build up this meter, allowing you to pull off an incredible super attack. For instance, our Hollywood had a "superhero landing pose" attack. If you've seen any Iron Man movie or poster, you know the pose we're talking about. When fully powered up, Hollywood could leap into the sky and come crashing back down in a major area of effect blast. There are multiple variations of Mayhem attacks each character can have and use, and again goes to the depth of customization Volition's included in this game.
Since you have three agents with you at all times, you'll also be able to swap between any of them at a given point. Only one MAYHEM agent is playable at a time, but a quick flick of a button swaps out your current hero in no time. If you're getting lambasted and need a quick out, you can swap to someone with more health to have them take the brunt of the beating until the other character has a chance to rest. If you fall in combat though, that's pretty much it for that character for the duration of the mission. That's no small detriment, as missions aren't short. Chasing Gaunt led us through a number of locales in town, and was a multi-tiered mission with new leads constantly taking us to new encounters. There were also plenty of LEGION goons to deal with along the way. Ambushes were plentiful to say the least.
As familiar as it may look from the outside, Agents of Mayhem is quite a different game from Saints Row. That's a good thing as it shows Volition has a little bit more range and ambition than to continually pump out variations on the same theme. Even though we died more often than we would have liked, the promise of Agents of Mayhem was certainly tangible. There were a lot of elements coming together as one to create this new experience, and all we need now is some time to actually get into the nitty gritty of Agents of Mayhem's world. Thirty minutes just wasn't enough to satisfy our craving for that sweet open-world action.
Agents of Mayhem will be out on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC on August 15.