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Agents of Mayhem hands-on: Saints Row meets SHIELD

Hayden Dingman | June 29, 2016
Is the Saints Row universe super without the Saints?

I’m relieved Volition is making something other than Saints Row V. Which is not to say they’ll never make one—or that it’s not secretly in development right now. Who knows?

But if it is, it’s being developed alongside the all-new Agents of Mayhem, which Volition revealed right before E3. It’s set in the Saints Row universe, but trades the town of Steelport for Seoul, South Korea and the Saints themselves for a group of superheroes known as the Multi-national AgencY for Hunting Evil Masterminds or M.A.Y.H.E.M.

Yes, it’s a thinly-veiled parody of Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. And yes, they lifted the “Y” from the end of “Agency.”

All great, at least in theory. But after playing a demo of the game recently, I’m a bit worried—worried that maybe Saints Row isn’t quite as enjoyable without the Saints.

Doppelganger

It’s definitely a Saints Row premise. Our demo mission tasked us with saving a woman named Aisha. Well, “woman” is maybe putting it a bit strongly. Aisha is a stand-in for the real-world Hatsune Miku, who—if you’re unfamiliar—is a Japanese pop-star who, oh yeah, is also an AI.

So yeah, we had to rescue Aisha (AI-sha) from the bad guys in the League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations, or L.E.G.I.O.N. Except, of course, that Aisha’s actually in love with a Legionnaire named SteelToe and suddenly our job is to crash their wedding.

It’s silly. Not as silly as some parts in Saints Row III and IV, but silly.

And on the surface, Agents of Mayhem sounds like it should be a reskin of Saints Row IV. Superheroes? Didn’t we just do that one?Agents of Mayhem is a different beast entirely though. Where Saints Row let you create a character to lead the Saints, Agents of Mayhem has more in common with recent hero-based shooters like Overwatch or Battleborn. You’ll have a roster of about a dozen heroes to choose from, and bring three into missions as a “squad.”

The weird bit is you only use one character at a time—literally. This isn’t a squad shooter. The other two characters simply don’t exist until you swap to them, at which point they seamlessly replace the one you were playing as. It’s like a co-op game that’s...not a co-op game.

Agents of Mayhem

Anyway, you’re supposed to swap between characters to take advantage of their different abilities. In tight quarters? Hardtack is probably most useful, with his shotgun and harpoon. Lots of weak enemies? Maybe Hollywood’s assault rifle can chew through them. In our demo it was a non-issue though. Enemies were so easy that swapping characters felt more like a novelty than a necessity.

 

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