Deep Silver Volition is finally taking a break from "Saints Row," but its latest project doesn't fall far from the tree. With its upcoming franchise, "Agents of Mayhem," the developer brings its distinct brand of humor and applies it to a world that takes a cue from Saturday morning cartoons.
Think of it as an R-rated "G.I. Joe." The heroes and villains curse like sailors and end up in adult situations like an all-night bender involving a robot fight club. (Yes, that actually happened.)
The studio offered a glimpse of the project at E3, but at an event last week, the developers offered a deeper dive into the game.
"Agents of Mayhem" takes place after a cataclysmic event called Devil's Night. On Oct. 30, multiple terrorist attacks disrupted the global power structure. It was the coming out party for LEGION, an evil organization with advanced weaponry. They wiped out entire armies with their rifles and vehicles powered by dark matter. They eliminated all nuclear weapons on earth.
The only organization that could stop this is Ultor, and the multinational conglomerate funds the agents of Mayhem. Led by former LEGION lieutenant Persephone Brimstone, the 12 protagonists will battle the terrorist group across Seoul, South Korea. But don't get this confused with a battle of light vs. dark. The team behind "Agents of Mayhem" says their characters are more like anti-heroes. They're hellbent on doing anything to stop LEGION, making it a conflict of bad vs evil or in Dungeons and Dragons terms True Neutral vs Lawful Evil.
The biggest selling point of "Agents of Mayhem" is the squad system that Volition developed. They introduce it slowly early on as players try out Hollywood, Hardtack and Fortune. The agents have their own weapon, special ability, mayhem ability (a power that has to charge up over time), traversal moves, passive traits and specializations. Each factor makes every agent play differently.
For example, Hollywood is about as vanilla as protagonist can get. He fires an assault rifle, shoots grenades and his super ability lets him toss constant explosions while being fortified. Meanwhile, Hardtack is more like a tank. He has a lot of health but moves slowly and lacks the ability to dash. He has a teleharpoon that acts like Scorpion's spear in "Mortal Kombat" dragging foes in close so he can blast them with his shotgun. Lastly, Fortune is the quickest of the three and has the most maneuverability with her triple jump and dash. But she's also the weakest and her double handgun and drone attacks focus on stunning foes to inflict more damage.
Players can quickly switch among these characters with the directional pad, but where "Agents of Mayhem" has surprising depth is in how players can combo the powers of their squad for maximum damage or use the abilities to deal with unrelenting waves of foes. Fortune can use her drone, Glory, to stun enemies and that leaves them open for Hollywood to toss grenades. In another scenario, if Fortune is losing health, players can switch to Hardtack or Hollywood so they can soak up damage while she recovers. Switching out teammates even helps out during traversals. If players jump over a gap with Hardtack and realize they won't be able to make, they can switch to Fortune and use her long dash to make it across.
With 12 agents to choose from, picking a squad of three has plenty of possibilities. Players will have to balance powers and weapons for a team flexible enough for different combat situations. A squad with Oni, Red Card and Kingpin has firepower but it may be too focused on close-quarter combat. Kingpin relies on an SMG, Red Card has a rifle-shotgun combo while Oni is a stealth character with a silenced pistol. If players want to choose someone else, they'll have to find the character in Seoul and persuade them to join Mayhem.
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Anyhow, with this squad, I relied on Red Card to be the tank with his ability to absorb attacks and release an explosion centered on him. Oni was great with his wall-climbing traversal move. That traversal technique along with his stealth moves got the crew to hard-to-reach areas, but he wasn't the best when being rushed by helltroopers. Meanwhile, Kingpin was in a similar position where can deal a ton of damage, but couldn't take a lot of hits. It was especially annoying when going up against the more elite soldiers, which have grenades and different AI attacks to get players out of cover.
Further expanding on the depth is the customization of each agent. Some traits like weapons and traversal moves will stay the same. But as players complete missions and earn rewards, they'll get mods that they can insert into their two passive and two specialization slots.
Lead agent designer Ryan McCabe offered up Daisy, a chaingun-toting roller derby girl, as an example for different builds. Players can change her loadout so that they can focus on her minigun, powering it up, or they add mods that emphasize her roller derby speed and stat boosts that combo off that.
Lastly, "Agents of Mayhem" only focuses on Seoul. Despite this being a global fight, Volition focused on their vision of the city. In the post-Devil's Night world, the South Korean capital has become of the hub for technology and LEGION's Ministry of Pride has zeroed in on that. Players may not be necessarily bringing down the whole LEGION organization in this first game. Instead of the Cobra Commander of LEGION, they'll be up against a top lieutenant, Ministry of Pride leader Dr. Babylon.
If "Agents of Mayhem" catches on, then perhaps players will be able to take on the LEGION head honcho, a foe named Morningstar. Players can get their hands on the game when it releases Aug. 15 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. ___
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