Agents of Mayhem will be released in 2017 for Xbox One, PS4 and Windows
Agents of Mayhem comes from Volition, the developer behind the Saints Row series. There are ties here to Saints Row, with the game taking place in the wider Saints Row universe, but don’t expect a similar style of gameplay. Instead, expect something much better.
Agents of Mayhem takes on the same, slightly crude and completely insane attitude. However, it turns its open-world expertise into a flashy, slick superhero game with 12 playable characters from MAYHEM (Multinational Agency for Hunting Evil Masterminds) fighting against the legion of soldiers from, well, LEGION (League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations).
Related: Best PS4 games
For a mission, you can pick three characters to take with you from a full roster of 12. In my time with the game, there were four characters from which to choose.
The trick is that at any given moment, only one of your three chosen characters is active; you switch between characters depending on the situation you’re in by hitting left or right on the D-pad.
For my loadout, I opted for close-range specialist Hardtack, all-rounder Hollywood, and the tactical archer Rama.
It doesn’t take long to get used to switching characters to adapt to your situation. When enemies were getting too close, I'd switch to Hardtack and obliterate them with his shotgun; if I just needed a bullet hose, I’d switch to Hollywood. If I had room to breathe, Rama proved to be a decent choice with her powerful arrows and ability to fire trap arrows to cause area-of-effect damage.
Related: Best Xbox One games
The game offers more depth than that, however. To keep you switching between characters, the Agents of Mayhem encourages you to use your character’s customisable special ability – which, when used, fills up a meter for activating yet another more powerful ability.
For example, Rama fires those sticky trap arrows as her ability, and when used enough she’s able to fire poison arrows for a set period of time. Hardtack unlocks the ability to lay a limited number of remote-activated mines after he's thrown his gun at enough people.
It’s a great way of pacing the game, and means you’re more likely to play as one character for longer as you try to fill his or her special ability meter.
In addition, each character has a limited-use ability that can be activated at any time, which provides a buff for a short period. In the game I played, all three characters were given a Mario-style Mayhem Star power, which allows them to run fast, take next to no damage, and send objects and people flying simply by touching them.
Related: Best PC games
There’s plenty to take in – although, by the time the end of my half-hour demo came around, I felt pretty comfortable with my three characters and their abilities. When you consider that there are nine more to choose from – each of which has customisable abilities and powers, as well as static bonuses for their weapon, and passive, always-on buff – this is a game that’s well and truly focused on customisability.
The mission I played was suitably ridiculous, with our heroes having to prevent an AI-powered K-Pop star from siding with (and marrying) a supervillain.
The mission showcases a small slice of a heavily stylised, futuristic version of Seoul, with fights taking place on streets, alleyways, inside a baddie’s hideout and on a rooftop. It’s all very colourful, although we don’t yet know the size of the city or how much you’ll be able to do when not on a mission.
Another element we’re yet to explore is MAYHEM HQ. It’s here that you'll be able to customise characters, upgrade your base, and change the difficulty settings to increase both the risk and the rewards.
The fast-paced and customisable gameplay obviously leaves a lot of room for a multi-player mode, although nothing of the sort was mentioned at my demo session. I hope that one is introduced.
It’s impressive that Agents of Mayhem already has half an hour of relatively stable gameplay considering it doesn’t even have a launch date; it’s made a good impression.
It will be interesting to see how Volition can keep the character abilities fresh and stop people from using only a select few characters during any given mission. Similarly, can the developer manage to keep the gameplay varied enough that it doesn't become a hyperactive slog – a trap that, in my opinion at least, Saints Row fell into on a few occasions.
Still, Agents of Mayhem was the most enjoyable game that I played at E3 – and that says plenty.