Although Saints Row the franchise lasted for four entries (and one spin-off), it felt like the series really only came into its own with Saints Row The Third. The 4th game (originally meant to be DLC for 3) then built on that frame work by delivering even more over-the-top action and the purest of power fantasies, and its spin-off expansion sent players to hell.
It’s hard to argue that developer Volition didn't end its time with Saints Row (for now, at least) with a bang, but there was the hope that the team would continue to push the envelope further and further. However, Volition’s next project is a game that is very much in the same vein as Saints, but has its own approach: Agents of Mayhem.
While playing Agents of Mayhem at E3 2017, we couldn’t help but ask why Volition chose to make this game and not a new Saints Row. After all, Saints Row had become a really strong brand for Volition and publisher Deep Silver (who acquired the property following THQ’s bankruptcy auction).
As it turns out, the answer says more about Deep Silver as a publisher than it does anything about the quality of Saints Row. According to Volition, Deep Silver supported the developer in its desires to make a new IP and the studio ran with it. Few could fault Volition for taking the opportunity to develop a new IP; so few of them are greenlit these days, especially for developers with hit franchises under their belts.
As far as why Volition wanted to make that new IP, it’s safe to say that fatigue may have been setting in following Saints Row 4 and Gat Out of Hell. Originally, Saints Row 4 was titled Enter the Dominatrix, and it was only supposed to be a small-ish DLC add-on for Saints Row The Third. Then it became a full product with its own add-on DLC, where Johnny Gat does battle with Satan himself.
The studio may have been a little burnt out on making Saints Row games, but our time playing Agents of Mayhem at E3 2017 proved that, while Volition is not making a Saints Row sequel, the studio did create a game that has the same spirit, ambition, and humor. As has been mentioned before, Agents of Mayhem is Volition’s homage to ‘80s cartoons like GI Joe, with a cast of playable characters that have colorful backstories and personalities. They also have unique abilities and playstyles, which help introduce some variety into the open world action.
Coming away from the demo it was plain to see that Agents of Mayhem will be just as satisfying to fans of Saints Row and the humor that Volition injects into all of its games. The devs even promise plenty of pop culture references and influences for players to chuckle at along way.
One level saw us completing a personal mission for Oni, a former member of the Yakuza that joins the Mayhem group. The mission itself saw Oni ascending an under-construction skyscraper, taking out baddies along the way. According to Volition, this is their homage to John Wick and The Raid.
While each playable character (14 total) has a main weapon, there are interchangeable gadgets that can be used by all. These are Volition’s wacky creations, some of which have cool, powerful attacks and others that have a touch of cheekiness to them. A personal favorite was a gadget that turned every enemy killed into a bouncing cartoon rabbit, which eventually exploded.
It may not be actual Saints Row, but our E3 hands-on with the game showed that there is enough in Agents of Mayhem to satisfy those fans and entice new ones. Tight gunplay and controls help facilitate a solid gameplay experience, and creative writing should make the experience engaging.
Agents of Mayhem releases August 15, 2017 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.