It was the type of email that always gets my blood flowing. "X would like to invite you to try out Unannounced Game at E3." I am too curious a creature to pass on an unannounced game - sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn't. But I'd rather leave underwhelmed than sit in the background thinking "I could have played that." So when the Unannounced Game email came from Deep Silver, I didn't think twice. Just scheduled my time and moved on. Luckily, I ended up signing up for a demo of the new IP from Saints Row developer Volition - Agents of Mayhem.
Agents of Mayhem is set in the extended Saints Row universe, and although it will have a healthy roster of 12 characters to select from, only four agents were available for the purpose of the demo - and I could choose three, which I could switch between freely using the D-pad, to take with me. Each character has strengths and weaknesses, making the selection strategically critical. They each have different weapons, special abilities, and endearingly crass personalities. I selected Hollywood for his rifle, Hardtack for his shotgun, and Rama for her bow, thinking I was making a great, balanced team that could handle any challenge near and far. Unfortunately, I found that a single agent was sufficient for me to progress and complete the demo, swapping once out of curiosity and then going right back - I never touched my third. Perhaps I'm way better than I thought, or maybe the challenge was watered down for the purpose of the demo. Either way, I'm hoping the finished product makes swapping agents not only more rewarding, but also more necessary.
A full level was available, set in futuristic Seoul, South Korea, where Legion (League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations) badass Steeltoe had kidnapped virtual K-pop star Aisha. Halfway through, the ungrateful AI decided she didn't want my help anymore, and was planning to marry my foe. Too bad, super kawaii computer girl, I'm going to help you anyway. I made my way into a super-tech hideout, and at one point was able to activate the Mayhem Star - think Super Mario star - I was glowing, fast, and destroyed any enemy I touched. In more enemy-dense areas, or during a boss fight, I can definitely see this being a lifesaver, and found it to be more valuable than agent swapping.
One of my favorite parts was the attention to detail - while I was navigating the environment, my character would make random observations and quips about what was happening in the story. Considering I spent the majority of my playthrough with Hollywood - think Johnny Cage - it made for a foul-mouthed, charmingly crass experience, even when just running around looking for a switch.
Agents of Mayhem has the comic-book art style that tends to catch my attention, and the combat and story were enough to draw me in and hold my interest through the entire sitting. It was not only one of the most interesting games I played during E3, but also one of the most promising.
The demo was brief, and a decent number of the other people in the room with me were also able to complete it in the time allowed. There wasn't the need for swapping agents that I had expected, so one hope that I left with was that the final product will incentivize that feature more - be it through reward or a more significant challenge. While I'm sure the purpose of the demo was to introduce people to as much as possible, I would have prefered a demo I was unable to complete in order to experience the demand for swapping over something beatable that didn't stress the importance of that feature. Other than that minor complaint, however, I had a lot of fun. The game looks and feels great, the weapons and special moves are interesting, and the game appears to be littered with references to its sister franchise - and more Saints Row is never a bad thing. I left excited and hopeful, and am optimistic about what the rest of the game will include.
Agents of Mayhem will release on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 sometime in 2017.