I loved Saints Row because of its pure arcade action and fun but the humour and characters were engraved into my mind and my soul. As a series though, it really reached its peak with Saints Row IV, well that and the fact the Earth was completely destroyed by an alien invasion. This all pretty much made the possibility of a next Saints Row game hard to picture, but the fun that the virtual playground that Saints Row IV lived in created a very interesting use of super powers and now its creators Volition have side stepped that in favour of a new game but very much keeping in the tone of Saints Row. Agents of Mayhem is the evolution of Saints Row and it manages to carry on that torch really well.

The world is in trouble after LEGION, the evil military force of head bad guy Morningstar, has taken over thanks to the advanced teleportation technology which enabled them to instantaneously appear in all the major countries forcing their governments to surrender. Now only one agency is equipped to fight back, MAYHEM. Led by former Legion Minister Persephone, the twelve Agents of Mayhem must use their unique fighting gifts and talents to take the fight to LEGION, and to stop their goal which has brought the fighting to Seoul and to end the plotting of Doctor Babylon who has something in mind for this city and its resources.

The gameplay for Agents of Mayhem is a very interesting twist on the style of Saints Row and focuses on a refreshing take on squad team ups. For AoM (Agents of Mayhem) using a 3 in 1 squad dynamic which will see the player setup a team of three agents to deploy in the city and on the campaign’s story missions. Only one agent can be controlled at a time but the ability to hot switch immediately to another agent in the team can help adapt gameplay to any situation the game will throw at you. Agents all have their own individual fighting style and talents but also have a particular specialisation such as being able to do damage to enemies or structures with shield or armour whilst others are capable of hacking LEGION systems. Now how you form your team will be shaped not just on the fun of the agents themselves but also using a strategic need to balance their abilities to suit the missions. Enemies can have either armour or shields or both, so having a team that is suited to taking on such enemies is key to why the hot switching between the team of three is so key. During a battle if a high level enemy appears, the agent best suited to taking them on will speak up to guide the player to switch to them to do the most damage.

The twelve Agents are the highlight of this game for me and is far more diverse in their character designs than I had hoped for. As characters they have clearly been inspired by the cast of Saints Row with bombastic personalities but for the first time, they are playable instead of just being background characters. From Hollywood the big screen actor looking to save his career to Rami the archer who is helping MAYHEM in the hopes of finding a cure to the plague ravaging her home of Mumbai and my personal favourite Daisy, the roller derby tough as nails star who skates around with her mini-gun just looking to tear the place up. Each agent has their own personal reason for joining MAYHEM and a back-story that links them to other members of MAYHEM which the game explores through the side missions called Operations, which is the way to unlock agents to use in the game outside of natural unlocking of some via the main campaign missions. The more you use an agent the more XP they earn which can then be used to upgrade their skills and abilities making them stronger. Agents can also be equipped with up to three gadgets which give additional buffs to abilities and something that surprised me, damage over time and status effects to attacks. I never expected the combat to be more than just shooting or hitting but this gives the fighting a real depth and RPG element as you work to develop the most powerful team of agents you can through the game.

To begin with agents can be leveled up to 20 but in order to get them to their maximum potential you will need to use Power Cores to boost them another 20 ‘Super Agent’ levels to fully max out their skills. At level 40 agents are truly powerful fighters but the game will also balance the difficulty according to the strength of your team, so nothing will be a cake walk especially in the later stages of the campaign when all of your agents are hitting that maximum super agent level. Now the game will allow you to turn the difficulty down before deploying your team in the field, this will reduce the amount of XP and money you can earn from gameplay and missions but if the game is kicking your butt, which believe me even with a fully powered up team the game will do which is a harshness I will come to a bit alter on, but does allow players to keep the action going without feeling too overwhelmed.

The RPG elements truly give a depth I had not expected, with leveling up agents being a natural part of the game but to add the ability to craft them beyond that with gadgets to more abilities and then on top of that, the gadgets can be further enhanced with captured Legion Tech just gives extra levels on top of what is already there for the player to enjoy. Evolving the agents will make deciding which ones to use a difficult choice but they are all such fun to use.

So like Saints Row, AoM has a city in which players can free roam to do side missions and find collectibles and the city of Seoul with various tasks to complete as well but it is for me, the presentation of the main campaign. Everything is put together like an 80’s Cartoon series with the cut scenes telling the story. Each episode focuses on taking on one of Doctor Babylon’s lieutenants with the objective of weakening his forces in order to draw Babylon out himself. The strength of the story campaign and AoM comes in the humour, which is very much in line with that of Saints Row but has a much slower delivery pace I found which made it more enjoyable over the 30 plus hours I put into my review playthrough which meant the longer I played there was always something to enjoy and find out about this world and the many agents and characters in it. On board the Ark, the hub flying fortress that MAYHEM uses as a base, there is a database which allows the player to watch any and all cut scenes from the story and individual agents including the back story of the mysterious but beautiful Persephone once enough story progress is made.

AoM feels like the next natural step from Saints Row and whilst it uses the same iconic purple colour scheme and Fleur logo, it plays different enough to make it stand out. The gameplay is rewarding thanks to the RPG elements and with such terrific detail in character design that makes each agent play very different that trying out different combinations is and will be satisfying to players. I love the animations of some of the MAYHEM supermoves, which each agent has and is tailored so well to their character such as Hollywood’s which has him able to fire his gun continuously until the MAYHEM metre is spent but has pyrotechnic explosions going off around him as he moves around to give extra damage to enemies or Oni who enhances his ability to scare the enemy by boosting his aura making all enemies around him panic and run. These are such fun to pull off in the middle of a huge fight and are so different for each Agent it just highlights the real attention to detail in the design that along with a fun story, wonderfully animated cutscenes just brings the whole of AoM together nicely. Even the different skins for each agent reflects this as there are some amazing skins for them with references to modern day geekdom as some will be vary recognisable such as plenty of MARVEL nods, DC Comics nods but also some nice little nods to 80’s such as Yeti with his Panthro from Thundercats skin. It is all just nerdtastic fun and a nice reward for just playing the game and exploring.

I was not sure want to expect from Agents of Mayhem when I first learned about it. Being a Saints Row fan, the thought of a spin off was troubling but with how AoM has been put together, Volition has both started a new potential game series but also a new way forward for future possible Saints Row titles. It looks amazing, though still has some issues with vehicle use and a rather harsh “oh you got a fully powered up team, well let me just show you how killable you are” difficulty spike in the later stages but overall Agents of Mayhem is just great arcade fun to have with surprising depth to it and plenty of room to tell more stories based on the forces of MAYHEM battling LEGION. If you liked Saints Row then you will certainly enjoy this and if you are new, there are plenty of refreshing new gameplay to satisfy you.

Now where can I download Gaunt’s new album?