Agents Of May­hem

PC, PS4, Xbox One

EDGE - - GAMES - De­vel­oper Vo­li­tion Pub­lisher Deep Sil­ver For­mat PC, PS4, Xbox One Ori­gin US Re­lease Au­gust 18

You can pin­point the ex­act mo­ment the Saints Row se­ries re­de­fined it­self. Once barely more than a GTA clone, Saints Row: The Third saw Vo­li­tion swap gang­bang­ing for a fre­quently silly satire on celebrity cul­ture and vi­o­lence. In the open­ing mis­sion, The Boss jumped out of a he­li­copter to­wards a pent­house full of cor­po­rate goons, backed by Power – Kanye West’s ironic ode to fame and no­to­ri­ety. The new di­rec­tion was brash, con­fi­dent and rev­elled in ex­cess. It felt right. Skip for­ward to Saints Row IV, and The Boss was the Pres­i­dent of the USA, fight­ing aliens in VR af­ter the de­struc­tion of Earth. Af­ter that, Vo­li­tion was al­ways go­ing to have an es­ca­la­tion prob­lem. Hence Agents Of May­hem. There’s a canon­i­cal link if you want one, but Agents Of May­hem isn’t Saints Row. This is, af­ter all, a game in which no one man does have all that power. In­stead, your po­ten­tial abil­i­ties are spread across 12 char­ac­ters.

Agents Of May­hem in­vites a Saints Row com­par­i­son – a par­al­lel-uni­verse ver­sion of one of the Saints is part of your May­hem ros­ter – but it isn’t al­to­gether favourable. It’s an open-world shooter, set in a fu­tur­is­tic ver­sion of Seoul, star­ring a plethora of foul-mouthed an­ti­heroes. There’s Hol­ly­wood, the ex­plo­sionob­sessed ac­tion-movie star; Hard­tack, a shot­gun-wield­ing sailor (who refers to him­self in the third­per­son); For­tune, a fast, du­alpis­tol-car­ry­ing pi­rate with a drone; and many more be­sides. For each mis­sion, you pick three May­hem agents, and can switch be­tween them in­stan­ta­neously. Switch, and the char­ac­ter you were con­trol­ling dis­ap­pears, the new one ap­pear­ing in their place. This makes less sense than hav­ing a squad that’s present at all times, but has the ad­van­tage that a char­ac­ter’s health and shield recharge when they’re not in use.

There’s a tac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion here: a char­ac­ter’s weapon might be more ef­fec­tive at close, medium or long range, for in­stance, or be more ef­fec­tive against an en­emy’s shield, ar­mour or health. Whit­tle down a shield with one char­ac­ter, and you can switch to an­other to fin­ish them off. Or you can be­gin a sor­tie at long range, and switch as ene­mies close the gap. A de­cent idea in the­ory, it works in prac­tice, too, and al­lows for a de­gree of the­o­rycraft­ing – but it doesn’t feel very ex­cit­ing. This is a new game from the stu­dio that gave play­ers a dub­step gun and lu­di­crous su­per­pow­ers, but noth­ing we ex­pe­ri­ence here feels so au­da­cious or sur­pris­ing. Weapons are sci-fi ver­sions of a stan­dard arse­nal: shot­guns, as­sault ri­fles, pis­tols and mini­guns. Abil­i­ties feel more fo­cused around deal­ing area-of­ef­fect dam­age or ap­ply­ing sta­tus ef­fects.

The ab­surd el­e­ments are there, but never al­lowed to run wild. You can triple-jump, but mov­ing around the world feels less ex­cit­ing than, for in­stance, Sun­set Over­drive (or even Saints Row IV). The com­bat sys­tem is more meaty than your stan­dard open-world game, but it’s no Bor­der­lands or Mass Ef­fect, de­spite of­fer­ing sim­i­lar RPG shooter sys­tems. At least there’s po­ten­tial in the up­grade­able skills. One grants the chance to spawn an ex­plo­sive clay rab­bit when an en­emy dies. That’s pretty ridicu­lous, and all the bet­ter for it. If our demo is any guide, there’s no real hook to the sys­tems. This is a col­lec­tion of fa­mil­iar ideas, re­worked into a colour­ful, car­toon wrap­ping. Sim­i­larly, none of the char­ac­ters jump out as dis­tinct dur­ing the un­ordered hodge-podge of mis­sions and sid­e­quests we play, but some are at least like­able. Each agent has a cou­ple of per­sonal mis­sions that flesh out their back­story, and mid-mis­sion ban­ter will fill you in on their spe­cific re­la­tion­ships. Our early favourite is Daisy, a tat­tooed roller­skater, and a spe­cial­ist, we’re told, in “fight­ing and fuck­ing”. Her re­cruit­ment mis­sion is told through hun­gover flash­backs. Later, she butts in on comms dur­ing an­other char­ac­ter’s per­sonal mis­sion for no other rea­son than she’s a bit lonely, and wants to see how every­one’s do­ing.

Hope­fully Vo­li­tion will fo­cus on such dy­nam­ics and sit­u­a­tions. In iso­la­tion, it’s easy to imag­ine Saints Row’s tone feel­ing un­bear­able, but its ab­surd ex­cess was tem­pered by the gen­uine heart shown by your crew in their in­ter­ac­tions with each other. It took mul­ti­ple games, but the archetypes be­came char­ac­ters. If Vo­li­tion can keep that mo­men­tum go­ing, it now has a much broader pal­ette to work with. Agents Of May­hem will need it; so far, it’s show­ing a wor­ry­ing lack of iden­tity.

There’s a canon­i­cal link if you want one, but Agents Of May­hem isn’t Saints Row

The agents are fight­ing against Le­gion, a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion with ac­cess to ad­vanced dark mat­ter tech­nol­ogy. All of which is to say it’s pretty fu­tur­is­tic

Each of the char­ac­ters has a dif­fer­ent moveset. All can triple jump, but some are faster than oth­ers, and some – like Hol­ly­wood – can dash in mid-air, which is use­ful for travers­ing the open world, as well as in com­bat

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.