What child of the 80s can forget the majesty of G.I. Joe? (Best opening.) Sure, the cartoon was weird and goofy as hell, but my friends and picked up all the action figures we could. They were a colorful spread of whatever stereotypes Hasbro could think up and I loved them for it. Sadly, the video games based on G.I. Joe haven't been all that great. The NES games were kind of fun, but didn't really capture the distinct characters. The 2009 release? The less that's said, the better.
Deep Silver Volition, the folks behind the excellent Saints Row series, are here to provide the G.I. Joe game the child in you has been wanting for years.
Agents of Mayhem is a third-person action game set in the future version of Seoul, Korea. The world is under the control of Cobr- L.E.G.I.O.N. (The League of Evil Gentlemen Intent On Obliterating Nations), an evil organization of costumed supervillains led by the Doctor Babylon. The only ones that stand in LEGION's way are the Agents of M.A.Y.H.E.M. (The Multinational AgencY for Hunting Evil Masterminds), a worldwide crew of highly-trained special agents who don't give a damn about collateral damage.
For those disappointed that Agents of Mayhem isn't a new Saints Row title, the game is definitely Saints Row adjacent. It takes place in the same universe, the color scheme and logo are rather familiar, and most importantly the Agents care about the general populace as much as the Saints did before them. Things will explode, people will die. As long as the bad guys are gone, it's all good, right?
My hands-on demo with Agents of Mayhem tasked me with saving a digital pop idol who also happened to be a sentient super AI. To stop LEGION, I had to assemble my squad and cause a bit of destruction. In Agents of Mayhem, you'll always have three agents at your disposal that you can switch between on the fly. You choose your field team out of a total of 12 agents, 4 of which were available during my demo.
Here's where the G.I. Joe feeling gets even stronger. The agents at my disposal were Hollywood, a movie action hero given a real gun; Fortune, a sky captain with the controllable drone Glory at her side; Hardtack, a rough sailor who wields a huge harpoon; and Rama, the mysterious mistress of the bow and arrow. They definitely play into that G.I. Joe stereotype feel, coming across as broad strokes in personality and leaning heavily on known aspects of their backgrounds. The official site lists the remaining agents as Kingpin, Yeti, Scheherazade, Oni, Braddock, Daisy, Red Card, and Joule. I'm sure we can hazard at least some idea as to their looks from their names.
Every character has a basic weapon, a dash, a double jump, secondary and movement abilities, and an ultimate Mayhem ability. There's a lot of variety in there: Hardtack can teleport enemies into shotgun range with his Harpoon secondary, Fortune can dash in mid-air unlike the rest, and Hollywood's Mayhem ability gives him an infinite clip and creates random enemy-killing movie explosions everywhere he goes. The idea is to pick a team that synergizes well, giving you the means to tackle any situation that comes up. Abilities synergize too, allowing you to setup enemies with one character, switch, and finish them off with another. I chose Hollywood, Hardtack, and Rama: Hollywood as my all-arounder, Rama for range, and Hardtack when I needed more muscle.
Basic gameplay isn't that far from Saints Row: move and shoot. In this case, dash and shoot. I switched agents when I needed to heal up some damage, or in specific situations when I felt one would work better than another. Eventually, I unlocked a power-up: the Mayhem Star. Activating it turns you invincible and super-fast like Nintendo's Mario, allowing you to kill enemies just by running them over. Volition, you so crazy.
The demo was for a single mission in one part of the city, taking my team from downtown, to an underground lair, a skyscraper under construction, and a skyship of some sort. Eventually, the AI pop star I was sent to save, Aisha, decided that she preferred being evil and was going to marry LEGION's cyborg lieutenant, Steeltoe. The demo was capped off with my team preventing their marriage, only for them to combine into a stronger, cyborg powerhouse.
I had a blast with the demo, but I felt that it probably missed part of what made Saints Row so fun. Getting around the open-world was the real draw there. In Agents of Mayhem, Volition looks to have built a much more vertical city out of Seoul. Unfortunately, the demo lacked free-roaming, so I couldn't really get a feel for how each agent gets around the city on their own, and I'm unsure if the game will feature vehicles at all.
That said, this is still clearly the Volition that built Saints Row and to be honest, I have always wanted a great G.I. Joe game. This looks like it'll be the one!