As I sat down to play through a 90 minute demo of Agents of Mayhem, I found it impossible not to think of Saints Row. While Agents is being sold as a standalone game, the branding is heavily based around Saints Row's established aesthetic - the colour purple and the signature Fleur-de-lis icon, for instance.
While comforting, this familiarity doesn't help mask some glaring issues with Agents of Mayhem. The gameplay is scruffy and has a very last-gen feel, while the humour is both tired and uninspired. Most troublesome of all though is the general apathy surrounding the game; there's just no buzz for Agents at all.
That's not to say, however, that there isn't fun to be had. Agents has its moments - when you get into the groove with the combat, deftly flicking between your three available agents and their specialist skills, for instance, or retiring an injured character at just the right moment so they can recover health back at the base.
All twelve playable agents have their own unique weapons and exaggerated personalities, such as Daisy; a mini-gun wielding Roller Derby girl who was one of the stand-outs, and Oni - an ex-Yakuza whose invisibility makes him much more suited to stealth missions. Picking the right combination of these characters before each outing gives a nice tactical edge to the proceedings.
Interestingly, the fact Agents of Mayhem technically isn't a Saints Row game didn't stop Volition from cramming it with references to the immature open-world series. To help you better understand the connections, I dove into the ways Agents of Mayhem connects to the Saints Row series, and took a closer look at some of the memorable Saints Row characters I spotted during my hands-on time. Click the video below to have a look - you'll get a good idea of the gameplay, too.
I can't help but wonder if Volition have fallen into the same trap as Gearbox did with Battleborn. Both companies have beloved IPs (Borderlands, in Gearbox's case) that players are clamoring for sequels to, but instead of catering to their respective fanbases, they've gambled by producing spin-offs with similar personalities, but none of the charm.
I suspect if Agents of Mayhem was actually called Saints Row 5: Agents of Mayhem, it would have stood a better chance of succeeding come launch day. The change in name wouldn't make the game any less mediocre, but it would have a considerably bigger buzz surrounding it, and series fans might be more forgiving of its faults. That's my take on things, anyway - let me know in the comments if you feel differently.