first_img Agents of Mayhem, the superheroic spin-off to Volition’s Saints Row series, is out now! I’ve been playing it for a few days and have mostly been enjoying myself. Granted, after the disappointing showing from the now-delayed Crackdown 3 at E3, maybe I was just especially hungry for a ridiculous open-world urban action game. It’s not like we’re getting another Sunset Overdrive anytime soon, thanks Microsoft. But so far Agents of Mayhem has been a really fun, colorful, brainless, and brawny late summer distraction.However, not everyone’s reaction has been this positive so far. Much of the criticism of Agents of Mayhem focuses on the game’s… unapologetic tone. In Agents of Mayhem you essentially play as multinational off-brand G.I. Joe action heroes (Rama the Indian bow-wielder, Yeti the Russian soldier with the power of ice) fighting an evil, over-the-top, off-brand Cobra cabal in a futuristic South Korea. Appropriately, the game is dripping with cheesy glowing 1980s schlock not unlike Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon or Double Dragon Neon. It also takes place in a rebooted universe from one of the endings of Saints Row IV’s “Gat Out of Hell” DLC but that’s a whole other discussion.But although the game has its roots in Saturday morning kids cartoons, Agents of Mayhem proudly features cursing and raunchy jokes those shows could never get away with. Many negative reviews believe this crude sense of humor doesn’t do the game any favors, even with a honestly progressive cast of heroes, and I wouldn’t disagree. Even as I enjoy playing Agents of Mayhem I don’t find it particularly funny. However, what if the real answer is that the Saints Row game have always been this obnoxious the whole time?Technically the franchise began with Red Faction and the Ultor Corporation in 2001, but the first Saints Row in 2006 was very much its in own thing. Well that’s not entirely true. The first two Saints Row games are pretty shameless Grand Theft Auto clones. They were by no means the only ones at the time, and they did make some mechanical improvements to Rockstar’s formula, but a big part of the appeal was that these were GTA-style games on the then-new PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.The opportunistic timing also helps explain those games’ tone. Saints Row was very much doubling down on the wacky ghetto hijinks of the mega-popular Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, at that point the most recent GTA game. It wasn’t until 2008 that GTA pivoted towards a more serious satirical atmosphere with its next-generation debut Grand Theft Auto IV. But instead of exposing Saints Row as a pretender, this contrast helped the franchise differentiate itself as a more comedic GTA alternative.And boy did Saints Row embrace that comedy. Throughout its entire existence Saints Row could never pass up the opportunity to crack a joke, no matter how lowbrow. But while Saints Row didn’t really change, for some reason audiences’ reactions to it did. Even people who liked Saints Row 2 on a gameplay-level couldn’t help but groan at missions where you spray poop out of a truck. But by Saints Row The Third you’re skydiving naked out of a plane next to Burt Reynolds wielding a purple dildo bat, and everyone loved it. What happened?Well when you compare those two examples, obviously Saints Row The Third is absurd on an entirely different, better level. As a parody it’s more gleeful than pandering. As a farce it’s more Doom 2016 than Duke Nukem Forever. But to me the end result was still as grating as previous games in the series, and no less grating than anything in Agents of Mayhem. Plus, there was now the added annoyance of seeing everyone else forget the irony of the thing they were ironically enjoying. It’s like legitimately wanting Fast & Furious to win Best Picture. It’s great, and it’s “great,” but come on.Saints Row the Third  is the peak of the series, but it built up enough goodwill to justify another surreal sequel. Saints Row IV actually began as a substantial DLC pack for Saints Row the Third called “Enter The Dominatrix.” But then-publisher THQ puffed up the expansion into a full sequel in a failed attempt to save themselves from bankruptcy. It didn’t work, and Deep Silver ended up publishing the meta virtual reality video game adventure about you playing as President Gimp Suit. The positive but slightly muted reaction to this arguable cash-grab was a clue that maybe the joke was over. Maybe nobody wanted famous human Poochie Johnny Gat in Divekick.That brings us back to the present and Agents of Mayhem. Some disappointed Saints Row fans have blamed the spin-off’s lackluster humor on the departure of key Volition staff. But to me this gun-filled, high-flying, urban open-world ode to obliteration, while fun to play, absolutely carries on those games’ somewhat obnoxious and annoying spirit. Maybe the spell just finally wore off for everyone else. Took you long enough.Buy Agents of MayhemView as: One Page Slides1/51. The first Saints Row was a pretty good but unremarkable Grand Theft Auto clone.2. As Grand Theft Auto got more serious, Saints Row doubled down on comedy, like Saints Row 2’s poop truck.3. Saints Row the Third reached new heights of absurdity that inexplicably won players over.4. Saints Row IV, originally a DLC expansion, was basically a parody video game about video games.5. Some have complained about the sense of humor in Saints Row spin-off Agents of Mayhem, but this is what the series has always been like.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. 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