Remember in my Summer of Arcade article where I said I was looking forward to Monday Night Combat more than any of the other games coming out, including Hydro Thunder Hurricane? The only problem with the game was the timing of the release; having just picked up StarCraft II, I thought I was going to have a hard time playing enough of Uber Entertainment’s XBLA offering to give it a proper review anytime soon.
Turns out I need not have worried.
You got Tower Defense in my Team Fortress 2!
Monday Night Combat is a third person shooter unlike any you have ever seen. You have six classes of characters to choose from: Assault, Tank, Support, Assassin, Gunner and Sniper. Each class has distinct strengths and weaknesses, and you will have to take the time to learn which ones work best as you try and protect your money ball. Each character carries a primary and secondary weapon, and they each have their own little personality quirks that come out when they are attacking and dying, very reminiscent of Team Fortress 2. Some of the character classes even share characteristics with their TF2 counterparts; the Assassin can cloak and uses a knife for melee style kills, the Gunner carries a mini gun and the Support creates a turret that both fires on the enemy and heals his teammates.
It does not take long, however, to notice there are some major differences between Valve’s multiplayer masterpiece and Uber’s offering. The first is the skills; each character has three unique skills, mapped to the X, Y and B buttons. These skills not only give them an edge in combat, they can be leveled up with the money you win throughout the match, as can your character. These are just a few examples of the skills available:
- The Assassin at level 3 replaces her kunai knife with a katana, while her dash, cloak and smoke bombs are all more effective at higher levels.
- The Tank and Gunner can deploy themselves, turning into turrets that a much more accurate and protect from grapple kills.
- The Support can hack into turrets, making them stronger. At level 2 or higher on hack, you can turn enemy turrets against them.
- The Sniper can lay traps that will freeze enemies, and each level up to 3 that skill is increased means another trap can be laid.
- The Assault’s level 3 charge is flat out deadly.
At this point, you are probably thinking this is pretty straight forward: gain money for kills in the game and upgrade your stats to make your character stronger. The problem is that is only half of the strategy. Throughout each variation of the game, bots are spawned which will go after your money ball. These bots can range from the weakly armed and easily destroyed Slim Bots to the Jackbot, a massive robot that can be a real pain to take down. All around the area surrounding your ball, you will find little nodes where you can pay to have turrets built. These turrets can range from cheap, easy to upgrade but weak Laser Turrets to heavily armored but expensive Rockit Turrets (no, that is not a misspelling). Part of the strategy is deciding just how to spend your money; concentrate too heavily on leveling up your character and your money ball may be vulnerable, while never upgrading your skills will leave your character open to attacks from bots or other players. The great thing is there is not necessarily one right way to play; the more you play the game, the more you will balance which skills you upgrade and what turrets you set up where.
So that covers some of the basic gamplay mechanics. You might be thinking already this is an impressive amount of depth for an arcade game. You wouldn’t be mistaken.
Are you sure this is an XBLA game?
Monday Night Combat has two basic modes of play. Blitz is the Coop mode for the game. You and a group of friends work together to protect your money ball from increasingly more difficult rounds of spawning bots. You have several turrets at you disposal, and it is your job to destroy the bots before they can lower the shields to you ball and destroy it. There are several different variations on Blitz, each presenting a unique challenge:
- Exhibition: 10 rounds of easy difficulty, this is really a good mode for newcomers to try out first. You can experiment with the different characters and turrets without running too much of a risk of angering your teammates.
- Season: 20 rounds including 2 rounds of Jackbots, moderate difficulty; Season is definitely a step up from Exhibition. Make sure you know what you are doing before you attempt this mode.
- Playoff: 30 rounds of heavy difficulty. Even though I have been playing this game for a while, I have yet to beat this mode.
- The Scramble: 10 rounds of crazy difficulty. The bots hit you fast and furious in this mode, and you will have to work as team to survive.
- Sudden Death: Never ending rounds of insanely difficult bots, the idea of Sudden Death is to last as long as possible. I am pleased to report the team I was on made it to level 42 before our money ball was destroyed.
As you can tell, Uber put a lot of thought into this mode. That is only half the game, however. Crossfire is the team battle mode for MNC. Two teams of 6 players square off against each other, each trying to destroy the other team’s money ball. To do this, the players must help their bots advance to the other base so they can take out the shields, allowing players and bots to then attack the ball directly. At the same time, players must stop their opponents from doing the same thing to them.
This mode is where the different abilities of each of the classes really shines. You can sneak up behind an opponent cloaked as an Assasisn and kill them with a grapple, then drop a smoke bomb with allows you to jump a grate distance out of harms way. You can level up the Gunner’s deploy to level 3, which drops a protective shield over his head that protects him from the Sniper’s headshot kills. The Support can hack an enemy turret, turning it on it’s own team, and then tag an opponent with an air strike as he makes his exit. Crossfire is all about finding ways to breach your enemies defenses while trying to keep him from doing the same to you.
Now Crossfire has provided my one source of frustration with this game. There have been more than a few games where lag has taken over, which is really annoying when you are playing a precision class like the Assassin or the Sniper. While I understand MNC runs on Peer to Peer connections and the lag may not be Uber’s fault, I do hope there is something that can be done about it in the future.
But wait, there’s more!
As if what I just mentioned was not enough, Uber has added a few other wrinkles to the game.
- Juice: performance enhancers are not only legal in Monday Night Combat, they are encouraged. When you get enough kills or manage to collect enough, you can activate Juiced mode. This mode temporarily makes you nearly invincible, instantly healing you and severely increasing your firepower.
Bullseye: What sports game is complete without a mascot? From time to time, Bullseye will appear in the middle of the field of combat Shooting him will give you money, juice, and the occasional bacon, which makes you temporarily better at everything. After all, isn’t everything better with bacon?
- Custom Classes: As you gain more money, you can buy custom classes. These are all based on the standard classes of characters, but you get to choose their sponsors. May not seem like much, but each sponsor gives you a different boost, such as faster reload speeds or a greater chance of doing critical damage. On top of that, there are three levels of sponsorship: gold, silver and bronze. A reload bonus sponsor chosen in the gold slot will have a greater affect than one chosen in bronze.
- Pro tags: As you achieve different feats within the game, you unlock different pro tags. You can shoose which of these pro tags you choose to equip, which will be diplayed next to your name and when you kill an opponent.
- Humor: Monday Night Combat is full of completely irreverent humor. from the Hawaiian Gunner to the ever insulting Sniper, you will find yourself at least cracking a smile routinely throughout the game. Add to that the completely over the top arena announcer, the ‘Good old Southern Girl’ attitude of the Pit Girl and the already mentioned mascot Bullseye, and you have an overall experience that will ahve you coming back for more.
I know 1200 MS points ($15.00) sounds like a lot for an XBLA game, but trust me when I say Monday Night Combat is worth even spending the $20.00 it will take to get a points card just to buy it. The mark of any good multiplayer game is that “Just one more match” feeling you get after finishing a battle, and this game has that in spades. Even with its lag issues, Monday Night Combat gets a 5 out of 5.
[starreview tpl=46 size=’30’]