Monday Night Combat Review

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Monday Night Combat is the fourth release in Microsoft’s 2010 Summer of Arcade series and with games like Limbo coming out of the gate so strong—it may be in contention for this year’s Game of The Year title—one may get the feeling that the Summer of Arcade can only go downhill from there. The Summer of Arcade’s second and third week releases: Hydro Thunder and Castlevania, were both well received and while Monday Night Combat may not leave quite the impression on some that Limbo did, it is nonetheless an incredibly fun, action-packed and enjoyable experience.

For those who’ve never heard of Monday Night Combat, it’s an Xbox LIVE Arcade exclusive from developers Uber Entertainment. The game is a class-based third-person shooter (think Team Fortress 2, Blood Bowl or Defense of the Ancients) with a mix of tower defense that doesn’t take itself too seriously. One cannot help but be reminded of a futuristic American Gladiators… only with really big weapons, robots and less spandex. The game offers up lethal doses of intense combat, cinematic finishing moves, and gameshow-like challenges and rewards that produces fast-paced action from start to finish. Fighting for honor and duty are ideals of a bygone era as competitors in this advanced society fight for the real American dream: cash, fame and endorsements (did I say future society?).

As you start the game you’ll be greeted with an introductory video of the Assault class, which is meant to act as a tutorial to familiarize yourself with the game mechanics, weaponry and the different classes of enemy robots. However, the video makes no mention of the other character classes and as each class is vastly different and supports a variety of weapons, skills and techniques, some gamers may find this a bit frustrating. However, after a bit of searching in the main menus under ‘Help & Options – How to Play’, you’ll find a valuable guide for each class detailing the skills, weapons and gameplay tactics used for each.

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After the intro is finished it’s off to the main menu and choosing your game mode. Monday Night Combat offers three different modes: Single Player Blitz Mode, Co-op Blitz and Multiplayer Crossfire. The objective in each mode is to defend your team’s Money Ball. Hordes of CPU bots will spawn and march towards your Money Ball with the intention of lowering its shield. Once the shield is lowered, it’s accessible to bots and players to attack and if these attacks go uncontested it won’t be long until the Money Ball shatters and it’s game over.

In Blitz Mode players will defend their Money Ball against armies of robots by themselves, two player splitscreen, or four player co-op over Xbox Live. As you destroy the incoming bots you’ll receive money that can be spent on four sections that make up each classes skill set, or you can use the money to build and upgrade turrets. Turrets play important roles in the game, as they serve as your best bet for defending against enemy robots and players—this is where the tower defense aspect comes into play.

The Blitz challenges vary from simple beginner rounds of ten, to hardcore seasoned veteran modes with endless waves of robots that increase in size and difficulty as you progress. The money you earn in each game goes into a persistent Lifetime Earnings that can be used out of game to purchase custom classes and over 350 Protags, as well as get yourself ranked on the leaderboards.

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While the single player an co-op Blitz modes serve as a practical way to gain experience, explore and hone your skills in the different classes; online Crossfire mode is where the real action is.

Crossfire mode pits teams of players against each other over Xbox LIVE. In addition to the individual players, each team is supplied with an endless stream of robots fighting on their own, who will attempt to attack opposing team players as well as make their way to the other teams Money Ball and lower its shields. Supporting these waves of robots and allowing them to overwhelm your opponent’s stream will be the key to winning each match.

The action comes hard and fast in Crossfire and players will need to think strategically, stay on their toes and always be aware of their surroundings—you never know when an Assassin might sneak up on you or when you’ll accidentally walk into the path of an enemy Firebase.

Crossfire offers up four maps that are all arena settings. The arenas are fairly simple layouts with one teams spawn point and Money ball at one end and the opposing teams spawn point and Money ball at the other. In between lies a mix of ramps, ledges, choke-points, jump pads that fling team members up to higher sections of the map or ejector buttons that send enemy players flying off the map and to their death should they walk across them. All of these have to be made accessible by purchasing them using the in game currency you earn from killing your enemies.

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In Monday Night Combat, currency is the name of the game and money certainly can buy you happiness. Or at the very least, upgrade all your skills.

Speaking of skills, lets get to the characters you’ll be using. Monday Night Combat offers six unique character classes that let you play a variety of styles. Assault, Tank, Support, Assassin, Gunner and Sniper make up the classes: each has its strengths and weaknesses and a unique style of play. As you start each round you automatically have $350 dollars to do with what you will. You can upgrade a few skills or spend it on building turrets. Unlike other skill set progression based games, your upgrades don’t carry over to the next match. Every game all classes start with the same loadout and skill set level (give or take a bit depending on custom classes).

When players earn enough Lifetime Earnings they can purchase Custom Classes. These aren’t really anything special, all they allow you to do is choose which position (character class) and which Sponsors you want. You are allowed to choose three sponsors per custom class. Sponsors act as the skill attributes you wish to add to your class, such as Armor, Speed, Clip size or Critical hits. So if you don’t like the skill attributes the normal Assassin class has, you can purchase a custom class and decide which ones suit your best.

Stylistically the game is beautiful and vibrant. The larger than life playful cartoon-styled characters add to the comical, entertaining and easy going fun of the game. Monday Night Combat is clearly a game that knows what it is and plays to those strengths in every aspect of its creation. From the witty announcer, humorous one-liners and the affable MNC mascot Bullseye, there’s a lot to like in this game. After spending the better part of a week playing it, I can’t find a great deal to complain about. Sure it’s a little glitchy and the servers have their spells, but that’s to be expected—certainly for an XBLA title that has sold well beyond what it was expected to and with the surge of online players.

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Some may find that only having four maps will become tiresome quickly and while I somewhat agree with that sentiment, I believe there is more than enough action and strategy, not to mention a variety of classes you can approach each map with, that longevity isn’t a concern right now. However, being the downloadable content lover that I am, I can’t help but think about what lies ahead in terms of Monday Night Combat DLC. Speculatively speaking, new maps will almost be a given, but I would much rather see the addition of some alternative multiplayer modes. Capture the Flag, King of the Hill and others could be integrated into the MNC style of play brilliantly and create a really fun and challenging experience for gamers.

Monday Night Combat may be an Xbox Live Arcade title but as we’re seeing more and more in today’s marketplace, $15 dollar titles can easily rival their $50-60 dollar counterparts in terms of experience, replayability and satisfaction. By yourself or with a group of friends, the game provides a rich and complex class-based system that has depth and will provide you with hours of entertainment. I highly recommend this game and can’t wait to see what they add to it down the road with DLC.

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