Review: Monday Night Combat
I feel like there’s been a problem with shooters recently on the Xbox 360. Amidst all the various iterations of Halo and Call of War and Gears of Duty that come out every year and the vast lengths of seriousness they bring with them, we’ve lost something near and dear to the FPS experience: what happened to the fun? Sure, we like killing terrorists and space aliens sometimes, but recently it’s been lacking a certain....something. Just in time for Microsoft’s annual Summer of Arcade comes Monday Night Combat, a simplistic-looking third-person shooter that’s an easy play for casual and hardcore gamers alike.
Monday Night Combat takes place in a Smash TV-styled game show in which two teams must do battle in order to win a grand prize from the Moneyball (or, as the announcer likes to proclaim, the MONEYBALL!!!!). The main mode of play is (and the only competitive multiplayer mode) is Crossfire, in which each team must break in to their opponent’s base, take down their shields, and bring down the Moneyball in order for victory. Monday Night Combat is a kind of Team Fortress 2/Defense of the Ancients hybrid in which players can choose up to six classes while dispensing attack bots and defense turrets along the way. While the word “bots” usually instills images of thoughtless AI drones, well....that’s what these bots generally do. When launched, they walk on a set path towards the opponent’s base in lieu to the opposition Moneyball. The bots mainly act as a front for your attack; you should not rely on the bots for bringing down the Moneyball, but certainly using them as a cover while you take out your enemies works best.
To help balance out the onslaught of bot attacks, Monday Night Combat allows you to pick between six different classes, each with their own unique strategies. The classes are divided up as Sniper, Support and Assassin with the Assault, Tank, and Gunner classes serving as the offensive classes. Each class has a series of four unique skills which can be bought and upgraded as you accrue more money by killing enemies and destroying foreign bots. One of the skills is passive while three of the other skills are active and thus coded to the X, Y and B buttons, respectively. After using one of the active skills, you must then wait for the skill to cooldown before using the skill again. The skills prove to be extremely vital when you’re caught in a jam, adding to one of the more interesting elements of Monday Night Combat. The skills you choose to upgrade can either make or break your round when you play.
Another unique element to the game is the turret stations; throughout the arena, each base is outfitted with turret stations that can be build and then further upgraded at a steep price. There are four different turret styles to choose, from basic lasers and rockets to long-distance and slow-down turrets. Money can also be spent on jump pads, additional bot spawns, and the Annihilator which destroys all of the enemy bots (this can come in handy especially when you’re pinned down by a bot assault).
To be honest, I was surprised by the amount of depth that Monday Night Combat housed. The game wears its shallowness on its sleeve, but players must really become attuned to the various different elements that make up the game, from choosing the correct class and skill upgrades to knowing when to build turrets and launch bots. You simply cannot run and gun through the game; you need to seriously take a moment and adjust your strategy on a moment’s notice. After trying out the six different classes, I found myself at first playing the Support class and running through the arena playing a mostly defensive game. After several hours of playing Support, I then decided to start playing the Assault class and learning how to play a better offensive game. My attempts to master each and every class in the game ate up hours of my life, and that’s not even mentioning the custom classes you can create with your lifetime earnings. After accruing a certain amount of money, you can buy a custom class and outfit it with upgrades that rank in descending order; for example, if you pick Armor as your Gold upgrade and Accuracy as your Silver upgrade, your armor is vastly improved while your accuracy is only slightly improved. This lends to even greater customization for players who want to outfit their classes with their favorite skill upgrades, whether it’s creating a hyper-accurate Sniper or a heavily defended Gunner.
The game also comes with one other mode called Blitz, which pits up to four players against a never-ending stream of Bots that attempt to destroy your Moneyball. This mode plays similar to Gears of War’s Horde mode, except this time you’re able to build turrets to strengthen your defenses. I didn’t find the Blitz mode to be as fun as Crossfire, though it did offer its own unique challenges.
All in all, I definitely have to recommend Monday Night Combat for Xbox 360 owners who are just looking for a fun multiplayer experience. While 1200 points is a lot to expect for an XBLA title, Monday Night Combat is definitely a game where you get more bang for your buck. Those expecting a mere Team Fortress 2 clone are certainly missing out on a surprisingly enjoyable experience. For that, I definitely have to recommend a BUY IT.