Have you been asking yourself when a game would finally come around that would include a loading screen featuring a cartoon shotgun shell giving a high-five to a piece of bacon? If the answer is yes, you may have found your game in Monday Night Combat. The fourth release of Microsoft’s Summer of Arcade promotion is a futuristic game show where the contestants defend their Moneyball against attacking Bots or other players over Xbox Live. The gameplay in this third-person shooter is an interesting cross between Gears of War 2’s horde mode and a tower-defense game.
The first of the two modes in MNC is called Blitz. The goal of this game type is to defend your Moneyball against an army of AI-controlled Bots. Along with your character’s weapon you can also purchase turrets at specific points on the map to combat the waves of enemy robots trying to break open your Moneyball. Like a tower-defense game, these AI-controlled turrets will attack any enemy within range. Each turret can be upgraded two more times for even more destructive fire power. Managing what type of turret is placed where can mean the difference between winning or losing a match. Blitz supports up to four players on Xbox Live and two players on local split-screen.
Crossfire is the second game mode. With 6 on 6 battles over Xbox Live, this is where you will find most of the action. In Crossfire both teams are tasked with destroying the opposition's Moneyball. In order to destroy your opponent's Moneyball you must escort friendly AI-controlled bots into their base to take down a shield. Once the shield is down, the Moneyball drops and allows the players to damage it. Once it takes enough damage it will explode in a shower of money, ending the match. Like the Blitz mode you can install turrets at very specific nodes around your base to protect your Moneyball. Crossfire requires teamwork to balance how many players stay back and defend and how many attack. These Crossfire matches can go back and forth for a long time and offer some intense and hectic combat.
When you first get into one of the two modes of play you will need to choose which of the six character classes you want to be. The types of classes and the character models look like a Valve copyright infringement lawsuit waiting to happen, as the characters seem like they were pulled from Team Fortress 2. Below are the six classes of Pros you can choose from:
- Assault is the most balanced and is armed with an automatic rifle and grenade launcher.
- Tank has the defensive role and can absorb a lot of damage.
- Support is the medic of the group and can deploy turrets anywhere.
- Assassin is a quick ninja-like character who can cloak and drop smoke bombs to escape a more powerful opponent.
- Gunner is the main offensive character of the bunch. He can wield dual chain-guns.
- Sniper is the only long-range attacker of the classes and can set traps.
Each of these six characters offers a completely different style of play and it will take some skill to master them all.
During a match you can choose to spend the cash you make from kills to upgrade each character. You have four different skills to upgrade and you can upgrade each character skill three times. For example, each time you upgrade your chain-gun on the Gunner class it will increase the clip size. Once you hit the third upgrade you will begin carrying around a dual chain-gun. This upgrade mechanic adds an interesting element to the matches, as the more you upgrade your character, the less you can spend purchasing turrets to defend your Moneyball.
Finding the right balance can tip the scales in one team’s favor. You can also equip perks on your Pros once you earn enough career money. These perks fit with the game show theme of MNC as they take the form of sponsorships. Have your Pro endorsed by Regenitol and you will get a health regeneration boost in return.
During my matches over Xbox Live Monday Night Combat ran pretty smooth. I did have one Blitz match that had so much lag my guns were not damaging anything, so I ended up having to leave the match. I haven’t had any issues with Crossfire other than the usual online issue of players quitting the match once one side started showing an advantage. While most matches will finish with a full lobby, I have seen one match that end with two players versus six. There is also your standard host migration feature so you don’t have to worry about dropped matches when your host leaves.
For a downloadable game MNC has some impressive visuals, built on the Unreal Engine. There is a lot going on at once when the matches get underway. With all the turret fire and numerous robots exploding in showers of bolts and gears the game performs well and I didn't notice any slow-down.
Taking its inspiration from movies like The Running Man and the classic arcade game Smash TV, this game has weird sense of humor that may turn off some. The over the top announcer is always saying something trying to get a laugh out of the player. Some lines are somewhat funny and others fall flat. However, it is a nice change a pace from the serious attitude of most shooters these days. Even the class descriptions humorously give each character’s likes and dislikes. In the bio for the Assault character it lists that he likes attending gallery openings, while his main dislike is art.
If you can put up with the over the top game show setting and are itching for a decent online shooter to play with your friends, Monday Night Combat is worth checking out. As with a lot of other multiplayer focused games, the solo experience is not nearly as enjoyable. You can play Blitz mode solo but once you get around wave 18 there are just too many enemies to handle. This makes getting the achievements for lasting 20 or 30 rounds nearly impossible without help from others.
Even though you can experience everything the game has to offer in a few hours, the intense combat and lengthy, challenging matches will keep you coming back for more. Monday Night Combat, developed by Uber Entertainment, is now available for download on Xbox Live Arcade for 1200 Microsoft Points.