By: Roger Hansen
I had mixed feelings when I downloaded the Xbox Live Arcade game, Monday Night Combat for my trusty old 360 I call “Flashy the Wonderball”. To be completely honest with you, I really only bought the game because my friends were buying it and like any good friend I crumpled under the righteous weight of peer pressure. As the impending release date drew ever near, the anticipation grew to a fever pitch. My friends eagerly prophesized which class they were going to play and how much they were going to own. Meanwhile I wallowed wonderfully in a pool of apathy. After playing a dozen or so matches I found myself pleasantly enjoying my purchase as I murdered robots and other players to the roar of the crowd.
It is hard to describe Monday Night Combat without inevitably mentioning Valve’s third person class based shooter, F Meat Resorts 2. But, hell with it, I’ll take that challenge. Monday Night Combat’s main mode pits two teams of six players against each other and the goal is simple–destroy the other teams Money Ball while protecting your own. Adding a little spice to that, each team continually spawns a variety of robots that mindlessly march towards the enemies’ base. Players earn money which they can spend upgrading various skills and building different types of turrets to protect their Money Ball. There are six different classes to choose from, Assault, Tank, Support, Assassin, Sniper, and Gunner. Later in your career you are also given the opportunity to tweak the classes by selecting their endorsements, increased health regeneration, faster rate of fire, more speed, etc.
So how does this work out in the end? I ended up being pleasantly surprised. The various classes supply much appreciated variety while the small strategic decisions available help liven up the gameplay. The classes seem fairly balanced (albeit with some disagreements between my friends) and reflect the style of play you’re feeling at the moment. Are you feeling sneaky and want to run around the map stabbing people? Play the Assassin. Want to hang back and take potshots at your enemies while laying traps? Be a sniper. Feel like walking around and getting shot up more than a Piñata at a Mexican standoff? Yeah there’s a class for that. Each class also features two weapon modes and three unique upgradeable abilities. Due to the objective orientated nature of the mode, it proves beneficial for teams to coordinate and communicate.
The pace of the game is extremely fast, and the characters move smoothly. The grappling system works most of the time, blending in seamlessly with the gun heavy combat. A handful of different maps help liven up the environments you are fighting in. I really enjoyed the sports arena atmosphere the game creates, keeping it light hearted and fun. During matches the mascot will randomly show up and run around and the game urges you to shoot it and rewards you with cavalcade of money for you to greedily snatch up.
A single player and co-op mode exist, pitting players against endless waves of bots, providing a little break from the single adversarial mode and a way to grind for cash. Future downloadable content packs are planned for later release to help keep the game fresh for many more frags to come.
Unfortunately the game does fall short in several aspects. It is a sin to release such a multiplayer heavy game without a dedicated lobby system. This makes forming and reforming groups of players a bit of a chore. This issue is compounded with the amount of connection issues I experience. During any gaming session consisting of more than two rounds I can expect to be dropped out to the main menu. When the host quits, the host migration system proves inadequate with roughly a 50% success rate. Even when successful it takes several frustrating minutes for it to work itself out. In several of the games I played lag proved to be a serious issue, but luckily it was confined to only a few. I love objective based game types and prefer them to free for all and team deathmatch modes. Fortunately for me the game caters to that type of gameplay, but it can get frustrating playing with random people and being teamed up with a disorganized mob of solo minded players. Overall for its price Monday Night Combat offers a richer multiplayer experience than many $60 dollar games. This is definitely a game I recommend for anyone already interested or on the fence.