Home > Action, PC, Shooter, Tower Defense, Xbox Indie > Monday Night Combat [REVIEW]

Monday Night Combat [REVIEW]

Monday Night Combat: released January 24th, 2011
Developer: Uber Entertainment
Platforms: Windows, Xbox Live Arcade

If I were forced to describe Monday Night Combat in one sentence, it would read something like, “It’s as if Team Fortress 2 and Defense of the Ancients had a baby, and all of that baby’s friends growing up were tower defense games, and despite the crazy mish-mash of cultures, that baby still grew up to be a perfectly adjusted member of society, and in fact excelled at whatever it put it’s mind to!” Okay, yes, that’s a helluva sentence, but it seems somehow appropriate considering that Monday Night Combat is one helluva game. Competitive shooters are a pretty tough nut to crack, so it’s understandable that developers would want to do whatever they can to differentiate their title from the pack, but blending a competitive classed based shooter, with tower defense, and DotA? As insane as it sounds, that’s exactly what Uber Entertainment have done here, and it works amazingly well!

The basic gist of the game is that it’s some kind of futuristic bloodsport tv show. Games are played in huge, packed stadium arenas, there are announcers, mascots, sponsors, and of course there’s Pit Girl, who is the game’s token eye candy/cheerleader. There are two notably different modes of play to choose from, those being Blitz, which is the game’s dedicated tower defense mode, and then the meat of the experience which is Crossfire, Monday Night Combat’s shooter-DotA hybrid mode.

In either of these modes you’ll be playing as one of six unique classes, which are the Assassin, Sniper, Assault, Gunner, Support, and the Tank. Each classes’ role is essentially just what it sounds like, with the Assassin being able to cloak and assassinate players, Supports being able to heal, Tanks being able to soak up mass amounts of damage, etc. Don’t let the obvious names fool you though, because while the role of each class is easy enough to discern, learning to master each of them takes a considerable amount of practice. They each have two specialized weapons, a unique grapple attack, and three special moves that they can execute, and learning when and where to enact each of these special traits for maximum effectiveness can take quite some time. You’re likely to suffer a lot of abuse from more experienced players while learning the ropes, but hang in there, because once you know what you’re doing, it’s a ton of fun being able to skillfully contribute to the success of your team.

In both modes you will also have the ability to build towers on pre-determined plots of space in the level. You can build laser towers, missile towers, longshot towers, and slow towers. It’s certainly not the deepest repertoire of defense towers I’ve ever seen, and they’re nowhere near as intimidating as the lane towers in Defense of the Ancients, but I feel that they reach a happy, effective medium that fits well with Monday Night Combat’s style of gameplay. They can also be upgraded by utilizing money that’s earned throughout the match, by taking out creeps, killing enemy players, or by performing other similarly noble tasks.

While upgrading towers is certainly a worthwhile venture to pursue, there are other aspects you will need to consider. Money isn’t just for towers after all! You can also spend it on jump pads that are scattered throughout the level which increase mobility and accessibility for your team, or you can spend a little extra dough to summon a unique creep class (which creep you summon is dependant on the class you’re playing), or you can also choose to spend your cash on upgrading your own abilities. Give yourself more health, increase the impact of that dash attack, make your grenades more volatile, or whatever your chosen class happens to excel at. The point is that money management plays a vital role in the strategy of this game, and in order to be successful, you will need to learn to balance the purchasing of towers with the upgrading of your abilities, as well as other factors that will affect the outcome of your game.

MNC’s tower defense mode, known as Blitz, is exactly what you’d expect it to be. You’re defending what is called the, “Money Ball.” You’ll build towers to help you defend the Money Ball from an increasingly challenging onslaught of creeps, which will come at you from a variety of different directions, in many shapes and sizes. There are mortar creeps, stealth creeps, flying creeps, giant gorilla creeps, etc. If you’ve played a tower defense game before, you get the gist, though it’s still a decidedly different experience. With a limited number of towers and very little strategy involved in where to put them, the game definitely feels like more of a shooter than a tower defense game. Still, the increasingly difficult rounds can get pretty hectic, there’s a pretty decent variety of enemies, and while not as overtly strategy heavy as the games that inspired it, there’s a good sense of depth present in balancing your classes’ upgrades with the towers throughout the level. Factor in that there’s up to four player co-op and multiple variations on the Blitz game type, and you’ll find that it more than earns it’s right to exist as a stand-alone feature in Monday Night Combat.

Though fun as Blitz may be, it very clearly plays second fiddle to MNC’s main attraction, which is the competitive multiplayer mode called Crossfire. Where Blitz was the title’s interpretation of a tower defense game, Crossfire is where Uber Entertainment gets to pay homage to the ever popular Defense of the Ancients. In this mode, two teams of six square off on a variety of symmetrical maps, each trying to reach, and subsequently destroy, the other team’s Money Ball. Everything that applied in Blitz, applies here. The differences are that creeps will now be coming at you at a steadier pace, from one direction, and generally you won’t see any of the special creeps unless an enemy player summons them. Oh, and of course now your team is spawning creeps as well.

Strategy plays a much larger role in Crossfire, since you’re now playing against actual humans, which means you’ll be competing against other Heavys, Gunners, and Snipers. Do you try to harass enemy players from a safe distance, or do you keep an eye on the creep line? The creeps may not seem terribly threatening, but I’ve seen more than one match go down the drain because they were ignored, and the enemy team just kept pushing against us until our creeps could barely even make it out of the base. You also can’t forget to balance upgrading towers and upgrading abilities, the importance of which will depend on whether you’re more at risk of getting slammed by enemy players, or enemy creeps. The entire game is a balancing act, and while simple enough to pick up and enjoy, it will take some serious dedication to really nail down the finer points of success in Monday Night Combat.

Another aspect of the game that really helps it to stand out from the droves of competitive shooters in the market (as if it needed another bullet point), is the game’s humorous and lighthearted presentation. The announcer’s are completely goofy sounding, which makes the exceptionally morbid commentary all the more hilarious. The charming aesthetics and entertaining dialogue do an amazing job of covering up the inherently dark nature of the game (You heard me, dark! Bloodsports are shady as fuck, no matter how colorful and happy they may appear), and I really found a lot of enjoyment in the writing and visuals.

At the time of my writing this review, Monday Night Combat will have been available for purchase for a pretty notable period of time, and will not be considered new by any stretch of the imagination, and in fact it’s successor, Super Monday Night Combat, has recently gone in to it’s closed beta stage. Still, this game deserves to be represented as a shining example of what dedication and imagination can produce in the gaming field. MNC is a funny, deceptively deep, extremely well executed hybrid of a variety of successful formulas, and it manages to not only perform the roles of each of these genres, but perform them well.

Monday Night Combat is an excellent experience, and I highly recommend it to any competitive shooter fans who are looking for something out of the ordinary, and to any DotA fans who happen to enjoy shooters. MNC wears many hats, but it wears them all with class, and I will forever remember it as one of the great competitive shooters of this generation.

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