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First Impressions: Monday Night Combat

Online multiplayer games typically don’t tend to be a big draw for me. I like them in principle, but I lack the dedication to practice enough to become good at them, so my experiences tend to consist of hopping online, getting stomped a few times, muttering to myself that I wish I were better at the game, and then never playing again.

But sometimes a game comes along that can convince even me to hop on its bandwagon. Monday Night Combat is just such a game. 

Monday Night Combat is a brilliant mix of well-worn elements that combine to form a captivating whole. Take a large dose of Team Fortress’s class-based team shooter gameplay, mix in a couple of portions of tower defense, and top it off with a pleasingly thick layer of icing in the form of an appealing grandiose sports game presentation. What you end up with is an addictive shooter with high replayability, plenty of depth, and quite a bit of strategy to boot. 

Monday Night Combat doesn’t overwhelm you with modes or options. One could cynically say that it feels like a $15 downloadable title rather than a full retail release, but I prefer to think that it simply pared down the experience to only the most necessary elements and then polished them to a fine sheen. What you’re left with is perhaps lacking in quantity, but of a quality that will stand up to just about any full retail shooter you compare it to. 

There are two modes of play. Blitz sees you facing waves of oncoming enemies somewhat like Gears of War’s Horde mode, but the tower defense elements of Monday Night Combat give it a unique twist. In addition to fending off waves of enemies from all sides, either by yourself or with up to three of your friends (including the option for two players via splitscreen, which is a much appreciated option), you have strategic decisions to make as well. Killing enemies gets you money, which you have to split between upgrading your own abilities and building four different types of turrets. You can then upgrade these turrets to become more powerful with even more cash. What results is a frantic scramble to keep your turrets built and upgraded while coordinating with friends to fight back the constant stream of baddies that only keep coming in greater and faster numbers. 

Crossfire mode is the real draw of Monday Night Combat, however. This mode pits two six-person teams against each other. You must defend your team’s money ball by setting up both turrets and human guards while simultaneously working to destroy the other team’s by attacking it directly, sending waves of minion bots to whittle down the shields for you, or other devious means of calculated destruction. Basically everything costs money, which keeps you on your toes because you must constantly decide where your cash is best spent. Should you be selfish and make yourself more powerful, send a wave of bots forth to do your bidding, or upgrade a turret? This mode is hectic fun and puts a unique twist on the crowded team shooter genre.

Throughout the two modes, you can choose from one of six diverse classes. There is a little overlap between certain elements of some classes, but for the most part they feel remarkably unique. For instance, there’s the slow, heavily-armored Tank that’s brutal at close range; the Assassin, with her ability to turn invisible, dash, and stab foes in the back; and the Support, whose Heal/Hurt gun can heal allies beyond 100% or sap the health from foes all while he uses his personal turret and hacking abilities to make the base safer.

The sports-themed presentation is well done and ties the whole package together nicely. You’ll hear the announcer repeat lines fairly often and there are a few graphical oddities like the occasional bit of slowdown and a terrible-looking crowd texture if you happen to glance upward to the stands amidst the chaos of a match, but these are minor quibbles. 

There may not be much here, but it’s likely you won’t mind for quite a while because you’ll be too busy being addicted to what is here. If there is one valid complaint to be made about lacking quantity, it’s in the department of maps. There are only four included with the game, a number which is sufficient to provide for a great many entertaining battles but which will surely start feeling rather limited at some point. Hopefully downloadable content is on the way to extend the life of the title. 

I filed this as a First Impressions article simply because I haven’t played enough yet to be comfortable labeling this as a review, but I doubt my opinion will be much changed by time. This is a solid title well worth the relatively meager $15 asking price. This is the kind of thing that makes me appreciate the modern gaming landscape, because not too many years ago this is the kind of thing that would be selling for $50 on a disc and still getting a warm reception. 

My biggest personal issue with the game unfortunately won’t be fixed via a patch or more downloadable content. Like so many abandoned multiplayer games of times past, I must now realize that only time and practice are going to make me suck less at Monday Night Combat. Luckily, I think this is one title that just might stand a chance of keeping me coming back for more. 

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