Review: Monday Night Combat (Xbox 360)

Monday Night Combat
Developer: Uber Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Genre: Team-Based Shooter
Release Date: 08/11/2010

Since 1990, Smash T.V. took the roots planted by concepts such as the movie Running Man and has long left mankind to wonder when they might be able to sport red or blue spandex and risk their life for VCRs and years’ supplies of meat in front of a national audience. Here in 2010, we’ve hardly made any progress toward such an endeavor, but at least Uber Entertainment decided to give us Monday Night Combat during the Summer of Arcade promotion. While the title is ultimately a mix of other shooting game concepts (although it is lacking in the spandex), the developer chose its spots wisely to bring players a fast-paced, competitive shooter that is well worth the time and money.

Monday Night Combat is a futuristic combat sport that has two teams going toe-to-toe in what is called the crossfire mode. Each side has a moneyball that must be defended at all costs. It is up to players to do anything they possibly can take down the opposition’s moneyball and free all of the glorious cash housed inside of it. A secondary blitz mode allows up to four players (up to two locally) to work together to defend a moneyball against an onslaught of different CPU robots. Inside the game, players can choose from six different class types and spend money to either upgrade their abilities, build towers that automatically hold off enemies or, in crossfire mode, players can also have their own robots built and unleashed on the other side. In a nutshell, this is what the game wholly offers players.

Breaking it down, players only get three different modes for their $15 – an offline or online version of blitz or the online crossfire mode. This may disappoint some gamers, but Uber Entertainment has surprisingly packed a lot of punch into mode. Monday Night Combat is definitely an instance where the game doesn’t offer a lot, but each one of those offerings were taken seriously and fine-tuned as much as it could be. Even with that being said, it is very hard to deny it is also a title that banks on its multiplayer nature. Sure, you can go solo against the hoards in blitz mode, but you’ll find it quite difficult after a while and, of course, the versus mode makes more people a requirement.

On the same token, the game doesn’t really have a story. We just know Monday Night Combat is a crazy popular sport and these combatants are mowing down the opposition to collect some major cash. Instead, Uber Entertainment has done an excellent job in crafting a universe – the massive crowds, the fictional advertising, the fictional history of the sport, the unforgettable antics of the MNC mascot Bullseye, the dedicated commentator … you could truly believe this was a real sport with the lengths the developer went to build the atmosphere. As a result, what we get is an action-based title where the story doesn’t even matter and players get to live in the moment and bask in the fame and fortune of the sport.

Graphically, it is very easy to compare Monday Night Combat to Team Fortress 2. MNC also utilizes the cell-shaded animation visage and given the large amounts of humor injected into the game, the visuals are a perfect fit. The visuals overall look great as they really accent the characters and the futuristic nature of the game gives the appearance quite the pop with the abundance of vivid reds and blues. The only real aspects that drag this department down are the occasional framerate issues and lack of variety (seeing as there are only a few maps available in the title). While the animation is fluid, given the fast-paced nature of the game, the animation is quite hyper and players won’t have much time to gawk around at the surroundings. As a whole, though, the game is very pleasing to the eyes and the quirky nature of the game make the choice in style worth the effort.

The audio in the title really does its job, with probably my only real complaint being its eventual repetitiveness, especially with the announcer. Even so, the commentator fits right in with the atmosphere, bringing in a loud and witty voice to accompany the action and the character classes themselves all come equipped with one-liners. The music in the title does its job throughout the menus and intervals, but the developer opted to keep any tunes from playing while in the heat of battle, which is no loss given everything that is going on. Each of the game’s weapons has an appropriate sound effect to reflect the nature of the tool being used and the crowd highlights the action with roars and air horns. Even though the action relies heavily on sound effects, you’ll notice a lot of attention to small detail in them and it really makes listening to Monday Night Combat similar to taking in a sports broadcast.

Even though Monday Night Combat is, on the surface, a bit of a small package, the gameplay housed in the title packs a lot of punch. I am not a fan of the competitive team-based shooters, but after a couple of days with the title, I found myself having a hell of a lot of fun with my friends. It certainly helps that controlling MNC is relatively simple. There are the obvious mechanics of using the dual-stick controls, the triggers to fire weapons and using the A button to jump and stacked on top of this are class-specific commands mapped to X, Y and B along with a few basic commands mapped to the d-pad. Everything will be second-nature to shooting game fans within a couple of rounds and the most basic of the game’s elements can be understood by anyone that’s picked up a competitive game before. The controls are tight and responsive and the only issues I had with the control more or less stemmed from framerate skips or online lagging.

What really fleshes out the game, though, is the class-based system, which balances out the players by giving them specific advantages in areas such as range, strength and defense. Those that want to go balls-out with firepower can choose the gunner, the tank provides a heavy defense and powerful short-range attacks, the assault serves as the standard “balanced” character, the assassin is the fast and nimble, but weak character that relies on sneaking up and doing heavy close-range damage and the support character provides backup for their team in the form of healing and tactical weaponry. Encountering different types of classes really mixes up the gameplay of MNC and half the fun of starting out the game is in experimenting with each class.

When players accumulate enough money, they have the option to create their own classes with a mix and match of abilities to further extend the dynamics of the gameplay. In the long run, there are few balancing issues that need addressed to make the assassin’s melee more effective, for example, but as the game stands, the class system, while not wholly original, adds a lot of value to this $15 download.

Once the action kicks up, though, any balancing issues are, for the most part, ignorable, especially when you’re just having fun with friends online. The fight for the moneyball is among one of the more intense experiences I’ve had in gaming through the summer and the constant balance of trying to decide when to play defense or offense provides more of a strategic element than one might find on the surface. Perhaps the title could have used a few more maps or environments to freshen up the level design and extended game play sessions, but what is packed inside MNC definitely gives players their money’s worth.

It definitely helps that MNC gets mighty addictive once you find the right group of players to compete or team up with. Since each mode stresses teamwork, you’ll likely find yourself wanting to play with the same group of people, but there is a lot to come back to even outside of the multiplayer mechanic. While the game does come packed with the standard 200 GamerScore Points, which really aren’t that hard to get compared to other shooters, the game is packed to the brim with a ton of other accomplishments to tackle, such as obtaining certain amounts of money over a career, killing online opponents with specific weapons, destroying certain numbers of CPU defense bots and more. It will certainly take players a good chunk of time to tackle all of these, which allow players to display icon banners with their GamerTag to show off their accomplishments.Sure, Monday Night Combat is far from being the most original of titles, but given its familiar aspects, it will be no doubt that gamers could be drawn to this action-packed sport.

Even fans of time-tested shooters such as Halo and Modern Warfare should give the title a shot to experience something a little bit different and the $15 price tag should make this aspect a little more attractive. Even though many expected Monday Night Combat to be a Team Fortress 2 copycat, the title definitely has a lot of things going for it and the injection of humor really fuels the action. That and it makes me hungry for bacon.

The Scores
Story/Modes: GOOD
Graphics: GREAT
Control/Gameplay: AMAZING
Replayability: VERY GOOD
Balance: GOOD
Originality: DECENT
Addictiveness: GREAT
Appeal Factor: GOOD
Miscellaneous: GOOD

Short Attention Span Summary

Even though Monday Night Combat isn’t a shining example of originality, it takes the proven elements it used to work with and really runs with it. This action-packed shooter sports some excellent presentation and frantic, yet strategic team-based gameplay. There are some occasional issues such as framerate skips, jumpy animation, only three game modes and a grand span of variety, but the quality of everything included makes MNC well worth the money. Having played all of the Summer of Arcade titles for 2010, each title catered to a specific audience quite well, but, overall, I feel Monday Night Combat gives players the best value for their money among the group (Limbo was phenomenal, but it lacks the replay value of MNC).



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