The underlying mechanics puffing away beneath Monday Night Combat work so well that it’s shocking that its mongrel amalgamation of tower defence, third person shooter and horde mode hasn’t already been done to death.
Merging the three together, Uber Entertainment have hit a home run but that doesn’t truly come across in Monday Night Combat until you experiment with the online components of the game. The single player levels are little more than tutorials, although they’re worth playing through two or three times each just to get to grips with the chaos and mechanics before taking the plunge into the online-only Crossfire mode.
But what is Monday Night Combat? There’s no explanation made as to why the event takes place on a Monday night – probably because Monday is the worst day of the week – but the whole thing is set to the backdrop of a futuristic TV show and involves clone soldiers (you) fighting wave after wave of shoddily built robots. It’s an easy enough premise and ensures very little gets in the way of some good old-fashioned robot genocide.
The Blitz and Xbox Live Blitz modes let up to four human players challenge bots in classic horde style. Robots enter the arena and it’s down to you and any friends you have to defend your giant golden Moneyball from the rampaging robots. The metal fiends come in all shapes and sizes but show little interest in you unless you’re directly in the way of their march toward the Moneyball.
Destroying droids earns you money and with it you have to decide whether to build and upgrade towers and rely on them to defend your piggy bank or play it Rambo style and improve your own abilities and fight the scourge alone. It’s a class-based game but if you riddle the arena with towers it doesn’t matter much which class you choose.
Of course you can mix the two but the single player game is only demanding if you set the wave amount to infinite or play the scramble mode (where you’re tasked with surviving a 20 minute onslaught of metallic mayhem.)
But there’s little arguing against the fact that both the Blitz and Scramble modes are appetisers, there’s only one map to play on and the waves of robots arrive in a routine order each time you revisit and so predictably, Blitz tires quickly. The beating heart of the game is found in the Crossfire mode.
The aim of Crossfire is to destroy the other team’s Moneyball while defending your own. Each side sends out an automatic stream of robots but they’re little more than cannon fodder. Instead it’s down to the six human players per side to pin the other team back and destroy their golden ball of money.
Crossfire’s simplicity is its genius. Games can be hugely tactical with both teams engaging in tower building and combat, or it can descend into classic team deathmatch frequently playing out until sudden death because neither team care about Moneyballs or towers. And that’s a testament to the quality of the mechanics because either way, Monday Night Combat is fun.
As far as classes go it’s fairly typical and has earned Monday Night Combat its fair share of comparisons to Team Fortress 2. There’s the soldier, sniper, assassin, support (a cross between a tower building engineer and a medic), the brutish tank and the gunner. Soldier aside – who’s more than capable of holding his own – the classes are designed to be used in tandem with one another. The gunner can wield duel gattling guns and is capable of committing mass murder in a few seconds but should a near-invisible assassin sneak up from behind, the gunner’s heading for an early bath. So having a sniper or a support nearby to keep an eye out is a good tactic.
But the standard classes pale into insignificance as soon as you begin tinkering with the custom classes. With those you take the basic framework for a class and apply your own “endorsements” to it; Monday Night Combat’s perk system. They’ve all got funny names like Regenital for health recovery and are advertised during the loading screens between games giving them an endearing quality Hardline Pro or Super Bullet Shield lack.
Each custom class is limited to just three perks and the higher up the pecking order they are (gold/silver/bronze) the more effective they become. And that helps creates an almost infinite outcome scenario that keeps the online games from tiring. You never know when you’re going to come up against an assassin with double health or an especially nimble gattling gunner.
Like all good online multiplayer games Monday Night Combat comes equipped with a ranking system but it’s purely prestigious and money earned from kills, assists and streaks is spent on brag-tags ala Modern Warfare. There’s no shortage of tags but they’re purely there for showing off and the lack of reward for prolonged playing is the game’s ultimate downfall.
It looks pretty ugly too, running on the Unreal engine but in the heat of the battle that’s only really a minor gripe.
Those issues aside this is an innovative take on a genre often lacking innovation and Monday Night Combat deserves to sit alongside the likes of Plants Vs Zombies, Toy Soldiers and PixelJunk Monsters as the paradigm for the rest of the genre to follow. On top of that it’s also a solid third person shooter and a better horde mode and its successes will hopefully spawn more of these mongrel concoctions in the future.