canuckeh's Monday Night Combat (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

Post-apocalyptic future night's alright for fighting

The Summer of Arcade has certainly simmered down, as there exists a real lack of excitement over the impending releases in my mind. Maybe we peaked early with the semi-avant-garde Limbo, and are now reduced to retreading of old material. Take the redux of an 11 year old arcade boat racing game, or the bizarre repackaging of assets from the last 13 years of Castlevania games, or the return of 14 year old Lara Croft, who should have sagging chesticles at this point in her career. And what does it say when the next most interesting game in the set is the combination of a Half-Life mod and a Warcraft 3 mod?

 I wonder who drugs who first.
Fortunately, Monday Night Combat functions pretty well as far as online-only shooters go. With such a cavalcade of super-serious military shooters available on the market (retail or downloadable), it’s nice to see someone attempt to inject some semblance of colour into a shooter beyond “dirt brown camo.” Monday Night Combat takes place in some kind of dystopian future where athletes are cloned and killed for entertainment, cash rules everything around you, and the documentary “ Bigger, Stronger, Faster*” is treated as a guideline for living. Imagine Smash TV without the heavy synth music. The game also makes no attempt to tell a story beyond “you are a contestant on our futuristic sporting event of death.” There is no campaign. You never ultimately stick it to the evil television executive or liberate your fellow imprisoned gladiators. You are merely allowed to soak in the black humour of an announcer alternating from bombastic joy to somber warnings of the audience’s curfew.
Like oh so many games, the only actual conflict in Monday Night Combat is Red versus Blue. A war that has been waged since the earliest days of colour ink, where someone presumably labeled Green too much of a pansy colour to take arms. A war that continued with the original Pokemon games, perhaps. The main gameplay mode is akin to the popular mod Defense of the Ancients (please don’t call it “Dota” like its one word. That sounds like the name of a Jedi master. And speaking of which, it’s also super lame when Knights of the is referred to as “Kotor”, like its some kind of teddy bear.) Each team has an automated set of robots generating from their base, and your goal is to ensure those robots find their way to the enemy base’s core to destroy its shields. It’s worth mentioning that the “core” is made entirely of money. So running amok within the enemy base and destroying random soldiers will only do so much for the cause, as the real focus of the game sits somewhere between protecting your base and ensuring the safety of your ever replaceable machine companions.
 Red team pride!
The Team Fortress influence kicks in when you observe how class-based the proceedings are. And when you see how every character has a jaw that would fit into the DC Universe. You have your Assault unit, the charismatic machine gunner that may or may not be modeled after Lebron James. You have the flamethrower-toting Tank, whom I presume is imbalanced in that nobody uses him, perhaps because he has one of the lamest flamethrowers we’ve seen in a game in a long while. (Your wielding torch causes more damage than he does.) There’s the gatling gun-sporting Gunner, whom I also presume is the reason the Tank is so obsolete. You got your Sniper unit, the bane of my existence. There’s the surprisingly popular healing/hacking Support unit, and I presume his popularity is driven by his accent; imagine Mario with a gun turret fetish. My favorite unit, though, is the Assassin. Not because I like using the Assassin. But because most new players mistake her for some kind of solo operative that can stealth kill their ways to a high score. Since a frontal grapple attack isn’t a one-hit kill in Monday Night Combat, I get great pleasure in responding to being stabbed in the cranium by unloading an ammo clip in a failed assassin’s face.
Enemies that you kill will explode into coins and cash. No More Heroes. Ratchet and Clank. Scott Pilgrim versus the World. many other games with that kind of obtuse video game logic. Money earned through violence can be spent either on personal upgrades or robots or base upgrades or dru…I mean Juice. Since kills from purchased gun turrets earn you profit, it sometimes feels more selfish to support your base than yourself.
The game has a variety of other nice touches to make any given round feel utterly chaotic. Your randomly spawning robots vary from generic troopers to giant mechs and gorilla-bots that harass you in gorilla-like ways. From time to time, the Monday Night Combat mascot will spawn; I feel like focus groups designed “Bullseye” with the intent of generating the most annoying creature possible, as to encourage players into unloading ammo clips toward his gyrating pelvis for money. In the event of a tie, the game lives up to the phrase “Sudden Death” by dropping shields on both moneyballs, spawning many large robots and letting true chaos reign supreme.
 In the future, Chuck Liddell is deified.
Monday Night Combat is essentially a two-mode game. Besides Defense of the Benjamins, the other mode is a more typical tower defense mode where you and several allies defend your ball of cash from a barrage of no-doubt-expensive robots. Your progress in both modes earns you experience to level up your rank which means…a whole lot of nothing. Cash earned from both modes can be spent unlocking custom classes or…ehh…ranking titles. Custom classes merely allow you to allot your stats differently without making one character stronger than another, and I’d rather have this kind of balance over the more conventional FPS method of giving the better weapons and perks to people who already spend too much time playing a given game, and even more time scaring away aspiring newcomers.
But really, every flaw I can think of with Monday Night Combat is the flaw of any co-operative online shooter. Things are going to suck if you have party members drop out at random. Things are going to suck if one person has a lag-funky connection. Things are going to suck if your team consists of uncoordinated assassins all failing at stealth kills. Success hinges on proper teamwork, though smaller, more capable teams means that games feel less like a stalemate than they did in Fat Princess.
And the announcer repeats himself a bit much after awhile. I kind of am sick of hearing about his blooming former job.
I don’t normally care for team-based games of any kind. Most of my friends are either too into Modern Warfare or So You Think You Can Dance to assemble any kind of group together and bring the pain in any new and interesting online game. This leaves me at the whim of random strangers all aspiring to be the Kobe Bryant of shooters, only to better resemble modern-day Dennis Rodman. But a large number of people playing Monday Night Combat right now seem to “get it” and understand that it’s not what you do for yourself but those adorable little mech robots that counts. Besides having a gimmick more interesting than “American soldiers gunning down immigrants”, Monday Night Combat feels more playable and entertaining than most major online shooters on the market today, and it’s better priced to boot.
4 stars  

Other reviews for Monday Night Combat (Xbox 360 Games Store)

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.