$15 for any night of the week.
Microsoft's Summer of Arcade is a premiere filter for XBLA quality; while some games are hit-or-miss depending on the audience (Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, Hydro Thunder), it's a good bet that at least one of the games released during this time period is going to be hyped and sought-after. After Limbo's somewhat unexpected success and subsequent cult following, Monday Night Combat took the stage as the game on everyone's radar. Getting a game into the Summer of Arcade lineup is an achievement in itself and an exciting step forward for a developer; getting your first game ever into Summer of Arcade is even more of a feat. On that front, Uber Entertainment has done well.
Monday Night Combat is a third-person, class-based shooter that draws heavily on Defense of the Ancients and Tower Defense in order to introduce a unique strategic feel to the game. A comparison to Team Fortress 2 is inevitable, and Uber certainly took a page out of Valve's book with class structure and art style, but the similarities end there and MNC becomes it's own game. In "Crossfire", teams of up to 6 players ("Pros" in the sports-oriented universe) escort AI-controlled bots to the opposing team's side. The bots are supposed to be the only way to take down the opposing team's Moneyball (more on that in a second), an action which is immediately followed by inflicting as much damage as possible on the ball in order to take out it's health. The first team to eliminate the opposing team's moneybag wins. Crossfire is the only competitive mode that shipped with the game, but occasionally adds in a few features that prevent games from becoming stale after a few rounds. Monday Night Combat's mascot, "Bullseye", occasionally jumps onto the map, giving players an opportunity to earn extra cash by shooting him until he disappears once more. The game's Juice mechanic allows players to temporarily boost their stats and inflict extra damage. In addition, the ability to build any AI turret on any turret hub controlled by your team creates a variety of strategies and tactics for each map.
The game rewards players with money, which can be spent in several ways. In-game, money is used to upgrade your skills so they develop new abilities, buy juice, and pay for the turrets that contribute to their team's defensive strategy (don't worry, even when you spend money, the game keeps track of your total earnings that round). Your total earnings carry-over after the game, however, and can be used to buy new titles as well as custom class slots. Custom Classes are done differently than you may be familiar with: for each slot, you pick a position from one of the six classes, and then you select three levels of endorsements that change your attributes. Gold is the strongest change, followed by Silver, and then bronze, and there's enough variety in the endorsement options to offer a wide variety of customization.
That being said, the game doesn't come without it's fair share of problems. Monday Night Combat begins to encounter issues when the action intensifies on-screen, resulting in massive frame drops that can seriously affect gameplay. Lag is a frequent issue (host-dependent, but when it's bad, it's very bad), and the fact that your earnings in a game don't save until after the final animation finishes means that people can quit out prior to the loss counting. If the host happens to quit, then you lose your progress, because the host migration is virtually non-existent. Attempts to migrate resulting in being dropped back to the menu more often than actually migrating the host, which causes problems if you're in a party because beyond the initial pre-matchmaking screen, there is no way to keep your party together if the game drops. Even exiting out of a matchmaking lobby, you have to reform your entire party before being able to hop back in together. Private Matches also lack the diversity that one would expect, with there being no way to tell the game how to arrange teams. As a result, teams appear scrambled at first, but actually prioritize based on join order. These problems, combined with a myriad of odd bugs and glitches that should've been ironed out pre-release, lightly soil the game's fantastic attributes.
As Uber Entertainment's first release, Monday Night Combat does well to showcase their potential as a studio. Despite a grocery bill of netcode issues and unanswered detailing questions, MNC takes a unique spin on the third person shooter and provides consistent entertainment throughout it's gameplay. For 1200 Microsoft Points (~$15), the enjoyment : dollar ratio makes Monday Night Combat worth it any day of the week.