Best XBLA Release of the Summer
So far, the Summer of Arcade releases have been pretty decent (with the exception of that Castlevania stinker). Limbo blew me away with its presentation and style, Hydro Thunder and Lara Croft have been wonderful multiplayer experiences, but none of the releases have held a candle to Monday Night Combat in terms of replay value and straight-up fun.
One major factor Monday Night Combat has going for it is its light-hearted nature. I played Limbo because it was basically pegged as a serious game, something you had to take in because it was an important and ground-breaking text in terms of gaming. While it lived up to the hype, it isn't exactly something you can pull out and show off to your friends. Monday Night Combat has, essentially, the opposite effect. I'll be honest when I say I absolutely did not see this one coming. When I saw it during E3 coverage, I simply passed it up as another generic shooter. As far as I can tell, it didn't present anything new or particularly interesting. And let's be honest here - Monday Night Combat is not a unique snowflake of a game. There are no new gameplay mechanics that you have to twist your mind around to understand, and the game makes no pretense of that. Its genius is in its combination of parts, however. Uber Entertainment have combined two pretty good things (DOTA/Tower Defense style games, and class-based shooters) into one really amazing thing. I'm sure these guys must feel like they reinvented the Reese's peanut butter cup.
The game manages to create a light concept that has a surprising amount of depth. While going for a straight-up killcount can be fun, the game really shines when you and five others team up and coordinate to completely crush the opposition. Should you rush the field to take our as many opponents as possible, or should you hang back in order to escort your bots, build up turrets, and shore up your defenses so the rest of your team can operate more efficiently? Clearly, not all games of Monday Night Combat are going to be so well-orchestrated, and you are definitely going to run into a lot of players who couldn't care less about attacking bots or setting up turrets. To the sniper who sits alone in one corner of the map the entire game, lining up headshots - sorry duder, you're definitely missing out on a lot of fun. Which isn't to say that the game doesn't reward a kill-centric play style - I just find it personally more satisfying to work as part of a coordinated team.
In terms of class balance, the game holds up fairly well. The decision to have a gunner and a tank class was a bit strange to me, but no class has any glaring holes or weaknesses. Most interesting to me though, is the inclusion of a support class that's actually worth playing - the support does so much more than simply heal teammates. The effectiveness of the shotgun, and the satisfaction gained out of placing a fully upgraded-and-hacked firebase make playing the support class more fun in Monday Night Combat than in any other game in recent memory.
I do have a few gripes with the game, of course. For one, the matchmaking runs into trouble here and there, and migrating the host server in the middle of a match more often than not results in most of the players ditching the game. Second, while the silly charm of the announcer and the cynical, Bloodsport / Smash TV aesthetic is funny at first, it gets tiresome after hearing the same line for the millionth time. The worst offender is the loading screen - okay, okay, a shell high-fiving a strip of bacon is pretty sweet, but it never, ever changes. Even two or three more loading screens would have been nice. These are small gripes though, and considering the game's fifteen-dollar pricetag, they're absolutely worth getting through in order to reach the core of incredibly satisfying gameplay and depth that Monday Night Combat has to offer. This is a must-purchase game, and I hope the player base holds up for a long time to come.