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Monday Night Combat Review

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For $15, there's an awful lot of varied, satisfying multiplayer action in here.


 So many classes, so few robots to kill with them.
 So many classes, so few robots to kill with them.
Blacklight: Tango Down recently attempted to bring the Call of Duty style of team-based multiplayer action to Xbox Live in an inexpensive, small-scale package, but for my money, Monday Night Combat is the low-priced multiplayer game to beat. To be fair, it wasn't my money--the game's developer provided us with review access--but for $15, there's a great degree of depth and variety in Monday Night Combat that's really satisfying to wrap your head around.

The easy shorthand for this game is "Team Fortress 2 meets Defense of the Ancients," the sort of lazy description I'd normally shy away from if it weren't so damn accurate. It's got the exaggerated art style and broad mix of specialized classes from the former, and the battlefield layout and gameplay flow of the latter. Turns out, those are in fact two multiplayer tastes that taste grea... well, let's say the developer has done a great job of integrating those two halves into a cohesive whole.

As you might guess from the name, Monday Night Combat is shot through with the feel of a futuristic death sport, and the main competitive mode, Crossfire, is set up in a six-on-six format. Each team has a goal called the moneyball to defend back at their base, with a bunch of nodes scattered around it where you can cash in money you pick up to build turrets that shoot lasers, rockets, mortars, or enemy-slowing freeze rays. You can also spend that money on upgrades for your own character, so there's a constant balancing act between helping out your team's defenses and boosting your own combat prowess. Both tactics pay off in different ways; the challenge is mostly in knowing when it's best to use which one.

 Knowing when and how to upgrade your abilities is a big part of the strategy.
 Knowing when and how to upgrade your abilities is a big part of the strategy.
Like DOTA, you've got an endless supply of AI-controlled robots spawning in your base and marching toward your enemy's--and they have the same thing going on over on the other side of the map. Only these robots can bring down the shields on the moneyball and allow you to attack it directly, so every match starts with the two waves of robots clashing in the middle of the map and then the line of battle moving toward one base or the other depending on the particulars of the two teams' strategies. In addition to turrets and your own abilities, you can spend your cash to generate additional waves of robots, which is a good way to overwhelm the enemy through sheer attrition.

With all these options, it's immensely satisfying to set up workable defenses, mix your classes properly, work together, and progressively push the line of conflict forward. Conversely it's frustrating as hell when your team doesn't know what it's doing and everyone runs around aimlessly while a coordinated enemy steamrolls right over you. In short, the game is subject to the same strict requirement to know what the hell you're doing as every other team-based game, but you can't really hold that against the game itself. It has a high learning curve, but there are really extensive video and text tutorials to ramp you up quickly.

There are also a lot of options in how you play, with six classes that fall into standard team-based archetypes. Here, let me list them and let's see if you can tell roughly what role they're supposed to fill. Assault, sniper, gunner, assassin, support, tank. Self-explanatory, right? Each class has two weapons and several neat abilities: the support can heal teammates and call down airstrikes, the assassin can dash and cloak for stealth kills, the gunner can do a ground-pound slam attack and turn himself into a living turret. A big part of successful strategy is getting everyone to play their class well and use their abilities to complement each other and form a united front.

Dude, you might want to watch that moneyball...
Dude, you might want to watch that moneyball...
If you want a break from Crossfire, there's also the Blitz mode, which is basically Crossfire with only one team. It's tower defense. You and up to three others hold off wave after wave of robots spawning from different locations by building turrets, upgrading your abilities, and scrambling frantically. There are increasing difficulty levels of Blitz to go through, and it feels different enough from Crossfire to warrant its status as a separate mode. I had a ton of fun with Blitz, other than one distinctly bug-like instance where a particular round never seemed to end, spewing so many robots that the game bogged down until it was unplayable.

That wasn't the only questionable spot I ran into. As good as the core concepts in Monday Night Combat are, this is at times a rough-looking game. The frame rate can dip to almost unmanageable levels when there's too much going on. There are some weird animation bugs; character models who catch on fire or have angels circling their heads during a stun tend to retain those graphical effects long after the debuffs themselves have expired. And the general user experience feels a bit shoddy, with some design elements that pop from low to high resolution when you change menus, some fonts that don't fit very well in their containers, and the like. It's nothing that makes the game less fun overall, but it does give the impression that the game was built fairly quickly by a small team, which it was.

That's also Monday Night Combat's strength, though; it's lean, cheap, and focused, but it still offers a great multiplayer formula that feels like more than its component parts. Get a few friends together who are ready to learn the ins and outs of the available classes and tactics, and there's enough depth here to keep you playing for a good long while after you've gotten your $15 worth.
Brad Shoemaker on Google+

66 Comments

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Vinchenzo

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Edited By Vinchenzo

Okie dokie.

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fedorajay

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Edited By fedorajay

I'd buy it if it had full bot support. I'm fully aware of it's single player mode but I'd love to play the main mode with bots like you can with DotA. I don't think it's worth it at this time to cave in and pay for Live, though.

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Dad_Is_A_Zombie

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Edited By Dad_Is_A_Zombie

Already got (and love) TF2. Don't see a need to spend $15 on this...

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jim_dandy

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Edited By jim_dandy

Touchin' dat moneyball.

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Teaspoon83

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Edited By Teaspoon83

After playing the 30 minutes of the trial/demo, I decided to pick it up. It really is a unique game out there. Sure, somebody could go around and mod TF2 to play like this, but this on XBLA is great.

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ParaParaKing

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Edited By ParaParaKing

Why is it that if a game is short people don't want to talk about the price, but if there is a lot of content they praise the "low" price?

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Stupot

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Edited By Stupot

Downloaded this on release and have been playing constantly since. Apart from a few balance issues (support and gunner) the game is balanced out very well. I hope it gets some more attention and downloads so the multiplayer will last long than a month.

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PK_Koopa

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Edited By PK_Koopa

I bought the game before the review and I'm loving it. I'm glad Brad agrees.

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TheMasterDS

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Edited By TheMasterDS

I would describe it more like "Battlefield Heroes meets DOTA" or "Class based Call of Duty meets DOTA" because it handles absolutely nothing like TF2.

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HadesTimes

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Edited By HadesTimes

I agree the game is great.  But they really need to make sure to keep updating the game; otherwise two months from now, there will only be crickets playing it.

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LiquidSwords

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Edited By LiquidSwords

Dat Brad!

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fisk0

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Edited By fisk0  Moderator

I hope they'll release a PC version.

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EpicReflex

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Edited By EpicReflex

Looked good from  the quick look. Not interested in investing in a MP game though with SCII to play now and Reach in the near future.

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deactivated-5b43dadb9061b

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@Dad_Is_A_Zombie said:
" Already got (and love) TF2. Don't see a need to spend $15 on this... "
Thanks for letting us know!
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Kear

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Edited By Kear

Spot on, Brad.
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Sait0u

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Edited By Sait0u
@HadesTimes said:
" I agree the game is great.  But they really need to make sure to keep updating the game; otherwise two months from now, there will only be crickets playing it. "
I agree.  I bought the game and I'm really having fun with it, definitely worth my $15.   Only thing I'm worried about is longevity. 
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XxXGenesisXxX

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Edited By XxXGenesisXxX

now i kinda wanna pick this game up but wassnt sure at first but thanks for the review brad.

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Enigma777

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Edited By Enigma777

Nice review. I'll definitely check this out.

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Jedted

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Edited By Jedted
@Sait0u:  That's what i'm worried about aswell.  Will this be like the new TF2 for consoles or will people forget about it 3 months from now(like so many other XBLA titles)? 
 
I wonder if the guys will pick this for the next TNT, it looks like great TNT material. 
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yellownumber5

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Edited By yellownumber5

Brad you just had to put a link to that DotA song didn't you.  That's gonna get stuck in my head all night now.  Thankyou.

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GGear0323

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Edited By GGear0323

loving every second of this game.

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EgoCheck616

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Edited By EgoCheck616

..................................would be nice if some more PSN titles could get some reviews. I mean, really.

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bibledoctor

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Edited By bibledoctor

Been on the fence about this game. Was waiting for the review to come through, and now that I have read it. I think I might give this game a chance.

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virtorio

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Edited By virtorio

I've already had more fun with this than I had with Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer.  Great game. 

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Kung_Fu_Viking

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Edited By Kung_Fu_Viking

Is there any chance we can get some better quality screenshots in here? 
Other than that nice review. I played one match of it the other night and it seemed fun and reading this seems to enforce that. I might pick it up!

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DrTomTron

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Edited By DrTomTron

I can't stop playing this game! So addicting.

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Super_Lazy

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Edited By Super_Lazy

 @ParaParaKing: I don't think anyone is saying you shouldn't consider the value you are getting out of a game based on it's price. I think the argument comes about because some people don't consider time spent on a single play through as an accurate measure of a games value.

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kratier

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Edited By kratier

they should require reviewers to buy games with their own money before making reviews.
 
they always end up judging a game saying its so great etc etc, but really never judge it on its price. Specifically games like starcraft2 or MW2 where the price has been increased.

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sickVisionz

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Edited By sickVisionz

Is this game multiplayer only?

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Mrskidders

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Edited By Mrskidders
@kratier: This is worth way more than $15 so dont worry about it.
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Mrskidders

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Edited By Mrskidders
@Dad_Is_A_Zombie: It's got a very different structure to the gameplay with the turret system.  Try it out, its different enough to TF2 to make it worth the low cost for the game.
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the8bitNacho

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Edited By the8bitNacho

It's a surprise to see such a competent and generally well-rounded multiplayer title come out of something as disregarded (for me at least) as Xbox Live Arcade, granted I haven't tackled Limbo or Castlevania: Harmony of Despair myself. I've only spent a couple of days with it, but I think Monday Night Combat may be the game I've spent the most time with in my semi-extensive Arcade library. That should be as telling of the game's quality as it is of my own compulsive desire to purchase downloadable games that I never actually get around to spending more than a few minutes with.

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Robiin

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Edited By Robiin

This game is surprisingly really fun and addictive.
 
Only thing I can complain about is that if you want to change class in the middle of the game, you start with no skills upgraded at all, and you have to re-upgrade..

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Sanious

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Edited By Sanious
@kratier:  
 
No they shouldn't. Because a games worth is relative to each person. Reading reviews/playing demos and seeing what the game is about should suffice enough to know whether it's the type of game you want to spend your money on anyway.
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Prolix

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Edited By Prolix

This game was made for autistic American tweens.  Look at the colors and patterns in gameplay.   Classic signs of autism. 

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the_hiro_abides

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Edited By the_hiro_abides

It's pretty fun so far. I like that matches in crossfire usually take about 15 minutes. Unless one team is decimating the other or it gets drawn out to sudden death.

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zef40

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Edited By zef40

no offence but this is annoying the hell out of me,  calling this a TF2 clone is a load of crap. READ: 

  clone   (kln) n.1. A cell, group of cells, or organism that is descended from and genetically identical to a single common ancestor, such as a bacterial colony whose members arose from a single original cell.
2. An organism descended asexually from a single ancestor, such as a plant produced by layering or a polyp produced by budding.
3. A DNA sequence, such as a gene, that is transferred from one organism to another and replicated by genetic engineering techniques.
4. One that copies or closely resembles another, as in appearance or function: "filled with business-school clones in gray and blue suits" (Michael M. Thomas).

v.cloned, clon·ing, clones
v.tr.1. To make multiple identical copies of (a DNA sequence).
2. To create or propagate (an organism) from a clone cell: clone a sheep.
3. To reproduce or propagate asexually: clone a plant variety.
4. To produce a copy of; imitate closely: "The look has been cloned into cliché" (Cathleen McGuigan).
 
 
There are similarities yes, it was seemingly inspired by, and even copied, to an extent.
 
But it is not a CLONE.

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Mutant_God

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Edited By Mutant_God

awesome

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cookiemonster

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Edited By cookiemonster
@EgoCheck616 said:
" ..................................would be nice if some more PSN titles could get some reviews. I mean, really. "
The only big game thats been released on the PSN in the last month is deathspank, and they did review that. Whereas all of the recent xbla arcade game reviews have been on games that are realtively 'big' games, and are part of the summer arcade. Plus, there havn't been many big releases since starcraft 2, so reviewing these games was a sound idea.
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ScubaKlown

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Edited By ScubaKlown

i do love tf2 and a lil bit of dota

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Three0neFive

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Edited By Three0neFive
@kratier said:

" they should require reviewers to buy games with their own money before making reviews.  they always end up judging a game saying its so great etc etc, but really never judge it on its price. Specifically games like starcraft2 or MW2 where the price has been increased. "

Did uh... Did you even read the review? I mean come on, it's literally about an inch away from the thing you had to click to post this. :/
 

 That's also Monday Night Combat's strength, though; it's lean, cheap, and focused, but it still offers a great multiplayer formula that feels like more than its component parts. Get a few friends together who are ready to learn the ins and outs of the available classes and tactics, and there's enough depth here to keep you playing for a good long while after you've gotten your $15 worth.

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Bionicicide

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Edited By Bionicicide

If you're enjoying it, consider playing with GB members!

  
I created an account where Giant Bomb members only need to add the gamertag "GBN MNC" as you will be able to view its friends list when visiting its profile - saving space and time.
   
"Giant Bomb Night" is a coordinated event to encourage activity and attention starting at 5:00pm Pacific/8:00pm Eastern EVERY Monday.    
 
Timezone map for reference. 
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Xearo

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Edited By Xearo

I cant see myself buying this. i tried it and it wasn't bad, but if i were going to play a  multiplayer shooter i'd play something else.

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jshbsn

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Edited By jshbsn

you could add a few more maps and slap a $60 price tag on this and i still bet everyone would still love it. this game is really, really great.

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TheHakku

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Edited By TheHakku

Er-hem. Team Fortress 2 meets The GRID, you mean....

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lacke

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Edited By lacke
@Mrskidders: TF2 is only €20 on Steam and I can find the Orange Box (PC and 360) for even cheaper prices at various retail stores where I live. I wouldn't compare this to TF2 though since it's different enough. 
 
This game looks fun though but I won't get it because I barely play my 360 anymore and my GOLD subscription has ended. Maybe I'll get it if it they release it on Steam. (I only buy games on Steam nowadays with a few exceptions.)
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bluedeviltron

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Edited By bluedeviltron
@Prolix said:
" This game was made for autistic American tweens.  Look at the colors and patterns in gameplay.   Classic signs of autism.  "
I laughed because it's true.
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Crono

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Edited By Crono

I was intrigued and bought the game.  When it runs smoothly, it is pretty fun, but lag really messes with the melee/grappling - far worse than the shooting.  It is good enough to stand on its own but definitely is influenced by many popular pc games - which isn't a bad thing.

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JohnnyMaverik

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Edited By JohnnyMaverik

It's got a little S4League in there as well, not to mention the money balls and ripped straight out of Unreal Tournament 3, but at that point ideas have come from enough sources and you have to give them credit for combining them so well (plus there is no proof they've ever even heard of S4League or that the design of the money balls were 'inspired' by UT3's power cores).