Review: Monday Night Combat

What do you know?  I think this is the first time I've given a review of a new game that's not simply a better version of an older game (see Super Street Fighter 4).  Monday Night Combat's been out for a little over a month, but I was rather hesitant to pick it up.  First, it's a third-person shooter.  I'm really turned off by shooters at all, and more so if I can't look directly where I'm aiming.  (I'm a bit of a sniper, personally.)  It's also a "tower defense" style of game, a genre which I've really misunderstood from mixing it up with a totally unrelated game.  I decided to check the mock "commercial" of Ammo Mule they had, since I figured it'd be some nice entertainment, and things just rolled on from there.  I got to play some real games with a friend that did buy it and the trial allowed me a couple legitimately online games.  This has got me hooked, but I'm a little reserved as to how popular it really can be.  It's got the potential to take on Halo, as long as enough people spread it to their friends.
The presentation definitely didn't seem like it would be something to get me.  I don't like the whole "Monday Night Football" thing; I'm not a sports fanatic.  However, everything comes together just right for me.  It has the feel of formal competition without anything serious about it.  It really feels like everyone's just out there to have a good time, complete with a decent level of trash talk (the taunts are rather interesting).  It's very colorful and clear; there's absolutely no confusion about anything with this game (except maybe whether there's glass or not).  The characters are all unique, even in their ethnicities.  The announcer is just a little annoying, but I feel the whole thing would be much worse without him.  Finally, the music and sound effects all come together for an exciting experience of fun competition.  The only gripe I have is that there's just no reason for women want to play this.  It is masculinity all the way, made for the same personalities that would otherwise be interested in Monday Night Football.  This is not to say it should work out for both genders, just that we still don't have much that could bring both genders together in competition.  It's a tricky thing that I want to happen sometime.
The basic idea of the game is simple.  You have a "moneyball" that you have to guard.  It's got some shields that can regenerate, but once it's down, any damage the moneyball takes is permanent.  There is no way to repair the moneyball, either.  In the single-player and co-op games, you are defending it against the waves of bots that will come out at all angles to attack it.  They've all got some good stuff about them, but some are certainly more irritating than others.  To defend the moneyball, you have two preset weapons (you cannot change them outside of purchasing upgrades in that game), a grapple for anything about your size, and 3 abilities unique to your character.  You can plunk down some cash to upgrade your abilities, set up automatic turrets, jump pads can be activated for more maneuverability, and some preset traps are available to activate.  You can also purchase "juice," which is essentially equivalent to adrenaline or steroids.  You can purchase "juice," which is essentially a temporary boost of adrenaline/steroids, or simply allow it to develop naturally by collecting it from defeated bots.  Once in a while, the mascot will come out and dance around so you can shoot it.  This provides a break from the real action and gets you a money boost to prepare yourself for the hell you'll soon encounter.  The single/co-op game, known as the Blitz, has something for everybody and can provide plenty of challenge for you.
The competitive mode, Crossfire, incorporates everything I've just mentioned.  Now the goal is to escort your bots to attack the opposing team's moneyball (you cannot hit it yourself until they bring down the shields).  Both teams have bots automatically spawning for them, but most of the more advanced ones have to be purchased.  Different characters will spawn different bots that way, but pretty much anything new against the opponent is welcome.  Although you can totally go for the opposing players, the bigger focus of the game is going to be getting an overall team advantage, because the bots are the ones that will end up acting on your ultimate goal of the opposing moneyball.  You have to take every advantage you can to make it all work out.
The standard class for the game is Assault.  He is the typical balance character.  He is right in the middle in terms of strength, speed, health, everything.  He can throw out a mine with X, and hit X again to detonate it (it can stick onto an enemy, too).  He's even the only one other than the Sniper who can aim down the sights of his gun for more accuracy without being stuck in place (Sniper just does it by choice).  B button makes him do a charging attack which, properly done, can shove an opponent outside the arena.  Probably the best thing about him though, is his jet pack.  It moves him faster than his normal run, and allows him to reach just about anywhere easily.
Gunner, who seems to be some kind of Hawaiian, is definitely for people who want to bring lots of pain realy quick.  He's initially my favorite class to use.  His X skill makes a ground slam that stuns bots around him and can potentially ring-out opposing players.  B makes a special grapple you can use instead of having to switch to his secondary weapon.  Y is the ultimate COME GET SOME move, making him set down, unable to move, for increased power and defense.  Essentially, he's the ultimate turret.  As a nice little bonus, there's an achievement which only he can do.  He's certainly a great beginner class to use and the perfect one to demolish your opponent's defenses.
Tank is the polar opposite of Gunner, with a strong emphasis on defense.  His range is worth very little, though he can be devastating once someone does get near him.  He still comes with the Deploy ability Gunner has, making him into a living turret.  His B ability is roughly similar to Assault's Charge move, rushing in on the opponent and hoping to ring him out (or else providing him with mobility beyond his normal sluggishness).  X allows him to toss out essentially spam-bombs.  They can do some damage, but the stunning is the biggest part of it.  Any bots hit with it will just stop for a bit, and any player hit with it will be bombarded with spamvertisements, preventing him from doing anything beyond basic navigation!
I couldn't get a good image of the Assassin, so here's her taking out that self-righteous Sniper.
MNC does provide a role for those of you who prefer to do melee combat instead of shooting a lot of things.  She does have a projectile, but it's hardly worth anything.  She's all about her speed in that she can get in, get a few good attacks, and get out before the opponent has a chance to figure out what just happened.  X does her Dash, which obviously is her primary method for getting out of trouble.  Nobody can catch a dashing Assassin.  Y does her Cloak which, while not entirely invisible, does make her very tricky to detect among everything else going on.  B brings up her Smoke Bomb, which is supposed to blind your opponents.  I can't really say anything about it, since I haven't had much experience with that move.  She is a very fragile flower, so quote Splinter, "[her] domain is the shadow.  Stray from it reluctantly, for when you do, you must strike hard and fade away without a trace."
Fortunately, that same image is perfect for the next character, the Sniper.  His abilities are mostly just so that he has abilities, since all he really should be doing is sniping headshots from extremely safe positions.  I'm not good enough with him in this game, so I'm afraid I can't really be too informative.  His X ability makes Frak grenades to damage within a certain radius and be a very distracting lightshow (it'll be hard for the opponent to see with it going).  B is a grapple, which really he should never use unless things are going really wrong.  Y is actually useful, creating traps that will freeze any enemies that get in proximity.  That makes the headshots way simpler.
Finally, we have Support, who is plenty of fun in his own right.  Support shouldn't get in very much combat, since he can't survive too well out there on his own.  He's basically your medic & engineer.  He can heal/repair turrets, bots, and allies, even overhealing them so that they have up to 200% health.  His abilities are all godly.  His B ability calls in an airstrike, giving anything 3 seconds to get out of the blast zone or they will DIE!  Y causes him to create a little turret of his own, anywhere he wants it.  X is where he really gets handy, hacking into turrets to increase their range and rate of fire.  Maxed out, he can even hack an enemy turret to work for you.  His hacking effect is temporary, but it lasts long enough to be quite useful.  Support just has so many jobs to do that there's little reason for him to ever get into combat.

This game is really a lot of fun, and I hope its popularity spreads enough to be a high-level game.  I'd be perfectly entertained watching high-level players go at it in Crossfire.  Make a 4-screen splitscreen with 3 players (change them every couple of minutes), and the 4th screen for the overall map.  I know it'll never happen, but that'd be very amusing to watch.  Smash TV just grew up!  Here's an example game for my parting gift.


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