Monday Night Combat review
Mmmm, Churros! Can I have more?
Recently released on Steam, the PC version of Monday Night Combat has enthralled gamers with its combination of genres to create an interesting and refreshing experience in a light-hearted and amusing environment. Combining the action of a third person shooter with the strategy of tower defence, Monday Night Combat makes for a fast-paced title requiring responsive thinking and a taste for the wave-after-wave style of fighting.
The plot for Monday Night Combat is short and sweet; merely there for the A-B scenario. Starring in a futuristic game show of the same name as the game itself, you take on one of several classes as you battle it out for money and glory. The aim of the game is to protect your Money Ball against hordes of enemies and, sometimes, destroy someone else’s. The game doesn’t take itself overly seriously; the mascot runs around now-and-again as you Chris Brown him like Rihanna to generate money and other goodies while the Pit Girl jiggles her assets around the place in a “productive” fashion – but that’s all just part of the charm.
All the while, you’re subjected to the various injections of the commentator. Although sometimes entertaining, I don’t think video game commentary will ever match that which exists in MadWorld – at least, not unless they up the classification rating a few notches! Still, some of the jabs can get a titter or two, and it does help to maintain the game show atmosphere. He’ll make comments about the action, various announcements – not to mention putting in some amusing advertisements.
The controls are what you’ve come to expect from the standard shooter setup though having said this, the “use” button is F instead of the usual E – go figure. Other than the personal upgrade menu sometimes being slightly unresponsive due to the swap from gameplay to a cursor for selection purposes (though it’s much easier just to learn the corresponding number keys), the controls are simple and effective.
There are two modes you can play: Crossfire and Blitz. Crossfire is reminiscent of such things as Defence of the Ancients in Warcraft III; you have a hero (or, in this case, your clone) and you have to work alongside your marching minions to destroy the opposition’s base while taking out their players. The Crossfire mode can also be described as your veteran mode, as it is online-only (due to the need for players on both sides) and is a lot harder to play, owing to the prowess of the online community. If you’re looking for a more relaxed style of fun, then you’ll want to play the wave-upon-wave of bots mode called Blitz. Available offline, and online as a co-op option, this mode takes away the stress of having to worry about how bad you are as a player, and instead allows you to take out the daily stresses of life on an endless supply of robots. Overall, both modes are rather fun, and the very simple premise allows you to just get stuck in with the combat side of things. Though, sadly, two modes isn’t a lot, and when stacked with the fact there’s only four different arenas, you will find the replayability of the game begins to dwindle over time.
Upgrading is a vital part of the gameplay of Monday Night Combat, as you have to effectively manage both your personal attributes, as well as those of the various towers you have built. Your personal upgrades correspond with your special abilities and overall performance, laid out in a very easily accessible, no-hassle layout. The tower-building and upgrading system is equally efficient, with the buying screen running in the same vein, while upgrading is as simple as running up to them and pressing a single key. There’s also some comical pickups in the game that continue on with the quirky but amusing style of Monday Night Combat; namely churros and bacon.
Building upon this, you also have the Custom Class system, which adds that extra level of strategy to your gameplay. Part of your stats - the ones apart from the base stats, that is - is made up of what are known as endorsements. Playing off the various amusing commercials announced throughout the game, these endorsements provide various benefits such as extra armour, larger ammunition clips, or the ability to recharge your special abilities quicker. The endorsements are then split into three levels of strength: gold, silver and bronze, and you can pick one endorsement in each class. This system can allow for the player to develop several strategies revolving around just the one class, and is a very nice feature both in gaming terms and in the simple fun of playing around with various combinations.
The fighting itself is pretty smooth, even if as the levels progress, you make less and less of a dent and simply rely on strategic tower-building. Each selectable class provides a distinctive way of playing, catering well to the different styles of gamers out there. Whether you want to get up close and hack at everything, sit back and depress the trigger, or be an all-rounder and kick some ass, this game provides. Though to play effectively, you really need to understand exactly how your class works, make clever use of the resources available to you (towers, weapons and special abilities), and form some proper strategies – a nice touch. Playing with others, for example, is pointless unless you guys chat throughout the game about what you’re going to do – if you want to be in it for the long haul, you need to be able to think as well as aim and shoot.
You’ve got several types of bots in this game, right up to the Jackbot which is basically your boss. Each bot has a special move up their sleeve, whether it is the ability to temporarily disable your skills, or cloak themself with partial invisibility. Sadly, the AI isn’t quite as interesting, as the bots are programmed to just run toward the Money Ball (it is partly a tower defence game after all) and shoot whatever is closest to them - except for a select couple that will actively seek you out and are, in turn, much more interesting. Though with the types of bots only being close to even tapping into the double figure mark, the game is yet again let down by the lack of content to support the presentation. More boss-like bots, for example, would be a very welcome addition.
The look of Monday Night Combat is nothing short of nostalgia-inducing vibrancy, with a look that would not look out of place in your standard weekend morning cartoon from several years back, in a similar vein to such games as Team Fortress 2 and Spyborgs. The default settings for the graphics are at the halfway point which is fine but when you juice it all the way up, one can’t help but be impressed with what they did achieve considering the small budget it was made off. Little things such as the change in colour and quality of the bots as you slowly destroy them, and the ability to customise your character with a few different outfit options, just adds that extra bit of class. The environments also have a nice, clean futuristic-arena look to them.
There isn’t really much of a soundtrack to speak of when it comes to Monday Night Combat. You’ll hear little guitar riffs while you’re on the menu, or when you’ve achieved something, but there’s not exactly much room for music when you’re so focussed on the action at hand. Though you will hear a lot of voice acting; whether it be the commentator, the Pit Girl, or your character getting out a good ol’ taunting session – all of which are done well, too. Tones such as smugness or sarcasm will not go amiss in this game, as all the voice actors clearly put the satisfactory amount of effort into their recording sessions.
The online function of the game is smooth and by far more enjoyable than offline mode; short loading times and no persistent lag issues letting you get right into things. You’ll find yourself having a lot of fun developing strategies as you communicate with your team mates. Not only that, but you’ll quickly discover the community is filled with decent players; no whinging Call of Duty or Halo fanboys here, people. That’s right; you’re part of a community where you can have a laugh and some fun without the expense of listening to a 12-year-old shrieking at you about how they just had your mum while getting that oh-so-skilful headshot.
Sadly, being a new title, the game does have some bugs. One occurred on an online server where a bot came out, then just kept going in a straight line, right off the map! And since rounds only progress via the destruction of the entirety of the previous wave earlier on in the game, it caused us to have to leave the server. Eventually such issues will be patched out, but for now PC gamers will be subject to the little hiccup now and again.
Monday Night Combat is a title with all the inspiration and presentation it needs to be a great game, it just lacks the content to back it up. It does employ the use of some interesting customisation and humour to try and make up for it, but sadly it misses out on hitting the high notes regardless. The deficiency of such elements as modes, enemies and environments leaves the game somewhat stranded beyond the shores of your beloved game collection - but as long as you like it enough, you’ll be able to meet it halfway and sail out for a game or two while procrastinating over your latest due project. Though, luckily, that shouldn't be for a while as the amusing and enjoyable experiences to be had help to starve off any chance of monotony developing in the near future following your purchase. And if the developers inject some more content into this game or a future title, then it could do very well for itself – let’s face it, the game is good value for the price and budget they had during development. For now, however, it’ll have to wait in the B lounge with the other games showing great ideas, but not enough substance to see them into perfect fruition.
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