- Monday Night Combat
- CLR [rating:3.5]
Release Date: August 11th, 2010
Platform: Xbox 360 – Xbox LIVE Arcade
Developer: Uber Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Genre: Multiplayer Shooter Mash-up
ESRB: T for Teen
Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together,
Though Not That Filling
What is best in life? According to one source on this matter, Conan the Cimmerian, it is in savoring the simple joys: “Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women.”
Uber Entertainment’s premiere effort, Monday Night Combat, embraces a similar philosophy . . . minus the lamenting gals. For while the game is about a futuristic death sport, it’s light and upbeat, full of wacky characters and doesn’t dwell on the carnage as much as the fun that comes from causing it. It’s wholly derivative, but doesn’t care; it’s too concerned with trying to provide a maximum of fun in a minimum of time while looking good doing it. It has nothing of import to say either, but if life is short (and here it most definitely is), then it asks you to enjoy it without questioning it too heavily.
Set in a bright and cheery, overly commercialized future, Monday Night Combat is simply the telecast for the world’s most popular sport. It’s a game that the fans love, major corporations endorse, and where the athletes are expendable. Playing as one of six classes, it’s your job to attain fame and fortune in one of two modes: Blitz and Crossfire. In the Blitz mode, a small team of up to 4 players (either in single system or online) work together to defend their prized “Moneyball” from an onslaught of different types of robots that is very much a tower defense game where the player is on the field rather than controlling affairs from afar. These matches range in duration, from a fairly short 10-wave “Exhibition,” to the endless endurance exam that is the “Sudden Death Blitz.” Here the amount of doom dealing machines is extreme, and a large focus of strategy and coordination become the only methods to succeed.
The Blitz mode is nice and a good way to get used to the characters, but the heart of the game lies in Crossfire mode. Unlike the late debate program of the same name there are no talking heads prattling about trivialities, other than the game’s announcer Jimmy Cantor. Rather this mode is about attacking and defending a base of players (called Pros in the game’s terms), but with the inclusion of a huge helping of the robots from Blitz and ends up resembling the very popular game of Defense of the Ancients. The matches are intense, chaotic and provide a fertile playground for members of Xbox LIVE to kill each other in ludicrous ways as members of individual classes. Which is a good thing since Microsoft’s disagreements with Valve have prevented Team Fortress 2 (the other half of the obvious inspiration for this game) from ever gaining a foothold on the Xbox 360, and there has been a distinct lack of class based combat on the console as a result.
All of this is tied together with a meta-game that’s again “inspired” by another source, in this case, some of the persistent experience trappings found in Modern Warfare 2 but without the deep customization found there. With so many elements from other games forming the basics of Monday Night Combat, it becomes difficult to endorse for those who want something new. If you can get around the lack of originality though, it comes off like pairs that work so much better together that after experienced, it’s difficult to imagine wanting the individual components again; much like peanut butter and jelly, chips and salsa, or Tango & Cash.
Similar to Valve’s magnum opus of multiplayer, the pros you’ll play as in either of these modes have been given a lot of life by being made cartoon caricatures with defined personalities. The cast includes the snide Sniper, the gruff and grumbling Tank, the laid back Gunner, the mysterious Assassin, the showy Assault or Mario with a shotgun. OK that’s the Support class actually, but he’s so much like Mario! Amazingly enough for a 1.0 version of a game there don’t seem to be any balance issues between classes, and they all play very differently from each other so this seems like it could have been an easy ball to drop. Considering the importance of fairness in multiplayer gaming, this effort should be commended.
In fact, the level of polish on the game is impressive for a developer’s first outing on most every level. Each character animates beautifully and uniquely from any of the others, all of the environments are crisp and clean, the controls are tight and responsive, and all of the character dialog is pitch perfect. There isn’t much music during matches, so if you’re looking for sets of rocking tunes, you’re pretty much stuck with the menu theme, which is capable but very lonely.
While the classes end up providing a lot of variety in what you’re going to be doing in any individual match, the game as a whole is lacking in this area. The worst example is in the amount of maps, of which there simply aren’t many. All of them are well designed, but even after only a few days of playing it starts to become a bit tiresome. This is especially the case for Blitz mode, in which there is exactly one map. Since the game is a rather low-cost downloadable, and most Multiplayer games end up playing the same few maps over and over anyway, it’s somewhat forgivable, but it’s definitely a major flaw for longevity.
It’s also a bit disappointing that the game doesn’t take full advantage of its primary themes of commercialization and major league sports. There is the minor element of picking your sponsors to modify your class, and there are certainly small advertisements in the opening and endings of matches, but all of this is minimal. Some of the promotional ads released on the interwebs have been great (though again derived from Team Fortress 2’s similar videos), but it seems odd that nothing quite as creative as the advertising makes its way into the game itself.
The same goes for the athletic nature of the game, as there are only two teams, neither representing any location or company. Even Bullseye, the mascot that appears mid-match is simply the mascot of the sport itself, and not that of any individual. The size of the support ends up feeling more like Arena Football than the NFL, let alone a world-wide phenomenon. There isn’t even an “Instant Replay” on critical actions during a match, which seems like an obvious extension from televised sports. These ideas have so many possibilities to be explored that it feels a downright shame that they aren’t expounded upon.
It’s difficult to tell if these issues are from a group that ran out of creative juices and decided to release their game anyway, or if Monday Night Combat as it is now is simply the first piece of a much larger game that will be built upon as time goes by. Perhaps commercials while you wait for your next match is simply one small piece of what’s planned for the game as time goes on. Maybe in a piece of DLC they’ll double the maps and add a few more game types. One day there might be some sort of basic single player challenge mode to be seen for when your connection goes down. For now though, the game is very small; even if its quality shouts out how grandiose it should become.
In the end, Monday Night Combat may not be the best thing in life, but it is a great experience for short periods of time. It doesn’t do anything truly new, but it’s fun. It doesn’t have a lot of content, but it’s cheap. Like the bacon power-up occasionally found in a match, it’s a comfort food of gaming; a great test of skills, tactics and teamwork without any of the nutritional emotional import or pretense of other games. Don’t overindulge on it, and it could become a regular part of your gaming diet. If nothing else, the game’s title offers a bit of help as to when you could fit it in to your schedule.
As one of the unfortunate few born with three first names, Adam endured years of taunting on the mean streets of Los Angeles in order to become the cynical malcontent he is today. A gamer since the age of four, he has attempted to remain diverse in his awareness of the arts, and remain active in current theater, film, literary and musical trends when not otherwise writing or acting himself. He now offers his knowledge in these areas up to the “California Literary Review,” who still haven’t decided what exactly they want to do with him yet. He prefers to be disagreed with in a traditional “Missile Command” high score contest, and can be challenged this way via his Xbox LIVE Gamertag of AtomGone, and if you want to “follow” him on twitter, look for Adam Robert Thomas