Review: Monday Night Combat

I’m almost ashamed to admit how I was informed and enticed into buying Monday Night Combat. You see, Valve said it was a good game, and that it was addicting. They also pointed out that, along with the discounted price, you would receive hats in both Team Fortress 2 and MNC. To say that the hats had nothing to do with my decision would be a blatant lie, finally proving that I am a whore for hats. Yes, yes, Alien Swarm, Poker Night at the Inventory, and now MNC all had me putting on my sluttiest dress and bending over a table for hats.

That’s not to say that the game isn’t as fun as Valve put it up to be, their habitual lying only focuses around release dates.

Let’s come back to the game. Monday Night Combat is a class-based shooter that plays out in a series of arenas, complete with commentator, fans, and advertisements. The objective of the main mode, Crossfire, (nobody plays Blitz) is to escort the bots that spawn at your end of the arena to other. The Moneyball is the destination for the robotic pain train, a ball filled with money (duh) that you must destroy to win the game. Both Moneyballs have a shield around them which can only be destroyed by bots; once it’s down the “Pros” can put some hurt on the exposed ball.

The classes are fairly simple, with an Assault, Sniper, Assassin, Tank (Pyro), Support (Engi/medic), and Shooter (Heavy) taking the field. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses, although the Tank and Shooter are pretty similar.

You can upgrade the skills by spending money, which is awarded by killing bots, players, turrets, shooting the mascot, shooting the Juice Bot (Fruit Fucker, for those who know him), and so on. You can also use said money to build more bots, turrets, buy Juice, and so on.

Well, I’m 325 words in and I haven’t started talking about my opinions, which we ALL know are the most important thing. You can find the rest out on a MNC wiki.

First of all, is it fun? Yeah, I would say so. It’s definitely an interesting game, one that pushes for both a macrogame with the stat-upgrading and turrets, and a micro with the individual firefights. I’ve heard it compared to LoL, and I can see the likeness somewhat. Let’s call the macro/micro a watered-down version of LoL, one that isn’t full of pompous dicks.

However, it’s a lot like TF2 in more ways than one. For example, communication is key for coordinating strategies. I’ve lost multiple matches because no one was given the job to set up turrets; the bots just kicked down the front door. However, I’ve been in many servers and they have one thing in common: silence. I kid you not, I’ve had one person say something without prompting in my entire career. Perhaps I’m on the wrong servers, maybe I need to be in groups, I don’t know. But it happens.

Secondly, the classes are… ehhh. The offensive classes are fairly much interchangeable, they all have guns that do what guns do best. You rarely get Snipers or Supports because they are fairly, well, boring; Sniper’s effectiveness is also cut down by the prevalence of glass walls and corners.

Assassin is the new Sniper, I’m afraid, in that everyone wants to play her. There’s no balancing factor, however, so it’s entirely possible to have a team full of Assassins. This is grand if the enemy is sitting behind a wall, but it’s no good for real offense.

How do you balance a team in TF2? Usually you start with five snipers or whatever and play for a few minutes. The group notices the error relatively soon and corrects it one way or another. Preferably involving a baseball bat.

This isn’t as feasible in MNC, however, since you have to sink a lot of money into most classes in order to make them effective. Assassin is especially guilty of this, practically requiring three fully-upgraded skills to work. This means that the players will buff up the class they started as, giving them more and more incentive to stay with said class until they can get enough money to make a new class. This impairs rapid class-switching, but it also hurts team balance. The only real way to balance is in the >30 seconds of class selection before the game starts proper.

Lastly, it’s not really “addicting” like TF2 or its peers are. I’ve never been an extremely competitive gamer, I like to win but I’m relatively laid back when it comes to losing. It doesn’t irritate me to be halfway up the scoreboard (although the bottom does bother), I consider it to be the price I pay for playing multiple games instead of practicing the one.

Perhaps this is the reason why I’m not very drawn into MNC. It’s definitely the kind of game that you play to win, which sounds redundant. After all, you play all games to win, but there’s usually more than that. It seems like winning is all there is in MNC; games like LoL and Starcraft are the same way.

Think of the best moments that you’ve had in multiplayer games. Perhaps it’s that guild run on the Lich King that you did in WoW; you didn’t beat the raid but you had a wonderful time. I bet that the best parts of your TF2 memories aren’t of winning, but single events like a mad spree of backstabs or a sniper accidentally headshotting a cloaked spy. It’s the moments that make the games, not the ending.

That’s what MNC really lacks: moments. The kills are joyless and interchangeable, and the in-game humor gets old fast.

This is running long, I’d better wrap it up. In all, this is a game for competitive gamers, one that’s let down by a few balance issues.

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