The glory in making a game with copious references to bacon is that, no matter how many games have done it before, it never fails to be entertaining. Even if other games have made the bacon references more unique, more hilarious, or simply more insane, it’s hard to turn your nose down at a game and say, “You there! How dare you make bacon references at me?”
The same could be said of the online shooter, a taste that is perhaps not as widely loved as bacon, but is becoming nearly as common. Monday Night Combat, the latest bacon-obsessed, comedy-infused online multiplayer shooter, fits perfectly into this situation. Its basic mechanics have been done better elsewhere, but who are we to say, “You there! How dare you give me hours of riotous enjoyment?”
Monday Night Combat is a third-person online shooter that favors constant action and shouting announcers, making for a fairly spastic play style that never ceases to be entertaining. You’ll play as one of six classes in one of two game modes: blitz and crossfire. In blitz, you’ll play alone or with up to three friends to defend a moneyball from waves of attacking bots. It’s easily the less entertaining choice of the two modes, serving more as a way to introduce yourself to the action than a viable long-term investment of your time.
The real meat of the game is found within the crossfire mode, which is a team-based six-on-six rush to destroy the opposing team’s moneyball. With a constant onslaught of robots fighting on each team’s behalf, matches quickly become desperate struggles to push your own wall of bots into enemy territory to damage the enemy’s moneyball. This is made more difficult by the sniper rounds, assault rifle bursts, and airstrikes constantly waiting to find you.
The basic action here seems easy to get in to, but many players are going to have a hard time learning the ropes, as the game does a poor job of teaching players the strategies for success. During a match, killing the enemy is as much of a priority as building and upgrading turrets, spawning new bots, upgrading your character, and supporting your teammates. None of this is made particularly explicit, meaning that many matches devolve into stalemates with each side killing each other pointlessly.
The game’s greatest strength is that matches remain fun even when this happens. Taking out waves of bots with a carefully placed airstrike or sniping a hovering assault guy from across the map feels just as fun as you’d imagine it does. If you want, you can ignore the moneyball, go out and kill without remorse, and still have a great time. There’s no penalty for not playing the sport that Monday Night Combat entails. Heck, there’s hardly any reward for winning a match other than a tally on your leaderboards, so go forth and slay.
The problem, however, occurs when you do want to play it right, but no one else seems to feel the same way or know how. Trying to make a push for the moneyball when your teammates are playing grabass in the middle of the arena is as hopeless as it is frustrating. And when the game does such a poor job of saying “Hey, why don’t you actually do something useful like spawn some bots or deploy a few turrets,” it’s easy to see why so many matches turn out this way. Simply playing for a while will teach you everything you need to know, but it takes longer than it should, and the rewards for doing so are too few.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only problem with the game. It’s extremely easy to call some classes overpowered compared to others, at least based on the way the people are currently playing. Despite claiming to have a ton of health, I’ve found that tanks are pretty much cannon fodder, especially for the gunner (my favored class), which seems pretty darn overpowered. Such balancing issues might cause a lot of people to ragequit on the game entirely, or at the very least persuade them to play one class over and over. It’s a shame, too, because some of them seem like they would be a lot of fun to play but simply don’t seem to work in practice. Assassin, I’m looking at you. When your powerful melee attacks miss for apparently no reason, there’s a lot of incentive to forget that class in favor of one that can live without melee.
In fact, controlling the game can be a bit of a struggle at first thanks to some strange control choices. Each player is given a variety of attacks, including two weapons, three skills, and some alternate fire modes for certain weapons. Characters have a grapple ability, but it’s not always easy to use, as there are some weapons that you cannot grapple with for whatever reason. In addition, it can be hard to keep track of which buttons do what, as similar powers (such as grapples) are not always assigned to the same button for the different classes. This stands as just another argument to stick with one class from the beginning, potentially robbing you of the fun of experimenting with other classes.
Despite all of this, the game is simply fun. It’s easy to find yourself lost in match after match, refusing to quit even when you have things to do like, you know, review a game. There’s no robust unlock system like you’ll find in Modern Warfare 2, so it’s hard to imagine sticking with this game as long as people stick with many other online shooters. Still, as a fifteen-dollar game, the frantic action and strange humor are plenty enough to warrant a purchase.
All the same, if I hear that announcer say “hiyooooooooo” one more time, I’ll garrote him with a strip of uncooked bacon. I wonder if that’s possible…
The game's art style, humor, and bombastic stadium atmosphere give the game real personality. However, when it comes to presenting information about the game, there are some failures.
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There's no doubting the game's fun factor, but some extra attention to class balancing and tutoring new players would have helped.
The guitar-focused music is as uninteresting as they come, and while the announcer says some pretty hilarious things, hearing "hiyo!" a million times gets old.
Compared to other online shooters, this one probably won't last as long. However, compared to other XBLA games, there's more than enough content for the price.
Monday Night Combat's frenetic pace makes it a lot of fun to play, especially with friends, but there's no denying the multiple aspects of the game that have room for improvement.