The land down under is a place where communities thrive and connections fail. 2010 has seen just how neglected we are, as both APB and Blacklight: Tango Down are absent from the Australian market. The latter is an Xbox Live Arcade title that should have been released a couple of months ago, and while we can't do anything to change decisions made in the past, we can offer you an alternative in the form of Monday Night Combat. It's not quite Team Fortress 2 and it's not quite Shadowrun. Instead, we're dealing with a game that offers a desperately needed break from an FPS dominated world. The inspirations are blatantly clear, but the end result is something you may be pleasantly surprised with.
Imagine a world where clones would battle each other for sport while the public tuned in to watch once a week. That's basically what players are thrust into. Everything about this fictional future is completely over the top and utterly outrageous, and Monday Night Combat takes pride in offering you a playground like no other. After a brief tutorial you'll be given the option to play one of two modes, Blitz or Crossfire. The former is a rehashed version of Horde from Gears of War 2 where you need to fend off waves of enemies, but the latter isn't quite so simple. Crossfire brings this game to life with competitive battles for up to twelve players. By combining a mixture of tower-defence mechanics with a very fluid third-person shooter, the developers have managed to create one of the most enjoyable multiplayer experiences on Xbox Live. Forget about a story because it doesn't exist, Monday Night Combat doesn't need one. Instead you'll be presented with a barrage of pretty menus and options in order to get the most out of this game. Initial impression can be off-putting, but you'd be well advised to stick with it for a little longer.
Even the slightest mention of 'tower-defence' is likely to lead many gamers astray, but don't worry, it's all very straight forward. There's a red team and a blue team whose spawn points are located on opposite sides of the map, and inside each spawn is the 'Money Ball'. You don't need a wild imagination to figure out what it is. You can protect the Money Ball by establishing turrets around several pre-positioned locations, but you'll need to use money earned from kills to set them up and eventually upgrade them. Regarding the offensive side of Monday Night Combat, you're going to be dealing with a lot of bots. There are numerous different types, ranging from little invisible 'Gremlins' to the big daddy of them all, the 'Jack Bot'. Your objective is to escort these bots into the enemy spawn so that the opposing Money Ball can be destroyed. Consider yourself warned, you're going to need to adjust to these ideas fairly quickly and you will die in the process. Just like any other shooter, tactics are an essential requirement for victory. It takes time but once you settle into one of the six classes available to you, then you'll find the real joy that Monday Night Combat offers.
Before each game begins, you'll have to pick a character, all of whom are finely balanced and offer a completely different style of gameplay. Monday Night Combat has you covered no matter how you play; whether you're a sniper, a medic or a bullet spraying tank. There's also an ability to create custom classes, allowing you to choose between a variety of nifty little perks. As you earn money during battle, various different skills can be upgraded to make you a more dominant force. Upgrading is essential because if you don't do it, your rear end will be flying out of the ring (a very satisfying kill when you're on the other side). Visually, Monday Night Combat looks very similar to Team Fortress 2, but why should that be said with negativity? Both games look positively gorgeous and are completely unlike the hyper-realism seen in other online shooters. The only real flaws are the static crowds and the lack of distinction between each map. For the most part, each level looks identical and the only real difference is a slight variation in the route your bots take. Nine times out of ten you're going to be flanking right or left, and while this isn't a major area of criticism, it would have been nice to see some more vertical action. Had Monday Night Combat moved underground, it could have added an extra layer of depth to the gameplay (excuse the pun).
At various points during the match, the commentator will start talking about all sorts of randomness relating to sponsors and a very unusual masochistic mascot. Overall the voices here are filled with humour, but for some unknown reason the characters don't say a single world. The fantastic comedy in Team Fortress 2 mainly stemmed from the individuality of the characters, but that trait is noticeably missing from Monday Night Combat. It's not enough to detract from what is an otherwise beautifully polished title, but these comparisons need to be mentioned. As far as multiplayer games on the Xbox Live Arcade are concerned, they don't come much better than this. Getting to grips with each map and character will take at least ten hours, and as soon as you start winning, you'll want to play it over and over again. There's also plenty of unlockables including callsigns ripped straight out of Modern Warfare 2 and a number of avatar awards. One final point of annoyance comes from connection issues, especially with the host migration system. It doesn't work, simple as that. Presuming the developers care about the community, then this should be patched in the coming weeks, but thankfully it's never frustrating enough to make you stop loving the core gameplay.
What we have here is something fresh, something inventive and something well worth investing some time in. On paper it shouldn't work; but it does, oh so very well. Monday Night Combat is a stylish, streamlined, expertly crafted third person shooter with all the ingredients needed to keep it entertaining for months to come. Don't expect to find the vast array of content available in full retail games, but what's here is thoroughly enjoyable and absolutely warrants the AU$20 price tag. An Irishman once wrote; "I don't like Mondays". This little gem might just change his mind.