Monday Night Combat Preview
One game that stood out from the crowd at PAX East was Monday Night Combat, a downloadable online shooter headed to Xbox Live Arcade later this year. The game was playable at the show the way it's meant to be played online, with two teams of six players facing off. I grabbed a seat and tried to upload some pain to the other team.
Monday Night Combat is a third person, team based online shooter that takes place in a future where contestants duke it out in a violent gameshow called Crossfire. It pits two teams against each other and tasks each with destroying the other's Moneyball. That sounds like a standard game of base assault, but there's a nifty wrinkle: each side produces a constant stream of NPC droids, which pours toward the enemy base. If they do, they'll knock down the Moneyball's shields, allowing the opposing players to shoot it up. So really, Monday Night Combat is Six vs. Six, but both sides each have an army as well.
Before my match began, I was asked to choose a class, so I went with the easy option - a heavy gunner. There were several other choices, including sniper, assassin, engineer, and assault - all fairly standard FPS archetypes. But again, there was a difference: as you kill enemy droids and players, you earn money. From there, you can spend that money to upgrade four different skills. In my case, I could boost armor, damage, the slam move, and the grab. So aside from just running around and blasting people with my mini-gun, I could also slam the ground for an AOE stun, and grab any enemy who got too close. This last move was especially awesome, because there was a pernicious assassin on the other team trying to backstab everybody. I waited for her and when she got close I grabbed her, slammed her head into the ground, then unloaded on her prone body with my mini-gun. She burst into money, which I collected and spent on more points for my slam move. There's nothing like having the other team subsidize your upgrades.
We also killed several normal assault troopers, who liked to chuck grenades at us when we hid around corners, and we saw engineers dancing around behind automated turrets, repairing the damage we did. We didn't see too many snipers, but that was intentional. Since Crossfire actually takes place on two parallel tracks, there were a couple points where we realized someone was shooting us from the other side of the battlefield, and shooting us hard. We took just a second to recognize the tall posture and cocked head of a sniper before sticking to more walled-off combat areas.
Eventually, my side pushed the other side back all the way to their base, knocked down their automated defense turrets, and breached the Moneyball chamber. My team's bots lustily leapt on the large, glowing sphere, while we all fired away at the dying disco ball. And though the other side eventually drove us out, we soon returned to finish the job, winning the game.
And that was one fun round of Monday Night Combat. It wasn't super crazy original, but the graphics were bright, the framerate was liquid, and the headshots were on tap. It was easy, casual shooter fun, and that's why I think Monday Night Combat will be a great Xbox Live Arcade title whenever it hits. It's also worth mentioning that the game won't just have the one mode - you'll also be able to play Blitz mode, which cooperatively tasks players with defending a Moneyball against massive waves of bots. While we didn't really get a chance to try this mode, it isn't hard to imagine the allure of getting together with your buddies for a quick robot massacre.
So again, Monday Night Combat doesn't reinvent the third person shooter, but it does look like it will provide players with a well-produced and cost effective online option whenever it decides to roll onto Xbox Live Arcade. While we'll be waiting way more than a week for Monday Night, we shouldn't have to wait too long for more information.