Xbox LIVE Arcade’s Monday Night Combat has an awful lot in common with Team Fortress 2. The dynamics are nigh-identical, right down to the player classes. Team Fortress 2 is without a doubt an immensely popular multiplayer title that never took off on consoles so having the opportunity to play something similar on the Xbox 360 is no bad thing.
Monday Night Combat charges the default price of 1,200 marketplace points. It’s not cheap but it’s what we have come to expect from new titles on XBLA and as the game is a fully fledged multiplayer experience, it's hardly fleecing you.
The gameplay idea is simple. In a kind of sporting tournament with an overexcited commentator, two teams must protect their money ball while trying to assault the opposition's. The opponents can be either human or AI. In order to destroy the opposing money ball, players must defend and escort fragile bots across the arena.
That’s pretty much it, that's the crux of the game and with only a small handful of arenas it's pretty straight forward in that sense. There are a range of enemy bots though, meaning that the game remains entertaining in spite of the limited maps.
The presentation is like a pro-sporting event. The main attraction in Monday Night Combat is the classes, which have been essentially lifted from Team Fortress 2. You have your Assault, Tank, Support, Assassin, Gunner and Sniper classes. Each class has advantages and disadvantages, as well as a range of special moves and attacks. These can also be upgraded using earned game currency mid-fight.
Currency can also be invested in automated turrets built on designated sites throughout each arena. There are a number to choose from and each can then be upgraded as you collect more coin.
All the classes have “kookie” backstories, which we’ve seen done somewhere else as well. Each class also has a range of abilities. As the Support for example you can heal your allies and repair gun turrets. You can also deploy your own gun turret which can mow down your enemies.
The sniper has a frag grenade, as well as a "slow down" grenade that can cause enemies to get stuck to the ground. The gunner has a spectacular machine gun that can be upgraded to dual barrels. He also has access to a grenade launcher for wiping out hordes of the weaker enemies in a single shot.
The game plays well and if occasionally the aiming feels a little flimsy, it does work well. Once you figure out the special attacks for each class the game comes into its own. There does appear to be some small balancing issues between the classes, for example being a Support player means you generally end up with fewer coins than the other players simply because as they are closest to downed enemies. These coins, rather than being evenly distributed, go to the player who collects them. But this is a minor gripe and as you adapt to the play style of the different classes it becomes far less noticeable.
There is a singleplayer element with bots but it is obvious that this game is weighted towards the more enjoyable multiplayer. If you haven’t got Team Fortress 2 or haven’t heard of it, but have been hankering for a quality XBLA multiplayer shooter, Monday Night Combat certainly fits the bill. But if it wasn’t your cup of tea back when Valve did it, it won’t be now. A solid effort but not particularly original.