Tuesday, December 7, 2010

To the surprise game of a lifetime

Several months ago, I was loading up my xbox 360 after it had frozen and saw on the dashboard's "Summer of Arcade" this advert for Monday Night Combat.

"Intense third person Arena Action" I believe it said. I had the points sitting around, so I said "Why the hell not?" and went ahead with the purchase. It has been the best $15 I've ever spent on a video game. I've probably logged more time into MNC than in Halo: Reach and Call of Duty: Black Ops combined. Its simpler, colorful graphics hide a depth of gameplay that is hard to reach, including by Reach.

First, you have two main game modes, Blitz and Crossfire. Blitz is the "Players vs waves of AI" style game that has been included in many recent shooter games, from Gears 2's Horde mode, Halo's Firefight, Call of Duty, WaW and BO's Zombie modes to L4D and L4D2's... well entire game. This mode pits up to 4 players against waves of enemy bots. Crossfire is MNC's VS mode, pitting two teams of six against each other, with a twist: The objective is to destroy the enemy team's moneyball. Simple? Not quite! It is protected with shielding that only your bots can break (well, at first you could take the shields out just by shooting it alot. This has been fixed however) which will allow you to attack the Moneyball and bring yourself closer to victory.

Both game modes feature a "skill" system in which you upgrade your character with money you get for completing various objectives. In Blitz, its destroying bots and surviving rounds. In Crossfire, you get money for killing enemy pros, destroying their turrets, destroying their bots, and shooting their moneyball. All four skills have three skill levels, allowing for your own personal progression into the power that each class wields, or upgrading as the need arises.

There are a total of 6 classes and each one fills its roles well. Every Pro (what the classes are called) has his specialties and weaknesses, as described by what they can most easily destroy and what they have trouble destroying.

The Assault uses his Assault rifle, grenade launcher, Bomb, and Jetpack to out-maneuver the enemy team and make their days very sad indeed. He excels at short to mid range against enemy pros, and his Bomb can stick to the enemy, guaranteeing an instant kill, or very heavy damage to the Moneyball. His jetpack allows him to hover, making missed jumps not nearly as missed, and allows him to take unorthodox routes to surprise the enemy.

The Support goes about his merry way, dropping a powerful turret known as a Firebase which will target the nearest enemy after it finishes deploying. The support also can throw airstrike markers, dropping a powerful bomb from the heavens that is a one-shot kill for anyone in the radius. He can also hack turrets (including his firebase) to greatly increase their range and rate of fire. His Heal/Hurt gun can heal and overheal his allies, and drain health from his enemies, and his Shotgun does exactly what you'd expect: make enemy pros who get too close very very sad. He can also hack enemy turrets to his side, making for a very confused and scrambling defense against the now hostile turret.

The Gunner is an offensive powerhouse. His Minigun deals heavy damage at a high rate for a much longer distance, while his Mortar is devastating to enemy turrets. Upgrading his passive gives him a Dual Minigun, maxxing out your offensive output and also causes the Mortar shot to split a second after firing, doubling or tripling its damage output. When the enemy gets too close for comfort, he can Slam them away, or attempt a Gunner Grapple. When in a ranged contest without Sniper's around, he can deploy and increase his accuracy and greatly increase his critical shot output, making so that anyone in the reticle is toast if they can't get away quickly.

The Tank is just that: Hard to kill. But don't let his slow speed fool you: He can be VERY agile in the right hands. His Charge move, at higher levels, recharges quickly and deals heavy damage, and can be used to grant very large "Tank jumps" which allow him to cross the map in a hurry, to close the distance and torch the enemy with his short range Jetgun, or to flee and try to take them out with the sniper like Rail Gun. He can also fire a "Product Grenade" which deals damage and, once upgraded, blinds enemies for a good duration, and at max level splits into a cluster bomb capable of destroying a wave of enemy bots or doing great damage against enemy turrets. He can also deploy, greating increasing his damage resistance and health regen and at 3rd level gives his weapon infinite ammo meaning he never has to reload. His passive gives him more damage resistance, making him even tougher to take down.

The Assassin is quick, precise, and deadly. Her Dagger, driven into the back of the unwary, is heavily damaging or a one-shot to lesser armored classes. She can use her Cloak to get behind enemy lines, and uses Dash to move about the map quickly. She has the highest jump with her Smoke Bomb, which blinds enemies in the blast radius and immobilizes bots/blinds turrets. Her passive, when upgraded, reduces fall damage (helpful when cloaking after a smoke bomb jump) or, at max level, removes it entiirely and gives her a Katana, the most efficient bot killing tool in the game. Only a gold armor endorsed gunner or a Tank can survive a backstab with the Katana. Her Shuriken gun is fantastic against the heavy classes as you can land many shurikens in a short time frame, and they do fantastic damage to them. She can also do a Lunge with her current melee weapon using the Reload button, which allows her even FASTER movement in a quick burst of speed, and ends with a powerful bladed swipe against the target.

The Sniper is a long range beast. He can pop you repeatedly at range with his Sniper Rifle, or gun you down with his SMG if you get too close. He can throw down Ice traps which will freeze the enemy in place, or throw a Flak grenade which makes a heavily damaging zone which will stall the enemies advance, or deal great AoE damage to many targets when properly placed. His Passive upgrades his sniper rifle, allowing it to shoot through the enemy, and at max level gives him an explosive shot allowing him to deal AoE damage to bots and anything adjacent to the first contact point of his sniper shot.

If you have $15 bucks sitting around, go get the points and get this game. You won't be disappointed. Its depth is nearly unmatched by the current crop of shooters out there. Its developers, Uber Entertainment, are very involved with its online community and actively take balance suggestions. They're always working on new content, and just released their first DLC, which is free so the up front cost doesn't go up.

I will warn you: The learning curve is a bit steep, as it will be in all games that are class based. You'll have to learn the dynamics between the classes, which have advantages against the others, which are easy targets for which classes, etc. You'll also have to learn which classes take care of the bots the easiest, because sometimes your allies forget they're there and need to be destroyed too. But with just a little work you can enjoy a great game, at a frickin STEAL of a price, and be confident in the developers actively seeking to stamp out bugs and provide new content and class balances.

This game gets a 9.5 out of 10 from me. -.5 because of SNIPERS gaaaahhghahghragerageragerage!!@@#E@$!#@!!@!!!!

2 comments:

Thom van Liere said...

Nice piece of text. I had fun reading, which is a good thing.

I agree with the learning curve being steep, it's the one thing I keep telling my hating friends as wel ^^

Natasha Stuhl said...

Haha, I like the '-.5 because of SNIPERS' remark. They are a pain aren't they?