Where all the magic happens

Team Fortress 2 is inevitably the first comparison everyone makes when they see Monday Night Combat and in terms of character design, that's probably not far from the mark. The truth is though that other than classes, you won't mistake one for the other when you're banging away on your keyboard. It's actually far more complex. If you're expecting a pure arena shooter then you won't find it here and that's going to go a long way towards determining whether or not you ultimately find MNC to be worth your while.

Support, Tank and Gunner at the ready

First things first, the cartoonish character design is most definitely a tip of the hat (no pun intended) to Valve's famous team-based shooter - pop in a Pyro and you're good to go. Though they haven't quite mastered the pursuit of maintaining utterly distinct silhouettes and you may find yourself struggling to recall the difference between, say, the Tank and the Gunner. It's a minor nit, but it nags when you're browsing the character select screen nonetheless. The art direction overall takes off on its own course, veering into the over-the-top sports arena feel. Hence the name Monday Night Combat - a clear reference to Monday Night Football. The announcer, cheerleaders and general arena feel of each level all help draw that distinction.

Pros and bots take on a blue turret

I mentioned before that MNC brings a bit more complexity to the table than your average shooter and one way it does that is through the addition of several unique skills for each class and the ability to upgrade them throughout each game. The Assault class, for instance, has a powerful dash and throw that, if timed correctly and used in the right spot, results in launching the enemy combatant out of the ring to score a one-hit kill. The Gunner can pound the ground, creating a shockwave with a knock-back effect. Some classes have special grapples that deal major damage. The Sniper and Assassin classes also offer a unique play style for those interested.

Support and his ever-attentive Firebase

But all of that's been done before in one way or another. What really makes MNC stand out in a field of shooters is a little bit of strategy. Let me explain the game types before tackling that. Blitz can be played solo or online with others and it involves purchasing and upgrading gun turrets, jump pads and other offensive and defensive measures to protect your "Moneyball" from a relentless onslaught of robots. The number and intensity of waves can be adjusted to your liking. Crossfire is an online mode that pits two teams in what amounts to basically a head-to-head game of Blitz. The difference is that for an offensive win you must escort your bots to the opposing moneyball where they will proceed to take down the shield, leaving it open to destruction. Human players can damage the moneyball, but cannot lower the shield which, left unattacked, will eventually rise again on its own.

Sniper-guy celebrates his teams' demise

Along the way you'll gather all sorts of cash and prizes which you can then use as either a badge of honor or to purchase the ability to create custom classes and better sponsorships. You're constantly being rewarded with badges, which is good if you're into that sort of thing, but ultimately the cash and custom classes are what make the most difference in the arena. In fact, new players can expect a steep hill to climb as veteran players sometimes take on what seems like superhuman abilities. It's not enough to put most people off as long as they understand what it takes to get there, but it definitely starts you off at a disadvantage. Not unlike any rookie entering a veteran league, which ties neatly back into the sports theme.

Assassins are a tricky sort

Monday Night Combat is what many would consider to be a "budget title" as it currently retails on Steam for $14.99. As a result, there aren't as many game modes as some might want in order to keep things fresh; after all it is more or less a few variations on one idea. But what is there is surprisingly addictive and you may find yourself playing "just one more round" to gain another level, or to get a bit more cash, or even just because you're having a good time. The number of classes and skills allow you to achieve success in a number of different ways. Players versus AI allows you to scratch that itch too. MNC is a fresh take on shooters and offers a respectable value too boot. If you can overlook some minor class balance issues and you don't expect a AAA game's worth of content you'll probably be glad you suited up.