I didn’t have very high hopes for “Monday Night Combat” when Microsoft first announced this year’s Summer of Arcade line-up, nor was I immediately taken with it after playing a few rounds. (Though that likely had more to do with the fact that the tutorial isn’t very helpful in explaining how to play the game.) But while it’s certainly not the best-looking title of the bunch, “Monday Night Combat” eventually wins you over with its incredibly addictive gameplay. At its core, the game is a class-based, third-person shooter à la “Team Fortress 2,” but it also implements the tower defense genre into basic strategy, and is set in the middle of a “Smash TV”-like game show complete with a sex-neutral mascot named Bullseye who pops up throughout the course of matches to taunt the players. Better yet, when you shoot him, he drops coins, which is the lifeblood of the game. Coins can be spent on upgrading your Pro’s abilities, building and upgrading turrets, or even unlocking jump pads that allow you to reach higher areas on the map.
There are really only two game modes to choose from: Blitz and Overkill. The former tasks you and up to three other players with protecting your moneyball (a New Year’s Eve-sized piñata filled with coins) from an onslaught of enemy bots, while the latter is a 6-on-6 Deathmatch-style battle to see which team can breach and destroy the other team’s moneyball first. Though Blitz is a great place to start because it gives players a good opportunity to try out all six classes (Assault, Tank, Support, Assassin, Gunner and Sniper, each with their own unique weapons and abilities), Overkill is where you’re going to have the most fun. Not only must you figure out how to strike the perfect balance between upgrading your Pros and turrets, but you also have to decide what’s more important: killing enemies or escorting bots to the other team’s base. Only bots can take down the shield protecting the moneyball, but you need coins in order to purchase them. It’s a simplistic yet necessary give-and-take system that forces players to work as a team, and it’s one of the main reasons why “Monday Night Combat” succeeds as a great multiplayer game of the once-you-pop-you-just-can’t-stop variety.
Want more Summer of Arcade? Be sure to come back every Wednesday through August 18th for a first-hand look at Microsoft’s newest XBLA exclusives. Next week: Grab your tomb raiding gear and join Lara Croft in her search for the “Guardian of Light.”