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PAX East 10: Hands-on Monday Night Combat

5:20 PM on 03.27.2010 // Brad Nicholson

It's possible to blend two different experiences into a single, coherent one. Look no further than The Red Star for an example of a delightful cocktail of genres. But some studios are doing more, plucking bits and pieces out of numerous genres and tossing them into a game. Such is Monday Night Combat, a third-person shooter that borrows concepts and design from brawlers, Team Fortress 2 and even DOTA.

The mix sounds weird, but here's the deal: it totally works in the game's favor.

A Class-Based Shooter with a Sprinkle of DOTA

Monday Night Combat is a 3rd person, class-based competitive shooter featuring a bulky and light-hearted artistic flair similar to that of Team Fortress 2. But there the comparison to Valve's shooter ends, because no matter what the studio allows its users to drop into the game, it'll never touch the MNC's objective-based antics.

Take, for example, the mode developer Uber Entertainment is showing off in Boston during PAX East. It's an objective game called Crossfire, which has you destroying the opposite team's base -- or in this specific case, their "money ball" -- in order to claim a full match victory. Sounds simple, but trashing the money ball isn't as basic as rolling up on it with one of the six traditional classes. You'll need to count on your bots.

Each player has specific AI controlled bots that spawn at preset intervals and run and maim alongside a holographic path according to your position. Bots are a breeze to eliminate, but can be a hassle as a team pushes towards the money ball. The bots, in general, are a pleasant point of design: they ensure the action is always hot and the tactical awareness of these little beasts is acute. They will trash your stuff if you choose to focus on the player-characters instead.

Powers, Experience, and Money

You can't control bot behavior, but you can handle your own special powers. Each class comes with its own array of special abilities. The Sniper, for example, can lay down traps and kill at range. The Tank, for another example, can charge and even turn into a turret with the press of a button. (Turrets can also be built in bases on nodes designated for them.) All classes can, by the way, grapple and do a kill move when in close combat. It's a cool touch.

Keeping with current trends, there's a match-level persistency to characters. As you kill others and do other great deeds in a match, you'll earn money that can be applied directly to your abilities via a small four-tab radial menu. Fans of Perks will be disappointed: the only match-to-match persistence comes by the way of in-game achievements (or "tags") instead of ridiculous weapon upgrades.

Yep, It's a Third-Person Shooter (with Single-Player)

MNC controls fine. The satisfyingly differentiated class-based weapons, including the secondary joints, have weight and impact. Equally vital, character movement is fast ensuring that matches move at a steady clip. Balance between the six classes appears to be solid as well -- even as the weak and melee-based Assassin, I wasn't overwhelmed by powerful arms, nor was I so fast others couldn't catch and throttle me.

A side-note: I wasn't able to see the SP component. Uber representatives told me that it's a cooperative experience between four players that runs similar to this "money ball" mode. The key change is that you'll need to simply defend your base similar to tower defense games by erecting turrets and keeping tabs on the ball's health meter.

You Should Probably Consider Buying This

I left the demo station hopelessly excited for this colorful shooter -- and it looks like we won't have to wait long for it. Uber believes the game will launch on Xbox LIVE Arcade "very" soon for an unspecified price. A PSN or PC release might happen in the future, but for now, the team is focused on this version.

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