Uber Entertainment, the studio behind MNC, is staffed by some Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander veterans from Gas Powered Games. But just because it's a shooter doesn't mean they've forgotten their roots.
Monday Night Combat packs a significant amount of strategy just under its cartoony, Team Fortess 2-esque exterior. You've got six unique player classes, each one with a variety of carefully balanced skills that can be upgraded mid-match as you earn cash.
Crossfire, the mode that was on display at PAX East, sees twelve players--six on each side--attempting to take down their opponent's "money ball" while defending their own. The more damage you do to either opponents or their money ball, the more cash you get. Trust me, you want all the cash you can get, since upgrades reset after every round.
Fortunately, each teach gets some help in the form of the computer-controlled breach bots, which is where the Defense of the Ancients (DotA) influence becomes apparent. These breach bots periodically spawn and try to fight their way to the opposing base, often clashing against opposing breach bots towards the center of the map.
Similar to DotA and offshoots like League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth, you'll want to have at least some of your team clearing the way for your breach bots, fighting against those of the enemy and trying to take down the turrets near the enemy's base.
If that sounds complicated or overwhelming, well, it can be, especially at first. Fortunately, the third-person shooting provides newcomers with something to fall back on if it gets to be too much. After all, you really can't go wrong with mowing down your opponents, even if they happen to be upgraded out the wazoo and able to hover in mid-air.
Once you get it down, it's an addictive blend of action and strategy. While waiting in line to play Monday Night Combat on Sunday (the last day of PAX East) I inadvertently cut in front of a gentleman. He told me it wasn't a big deal--he'd been playing all weekend.
Afterward, I understood why. All I wanted to do was keep playing and devise new strategies, new approaches to combat the ways I'd been schooled in my first match.
Wait, there's more--far, far more. In addition to Crossfire, you've got Blitz, in which up to four players cooperate to protect their money ball from wave after wave of robots. And tying all of this together is a career "meta-game" that, over time, unlocks / enhances abilities, skills and the such when used in conjunction with the create-a-class option.
Furthermore, Uber Entertainment suggests this is only the beginning--additional modes are likely on the way, though this probably depends on the game's reception.
But after seeing and playing Monday Night Combat at PAX East, I don't think reception is going to be a problem. The booth was always crowded, and almost everyone I talked to asked if I'd had a chance to check it out. Provided that the download hits Xbox 360 at the right time (the target's summer) and at the right price (something that isn't being discussed yet), Monday Night Combat looks to be the start of something big.
Oh, and if you don't have an Xbox 360, don't fret. Though Uber has yet to confirm Monday Night Combat is coming to PC, they've hinted so strongly that it seems a safe bet.