Character classes that previously seemed like a neat, but perhaps unnecessary addition become a core component of the experience, the cat's cradle of factors in play most heavily influenced by the character class composition of each team and each player's efficiency with their character.
There are six classes to play as, each of whom has three special moves in keeping with their build and approach. The 'Assault' is the all-rounder, with moderate offense and defence. His remote-detonated bomb skill is useful for laying traps, while his assault charge can be used to slam opponents from the play area, or just as a plain evasive manoeuvre.
The 'Tank', as his name suggests, is a heavy built entity with a 'Product Grenade' that, when upgraded, plasters advertising over the enemies' screens, temporarily obscuring their view.
The 'Assassin', the most popular character class on the game's servers right now, is lithe and fast. She has a useful cloaking ability to hide her from being seen, which can be used in conjunction with her dash move to sprint into enemy territory undetected.
The 'Support' can upgrade turrets to increase their range and fire rate, while his Air Strike can prove invaluable in laying down a blanket of fire when enemy bots have invaded your base.
The 'Gunner' is one of the most useful classes, somewhere in-between a 'Tank' and 'Assault', with a fast, powerful minigun that can be upgraded to a dual version of itself. Using the Gunner Deploy ability, you can set up in a prime spot and (at the cost of being able to move) increase the amount of damage you can take and deal.
Finally, the 'Sniper' makes up for his weak defence with the ability to lay traps around a sniping position and, of course, a long range rifle that can take down most targets in two clean shots.
While the classes appear like carbon copies of those perfected in Valve's Team Fortress 2, a game from which Monday Night Combat also borrows a number of its visual cues, in play there are key differences. Add to this the option to purchase custom character classes as you build your cash reserves through playing the game online and the tactical options available become dizzyingly broad.
The metagame is simple but enjoyable. As you meet predefined criteria in play, so you unlock Street Fighter IV-style 'Tags' that can be attached to your gamertag and that pop-up on an opponent's screen when you kill them, in the Modern Warfare 2 style. These tags must first be unlocked, by performing prescribed feats, and then purchased before they can be used, and there's fun to be had in trying to catch 'em all.
Monday Night Combat is far from the most attractive game on XBLA. It's character designs are derivative while the primary colour American gameshow setting is boisterous and noisy, a feeling exacerbated by a witless, jabbering commentator.
But the systems the presentation clothes are nothing short of beautiful. This is a game designer's game, one that cherry-picks ideas from gaming's contemporary landscape and melds them together into something at once fresh and familiar. There will be a need for class balancing as the weeks roll by – that much is true of any team combat game – but even in this initial guise the experience sparkles, offering a worthy distraction no matter what the day of the week and providing a significant step in the evolution of Tower Defence.
9 / 10