originals\ May 25, 2012 at 10:12 am

Battle it out any day of the week with Super Monday Night Combat

Three! Two! One! A siren sounds as commentators declare the annihilator is active. Every pro that isn't already fighting for the device drops what they're doing and sprints to join the others. Chaos ensues as kitten sentries shoot lasers, burly pros attempt to grapple with the squishier pros, and rockets explode every direction you turn. Control of the annihilator goes to the Hot Shots, and it propels them to victory in the digital sport known as Super Monday Night Combat.

Super MNC is a free-to-play third-person shooter with battle arena hooks similar to DotA and League of Legends. Until Super MNC, I had not given these types of games much thought. I knew they were great games — it's hard to ignore the massive PAX booths dedicated to League of Legends — but they weren't for me. The shooter aspect of Super MNC drew me in, but it's the battle arena hooks that keeps me coming back. I feel like I now understand what makes League of Legends so popular, though I've only scratched the surface of the genre.

An Ice Men Assault leads a troop of bots to battle.

I played a little bit of Monday Night Combat on the Xbox 360 when that was released on Xbox Live Arcade, and Super MNC is an evolution of that concept. A lot of what I enjoy about this free-to-play iteration was present in the XBLA title. Both games center around a future-sport named, appropriately enough, Monday Night Combat. Two teams, the Hot Shots and the Ice Men, battle it out using weapons and AI bots in the pursuit of destroying the opponent's money ball. Commentators do a fine job of calling the action on the field while filling dead air with wild stories that are hard not to chuckle at if you can hear it through the carnage. The graphics are exaggerated and cartoony, similar to Team Fortress 2, but different enough to have their own style. Pros, the playable characters, are all distinct and unmistakable, even at a distance. Uber Entertainment takes the template they created with Monday Night Combat and expands on it in Super MNC.

The most exciting moments in Super MNC involve the annihilator. Roughly every five minutes, the pre-recorded commentators start to hype up the activation of this device. "Thirty-minutes until the annihilator" can be both the most exciting and fearful phrase you hear in Super MNC. Your teams most powerful tool for success is about to become active and, chances are, you're not there to protect it yet. If your team manages to activate the annihilator, it will immediately destroy all except the strongest AI bots and cause minor damage to all pros on the field. This allows your bots to take control of both lanes, and can clinch a victory for a team or shift the tide of a match in an instant. The annihilator is always worth fighting for and a key to most victories.

Because this was my first experience in a DotA-style competitive game, I had a lot to learn. I learned "lanes" are the path AI bots take on their way to the enemy base. I discovered what players refer to as the "jungle," and the danger of loitering there without a purpose. Neutral AI bots routinely weed out the less attentive pros in the jungle. I now understand "feeding" is when you charge into a lopsided battle and give the other team easy experience and money. It doesn't take long for people to give you an earful in chat about that last one. There's a lot to learn in battle arena games, so I certainly haven't mastered it yet. I'm far from the best, but I enjoyed learning the terminology for a genre foreign to me.

If the action hero taunt isn't worth a few dollars, nothing is.

I've been enjoying myself with Super Monday Night Combat so much that I did something I never expected. I bought items in a free-to-play game. Even more than that, I plan to buy more. There are two forms of currency in Super MNC — real money through Steam Wallet and Combat Credits. The two currencies are used to purchase entirely different goods in the store.

Real money is primarily used to purchase taunts, costumes, flair, and other cosmetic differences. A list of bundles exists in the store as well, which groups related items together at a discounted price. There are no direct gameplay benefits to spending money on these cosmetic changes. I have to admit, though, the action hero taunt is very tempting.

Combat Credits can be used to purchase stat upgrades and player effects. Items that cause your character to get a speed boost upon respawning or generate small amounts of armor while you have full health fall under this category. The items purchased through Combat Credits may also be randomly prized to you at the end of a match. Real money can purchase items to boost the acquisition of Combat Credits, but extended play sessions should land you the credits you desire on their own.

The only items that can be purchased using both real money or Combat Credits are the pros, which enjoy a free-use rotation similar to League of Legends. Purchasing a pro makes him or her usable regardless of the rotation. I always get a little nervous when I see a pro being used that isn't free that week. I know that player invested time or money into that character, and likely knows how to rock it.

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