As free-to-play games are constantly changing, traditional reviews can't really do them justice, so Joystiq relies on a series of unscored review diaries to record our experiences with them. Today brings part three of our Super Monday Night Combat diaries. Read parts one, two and three if you haven't!
Monday Night Combat fused class-driven warfare with tower defense in 2010, heavily focusing on frenetic, fast-paced combat. While Uber Entertainment meant for the game to favor teamwork, the mechanics and character balance allowed players to eschew teamwork for lone-wolf play. Monday Night Combat was still a fun endeavor, but Super Monday Night Combat and it's methodical, team-oriented gameplay is what Uber Entertainment meant to unleash the first time around.

To quickly recap, Super Monday Night Combat has teams of pros escorting A.I. bots to the enemy "Moneyball." The first to destroy the opposing Moneyball wins. It sounds simple, but players have to watch out for giant chickens, murderous mascots, and weather controlling blimps, all while defending turrets from relentless bot waves. While MNC nailed the campy, satirical tone – with its characters poking fun at consumerism and the spectacle of sports – SMNC improves on this by adding more original character classes. In addition to archetypical classes like "assault," essentially the traditional soldier class, we also have zany choices like Leo – as in the actual Leonardo Da Vinci.

These classes are not only better balanced, but designed to fulfill specific roles, such as the position-holding defenders and the player-harassing commandos. These roles work with the overall design mandate of the game, which encourages players to work together and focus on the objective. To this end, it's much harder to accrue a high kill-count, but players are rewarded handsomely for chaining bot kills, destroying turrets, and making sure to control the bot-vanquishing annihilator. Players can't just waltz across the playing field; they have to coordinate attacks with bots while defending their own moneyball. Strategy is king, and a quick trigger finger won't save players like it might have in the original Monday Night Combat.

Another welcome addition is the ability to customize characters, not just aesthetically, but to dictate how these classes play. Personally, I run around with a zombie luchador who likes to pack a punch, but I could easily make him into a staunch piggy who favors defensive capabilities instead. It all comes down to personal preference.

Customization options are purchased via either in-game credits or actual money. The superfluous purchases will require you to break out your wallet, whereas options that affect the game itself can only be acquired through gameplay (thankfully). Unlocking these items requires a sizable time investment to accrue enough credits, but characters are capable enough even without a fully stocked loadout.

At current, there are a handful of maps, both old and new alike, and two main modes of play: Super Crossfire and Turbocross. Super Crossfire is the more balanced of the two modes, allowing two teams of five to duke it out. Turbocross, on the other hand, is a throwback to the original MNC, as it features higher lethality and faster speeds. I wouldn't recommend Turbocross unless you like playing an infuriating mode where players care about their kill/death ratio above all else. Once you go Crossfire, you don't go back – though it would be nice to see Uber incorporate turret-building.

Nontheless, Turbocross is a testament to Uber's dedication to constantly update Super Monday Night Combat with new modes, features, animations, characters and gameplay tweaks. Since SMNC was originally (accidentally) released, there have been 14 updates that have altered many aspects of the game for the better – making Monday Night Combat's offerings look sparse in comparison.

Matches are intense and can last about twenty minutes each, and it's clear that Super Monday Night Combat has a dedicated userbase that lives and breathes the game. The current state of matchmaking (notably a relatively small user base) might make it difficult for new players to jump into a game, though tutorial videos, a training mode and high health make it easier for players to stand a fighting chance their first time out.

Those willing to brave the brutal Super Monday Night Combat arenas will find an ever-evolving game with engaging, tactical gameplay. In the end, it may demand putting down a few dollars – not because the "free-to-play" label is misleading, but because Uber has crafted a game worth supporting.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.