Got friends? Get Monaco
There was a specific, memorable moment when I realized just how brilliant Monaco is. Myself and three friends had just successfully stolen a bundle of unmarked bills from the Casino de Monte Carlo, and were making our way to the exit when a guard popped out of a nearby corridor, forcing me to dart through the closest doorway.
Moments later, under the guise of safety, I realized to my horror (and hilarity) that I had somehow managed to trap myself inside a tiny closet, with alarmed laser beams guarding the only possible escape routes. The escape, which involved explosives, disguises, and a handily-positioned air duct, saw me riding home with only a couple of bullets embedded in my backside, my team cheering me on all the way.
No doubt if you play Monaco with friends, you'll piece together your own classic anecdotes. This is a game filled to the brim with perfect balancing, tons of variety, and a premise that allows you and your mates to tackle the objective however you feel necessary, creating your own hectic narrative as you go.
In case you're currently scratching your head, thinking "what the heck is Monaco?", let me back up for a moment. Monaco is a top-down multiplayer-focused heist game, in which you and up to three friends sneak in, cut the alarms, distract the guards, steal the loot, and get out without spotted. Or, you know, just raise hell, cause confusion, and dive into the getaway car with seconds to spare.
That's the main pull of Monaco - complete freedom to tackle each level however you see fit. There are eight classes to choose from, and each has its own unique abilities that cause you to approach situations differently. Experimenting with combinations of classes with friends (either locally or online) is key to opening up the heist game Pandora's Box that's available here.
It's not just with friends either, as the single player action is just as entertaining as the multiplayer - although for different reasons. While the multiplayer is chaotic, building excitement on top of mayhem, in comparison going solo is focused more on stealth, tactical play, and solving puzzles. Both are their own separate, hugely rewarding entities.
With so many classes and ways to beat the game, there's a worry that Monaco may feel unbalanced, with certain combinations clearly the best choice. As it turns out, this is far from the case - in fact, I would go as far as to say that Monaco is one of the most well-balanced video games I have ever played.
At some point during play, I used the words "I think this is the best class" to describe every single available class. The Pickpocket's monkey companion is fantastic for mopping up coins, while the Lookout's ability to see every enemy in the level is regularly essential. But what about how the Gentleman can hide in plain sight thanks to his disguise? Each class has its own wonderful uses, and you'll regularly swap classes to get a good feel for each and every one.
The levels themselves are hugely varied too. You've got mansions to break into, casinos, nightclubs, boats... and the list goes on. Not only that, but the game provides two separate story campaigns that each use the same set of levels, but the second campaign mixes the original levels up a fair bit. What I'm saying in a nutshell is: there's a silly amount of content up for grabs.
And the style! Oh the style. Monaco's pixelated visuals drift over the top of blacked-out blueprints, shedding colorful light over your field of view as you dart around. It may look hugely confusing in screenshots, but in motion the combination of darkness and rainbows is such a sight to behold, while the plinky-plonky piano music complements the action to such a wonderful degree.
I should halt my gushing for a moment to back up and address that prior confusion point further. When you first start out, Monaco has a slightly perplexing air to it. You'll trip alarms, get beaten up, and generally not really understand how best to approach each mission. It can be a little daunting, but fortunately the first several missions are relatively lax in terms of holding your hand and letting you just get on with your business.
But at some point, roughly around an hour into play, you'll just suddenly "get it". The whole point of the game; The best way to complete an objective with the minimum amount of fuss; The usefulness of each class available to you; It will all come together, and that moment of epiphany will knock you for six.
Other areas of the game are a little bit confusing too. For example, setting up a game with friends for the first time is a bit of a head-scratcher, and I had to give it a Google to work out how to navigate the menus. Even when you do know how to do it, the method for adding friends to a lobby is still a huge faff.
Notably, I wasn't really a fan of Monaco's story either. Two separate tales are told through text-bubbles before each mission, but after just a few levels, myself and my friends chose to skip through the dialogue and straight into the game. Making up your own stories is far more entertaining.
I'm going to be playing Monaco for many more weeks to come, and it'll no doubt become one of my go-to games for when I have friends around. You need to play this game, and you need to play it right now.
- Perfectly balanced gameplay. So many classes, missions and methods to experiment with. Gorgeous style. Both single-player and multiplayer modes are well designed.
- Story is pretty dull. Lobby system can be pretty confusing.