Play to Your Strengths With the Colorful Cast of Multiplayer Indie Heist Game Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style
This time, I am the lookout. It's my job to stay on my toes and make sure that the members of my team know what's coming. It is our third time trying to infiltrate this building. There have been a variety of... Setbacks. We revise our plans and push our cigarette butts into the damp earth before parting ways.
My companions skirt left, and I right.
My most valuable but least trusted ally on this job is the cleaner. Like many of us he is quite good at preventing trouble, but not always skilled at escaping from it after the fact. Disaster lingers around every corner, and he is turning quite a few.
I am on the other end of the building, shuffling cautiously through the vents. My goal is a small room devoid of any of the valuables we are pursuing. Given our current position, the switchbox on the wall is priceless.
I cut the power. Lights, lasers, and palm scanners flicker and darken. It buys the cleaner a little more time, and a little more space.
We press on.
Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine offers solid team-based multiplayer alongside robust levels that challenge you to find the best combination of characters to exploit the various systems, routes, and devices available on every map. In some ways it's a combination of the trial-and-error floorplan format of Hotline Miami and the strategic group planning of Payday, with equal opportunities to make risky spur-of-the-moment decisions or accidentally tip the whole venture into utter chaos and escape by the skin of your nose... if at all.
The play itself can be a bit tricky to explain, so let's see it all in action before we go much further:
The story follows a group of criminals, each with their own aptitudes and roles that suit a variety of different approaches. They allow you to play to your strengths and, more importantly, exploit enemy weaknesses. So this ragtag team is together one last time, pulling one last job together... And then one more... And maaaaybe another after that. You can't build a new life with empty pockets, right?
It's the aesthetic as much as the gameplay that makes Monaco so appealing (and enjoyable.) The game is vivid as hell, splashed with neon and drenched in style. Beyond the visuals, this game also has one hell of a soundtrack. As Kirk Hamilton over on Kotaku put it, "the Monaco soundtrack is gonna be a whole thing," and it's worth noting that the majority of the soundtrack was composed by Austin Wintory. That name may ring a bell, since he was nominated for a Grammy for the awe-inspiring soundtrack to the equally awe-inspiring PS3 game Journey, and his work in Monaco doesn't disappoint.
Monaco's music is more than just background; it compliments the game's action in a way that made me ache for the musical combat cues in Bioshock Infinite, which nested beautifully with whatever was going on at a given moment. Unfortunately the audio work in Monaco isn't quite as tight as it is in Infinite, but given the scale of each of these projects that's sort of a silly comparison to make.
However, there is one significant thing that is fair to point out: From what I can tell, my bilingualism gives me a notable advantage over my teammeates. Guards and NPCs in this game speak French and French only, often revealing their thoughts and intentions. They will announce it if they've heard something suspicious, if they're dismissing a noise or disturbance as their imagination, if they're pursuing you, or if they're giving up the chase. They often make these announcements several seconds before the music changes to reflect their plans... Several seconds may not sound like very long, but when you're sandwiched between a guard, a turret, and an irritable doberman, several seconds can be the difference between a swift escape or a quick death.
There are other behavioural indicators that you can see by looking at the NPC in question, but because of the limited field of vision these aren't as reliable as the audio, especially when you're hidden or if you don't have a lookout in your team (Pro Tip: Always have a lookout in your team.) Characters in story/cutscene moments will speak English, so you won't lose out on any of the narrative either. Not understanding these little announcements won't really get in your way, but you may have to be a little more careful as a result, and if you want to really dominate Monaco you may want to teach yourself a few key phrases to be safe.
It should say a lot about this game that this is really the only complaint I can really think of, and it isn't even really a complaint. It just makes me feel like more of an asset to my team, even on those jobs where I get cornered by a dog, or fuck up the safe cracking, or get gunned down by a cluster of guards while running around and paying no attention to my surroundings... You know, professional thief stuff. Now you tell me, mes amis et mes amies: On the next big job, what will you bring to the table?
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Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.