Monaco 2 Preview – Infiltrating a new dimension

The first Monaco was released in 2013 when Xbox Live Arcade hit its stride, and there was a new appetite for the creative and unique game genre that existed beneath the big-budget triple-A, high-fidelity experience. Those types of games outnumber the big-budget experiences we’re familiar with today, but in 2013 we discovered such experiences and marveled at their ingenuity. Competition is stiff as Monaco 2 nears release, but creator Andy Schatz is clearly excited to revisit the criminal gameplay, saying, “If Monaco 1 was about cat and mouse, Monaco 2 is about complexity and creativity.”

Like the original, Monaco 2 is a game about pulling off heists. You and a team with different abilities work together to break into some sort of facility, grab what you need without raising the alarm, and take it out. And if you raise the alarm — which you will, Schatz promises — then you’ll have an even better time. Perhaps an even better time.

The biggest surprise about Monaco 2 is immediately apparent the moment the game starts. The game is now a full 3D experience. The original game was effectively a 2D pixelated game where players controlled nondescript blocks from an overhead perspective. The game favored information over style and was difficult for many to read. Switching to 3D leads to dozens of improvements. Different characters look different from one another, and the sequel may now favor an art style inspired by artist Saul Bass, known primarily for his work on Alfred Hitchcock’s movie posters.

Overall the switch to 3D improves readability for everything and opens up the game to more vertical options. Schatz cites big, memorable heist movies and series like Mission: Impossible, where Tom Cruise’s character hangs from the ceiling to steal data from a computer. Although you’re not literally dangling from a vent and sweating while rolling your face in the game, the promise is that you’ll have the same fun and intense feelings.

Schatz showed off a single-player game session (still not fully detailed, local splitscreen and online co-op will be available) where he studied the score beforehand by looking at a blueprint of the building he intended to attack. The job is to enter a guarded opera house to plant false rumors at a certain location and steal money while there.

Schatz begins the heist with Cosmo and Panzer, a woman in a pink dress, and a cute little Pomeranian dog who can be used to distract the guards. Once inside, however, in theory, your team can swap into different roles to take advantage of their abilities by jumping into a hidden house plant. It doesn’t really make sense, but that’s okay because Monaco 2 uses different abilities to complete different tasks.

From that point on most of the gameplay is about staying out of guard sight lines and tracking their movements, collecting on-site items to help you succeed, and completing objectives whenever possible. The levels are dense and deliberately designed with intricate layouts and hidden secrets. The idea is that the more you replay a level, the better you’ll know it and the more prepared you’ll be when you come back to pull off another heist.

Monaco 2 doesn’t have a solid release date yet, nor is developer PocketWatch Games ready to share platform details beyond PC. However, we’re overdue for a good cooperative crime game that isn’t a shooter. Schatz’s presentation promises a focused and deep take on the heist fantasy with an overblown sequel to Monaco.

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