Midnight Fight Express Review: A Dynamic Duo
When the leader of the criminal underworld is set to complete their full takeover of a city by morning, you’d think it was time to call in the big guns and save the day. In Midnight Fight Express though, the big guns end up being a single man named Babyface, the former lieutenant of our villain who years ago lost his memory and has been off the radar ever since. Well, Babyface and the mysterious drone who found him and set him to work saving the city, despite seeming to keep details about his past hidden.
Midnight Fight Express plays out as a sort of brawler Kill Bill. Your goal may be to take out the head of the snake, but you don’t know where he is, so instead, you have to fight your way through his other lieutenants, all of whom have history with Babyface. The more you take out, the more information you can gather about where the leader is. No, you don’t get to actually put this together yourself. Midnight Fight Express is a linear level-based game, but from a narrative perspective, it works, even if I never found myself any of the characters interesting enough to really hook me.
Working your way up the chain of command involves fighting through a series of levels set in a wide variety of environments. Restaurants, casinos, boats, the streets, there’s a lot of variety, including a few really unique areas that I’ll let players discover for themselves. From a gameplay perspective, these levels mostly play out as a standard overhead brawler. Walk into an area, beat up all the enemies there, rinse and repeat.
The success of games like this mostly comes down to how good it feels to beat up your foes. Does Midnight Fight Express manage to create a sense of combat nirvana? Not really. Don’t get me wrong, combat feels fine. You have a decent set of moves at your command from the start, including your basic attack, a block, the ability to dodge out of the way, and you can pick up a wide variety of weapons. These include practical items like knives and batons, as well as a solid variety of guns that give you some long-range options though ammo generally runs out quickly. A rocking soundtrack really helps to set a tone as well, I could listen to this any time I need to get pumped up. There are also some wonderfully absurd options spread throughout the game, which fits the mostly irreverent tone the developers have achieved here.
That tone is reflected in some of the crazier levels you’ll fight through and in the wide variety of enemies, you’ll face. Nearly every level offers new enemy types, and with 40 levels to fight your way through, that means there are a lot. Sure, you’ll have standard gangsters and crooked cops, but you’ll also have to eventually take on dominatrixes, sailors who strongly resemble a popular cartoon character, and some demented priests. Those are just a few of the outlandish enemies waiting for you, and they each fight differently enough that there is some strategy here, even if it’s subtle. You’ll gain some unique upgrades along the way by pumping points into a basic skill tree which can give you a secondary weapon, a cool rope attack, and various counters and finishers, though some of these didn’t really fit into the flow of the game as well as others. I was glad for the counter and finisher options, though, especially later in the game, but I often forgot about my secondary weapon until I got into a difficult spot.
A Noble Effort
That’s not uncommon either because on its default difficulty Midnight Fight Express ramps the difficulty up about ten levels in. If you’re not able to handle it, there are several difficulty levels and even a custom one where you can give yourself some help. While there’s no invincibility or anything that extreme, there are enough options that most players will be able to make their way to the end with some practice. I appreciated that the developers tried to make the game accessible while still trying to achieve the feel they sought from their game.
Brawling through this many stages though, does tend to get repetitive. New moves and enemy types can help, and the developers try hard to think of unique scenarios to throw you into with mixed success, but this still catches up with Midnight Fight Express before the end of the game. There are a few levels which get away from brawling entirely, several of which put you on various vehicles, for example, but these are some of the least successful areas of the entire game. The vehicles don’t feel good to control, and one level on a motorcycle, in particular, drove me crazy because the combination of speed and lack of visibility gave me flashbacks to some of the worst design choices of a bygone era of gaming. Frequent checkpoints stopped it from being a true nightmare, but I left these levels annoyed, not excited. You’ll also fight some bosses along the way, and while a couple is actually pretty cool, others are just damage sponges that aren’t interesting to fight.
Midnight Fight Express has a lot of personality and can be fun for a bit. However, when a game is built almost entirely around combat, you need that combat to feel great, and here it just feels okay. Its various attempts to provide some variety are noble, but meet with mixed success despite some really cool set pieces. A great soundtrack kept me going until the end, but those wanting an irreverent brawler aren’t lacking choices in recent years, and Midnight Fight Express never fully manages to stand out from the crowd.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Switch; Publisher: Humble Games; Developer: Jacob Dzwinel; Players: 1; Released: August 23rd, 2022; ESRB: M for Mature; MSRP: TBA
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Midnight Fight Express provided by the publisher.