REVIEW – Despite the amnesiac, remember-nothing backstory lead-up used a million times; Midnight Fight Express can still be described as a primarily good product that pits almost everyone against the player in a dark, dystopian city. Despite its shortcomings, it still has several punchy elements, so it might even be considered a lasting product.
Steam’s description: “A former member of the criminal underworld is lured back into “the life” by a mysterious drone claiming they have until sunrise to prevent a citywide criminal takeover together.”
It’s not a cheap joke: our protagonist’s name is Babyface, so he deserves the name you just read in the lead. The story goes as such: a drone asks him to help save the city during the night before the big corporate takeover comes, and since he has no memory of what he used to do, he starts punching those who stand in his way in the usual clichéd locations, since a shipyard, a gas station, or a bar pops up in almost every beat ’em up game. And as we progress, so does Babyface, as he slowly puts together the picture during a police interrogation, and we violently eliminate our opponents, all quite spectacularly, thanks to the work of Eric Jacobus.
He’s done some outstanding stunt work for three PlayStation games (God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man, and The Last Of Us Part II), and the fights look great because of his efforts. Don’t be fooled by the almost cartoon-like visuals: the impact of our punches and kicks is still noticeable (not to mention the blood left behind by our opponents). Our moves become more spectacular as our character gets more robust, as progression is not left out with the use of skill points. Stronger attacks can be used to break through the defences of larger opponents. Grapples can be used to throw one of them to knock the others down as if they were dummies or just to beat them to a pulp as they lie on the ground. Additionally, you can also trip them with a crawl or slam them into a wall with a sprint. This last move can be a finishing move, but you can also go for the execution with firearms.
The different ammo types can be helpful against trickier AI, and then you can pick up the weapons they leave behind (and there will be several surprising items). The effect is not lost either: the number of people trying to take our lives will always be much higher, and we have to keep up, and there is no joke: you have to build some strategy to know when to attack, where you will be after the end of the move, and how to continue fighting logically and efficiently quickly. It becomes a kind of dance, perhaps most recently shown by My Friend Pedro, but mainly Hotline Miami, but this thought should be combined with Sifu’s melee fights.
As you progress, so does your score for playing appropriately: if you don’t die, creatively smash your opponents’ faces and perform several long combos, you get a better score, which gives Midnight Fight Express a kind of arcade feel because it also has online leaderboards. However, beneath the surface is a shallow pond in many aspects, as the story doesn’t make much sense. For example, we don’t get to know who Babyface is, his more critical purpose in fighting, or even who is behind the conspiracy or just the drones following us. We’re not sure that the constant button-pressing will be suitable for the hands because you rarely experience that sort of thing, but this game may have crossed the line where it needs to be pointed out.
The gameplay itself is rock solid, and perhaps the way Babyface can be cosmetically customised with the money you pick up during the maps or collect through the challenges is fair enough… but it could be called unnecessary. Perhaps it would have been more helpful if the clothing and tattoos had been thrown out of the concept so that, in return, we could get a more refined and streamlined, purposeful experience (here, one could question the way the game turns your best moves into a short video/gif that can be shared on social media, but this gameplay element cannot be treated critically, it’s just a helpful plus). Hotline Miami achieved the experience effectively, and the similarity between the two games is also evident in the soundtrack. The soundtrack for Midnight Fight Express is perfect, but there is little likelihood there will be a limited edition vinyl version of it.
Fight by night, fight by day
Midnight Fight Express is primarily good in its gameplay, but its shortcomings prevent it from getting a seven out of ten (or a seven-and-a-half out of ten) that had been handed out four times this month. The story is simply unpolished, and as a result, the atmosphere falls short of what it could achieve in terms of the gameplay. There are many different kinds of opponents, the soundtrack is excellent, and the combat itself is satisfying, but in all other aspects, it falls short of what could be called outstanding. So it’s just a fair product, mainly because one person put it together.
+ The gameplay is very good…
+ …and the soundtrack
+ Great stunt work is represented
– Tricky story
– Perhaps customization is unnecessary
– Not recommended for those prone to hand pain
Publisher: Humble Games
Developer: Jacob Dzwinel
Style: beat’em up
Release: August 23, 2022.