Have you ever noticed how many games revolve around conflict resolution via the medium of physical violence? I have never played a game where if you have “beef” with someone you sit down over a nice cup of Earl Grey and thrash out the issue.
Anyway, Midnight Fight Express, is another in the long line of games where you have to let your fists do the talking. Coming from a single developer by the name of Jacob Dzwinzel, this appears to be a love letter to the John Wick films almost, featuring a single protagonist going up against the world. Can it hold a candle to the source material, or should we all play Streets of Rage 4 instead?
The story found here is somewhat slight, and relies on the classic trope of amnesia/sleeper agent in the narrative. Basically, we play as an almost faceless protagonist by the name of Babyface, throwing us into a classic scenario – “police interview after the event”. And yes, I last saw that way back in Battlefield 3. We are in an interrogation room, we are asked questions by a pair of cops, and from those questions the levels found in Midnight Fight Express play out, almost in a retrospective fashion. It turns out that the Boss is going to destroy the city that we live in, and while we are minding our own business, a talking drone appears, tells us we are a sleeper agent and that we need to put an end to the big man’s plans. Obviously, if a talking drone tells you to hit people, you hit people.
In terms of how this is all presented and Midnight Fight Express is an interesting one. The soundtrack of the game is absolutely bang on, helped that the pace and tempo of the music that has been chosen matches the action in the levels perfectly. This is a real highlight. The actual graphical presentation however is more of a mixed bag. It’s somewhat plain, a bit vanilla to be brutal, and while the animation is very nice, the goons that you beat up all look a bit basic, almost faceless as well. Granted, there is a good variety in the characters you face, from weak foes all the way up to mutated Rat people – and obviously bosses with set battles as you make progress – but the main thing I took away from the presentation was the music and the almost balletic animation of the fighting.
So how does one go about stopping a criminal mastermind in a city that he controls? Well, in the traditional manner, you start at the bottom of the organisation, beat the next step out of various enemies, then work your way up to the pinnacle by destroying everything below him, right? Well, luckily that’s how we start out here.
As we begin, we are fairly limited in our attacks, as you’d expect, with basic light attacks and harsh language your only options. As you go through the tutorial (which is fairly light in touch and quite well done) you learn the basic systems, and then head through the levels as the rest of the game starts to open up. Each stage that you take part in is fairly short, pretty sweet, and more than capable of dragging you back into each one again and again in an attempt to get a highest score and a better ranking as you go.
The actual combat is a real highlight with brilliantly animated fisticuffs on offer. Learning when to attack, when to dodge and when to try and go for a parry is a fairly steep learning curve, but it all ensures that Midnight Fight Express is very rewarding. Battering enemies makes them drop their weapons, from sticks to firearms, and you can then pick these up and apply them to various enemy body parts. I love the way that if you choose to fire the guns that you find, then when they are empty, the next attack throws the empty gun at a nearby foe. Obviously, the weapons do break over time, and trying to beat some of the tougher guys barehanded is a recipe for disaster.
You can add to this the progression system that rewards you with skill points after completing each level, which can be spent in a number of skill trees to improve your chances. There are trees to improve your grappling, your parrying and countering and so on, and soon you will have a Babyface that can take on all-comers. There is also a shop in which you can buy new looks for Babyface, with everything from hats to tattoos and even complete skins able to be purchased with currency that is earned in game. Running about as a Rat boy is a lot of fun, let me tell you.
There is a lot of good stuff going on in Midnight Fight Express, and not too much that is seen as a negative. Some of the levels are daft (jet ski chase, anyone?), after a while the levels do start to get a bit samey, and some of the new enemies that are thrown in are very difficult to take down (more difficult than the bosses, that’s for sure) but other than that, it is a fun romp through a city on the edge. Putting your points into the skills that apply to your brawling style, and then going back and improving your score on earlier levels is fun too.
There isn’t much to grumble about in regards Midnight Fight Express. If you like to fight, this is certainly a game you will enjoy.
Midnight Fight Express is on the Xbox Store