Action game Midnight Fight Express is well over its weight class, Digital News
While I’m not a fan of movies based on video games for obvious reasons, Midnight Fight Express from developer Jacob Dzwinel and Humble Games seems like the perfect inspiration for a fun action movie starring Donnie Yen, Iko Uwais or Scott Adkins.
It probably won’t win many awards, but it will eventually become one of those films that consistently makes it onto the must-watch martial arts or action movies list.
The reason I say this is because Midnight Fight Express clearly draws inspiration from classic action movies with its over-the-top story, brutal yet fluid fight scenes where the odds are always against the protagonist, and a soundtrack that will get your adrenaline pumping and heart rate racing.
If that combo sounds like fun to you, read on for more on why I think Midnight Fight Express is worthy of your time – and your money.
History of successes and failures
The overall story of Midnight Fight Express is like something I’ve seen in a movie or TV series. You control an amnesiac known as Babyface who spends most of the game’s runtime being interrogated by two detectives as he recounts the events that led to his arrest.
These events span 40 stages, many of which are flashbacks. Things kick off when Babyface receives a mysterious delivery that contains a tongue-in-cheek talking drone named Droney. With Droney by his side giving him instructions and advice, Babyface then heads into town to eliminate members of a criminal organization that plans to take over the town through nefarious means.
Personally, I really liked how the story begins and how it fleshes out Babyface’s past, his connection to the events of the game, and his relationship with his talking drone. However, as the story progresses, it merges with sci-fi and even horror elements thrown into the mix. So clearly, not a story grounded in reality. It’s overkill, but unfortunately it’s also very predictable. You’ll probably figure out the story halfway through the game.
Another minor gripe I have with Midnight Fight Express is the narration mechanic: the entirety of it is done through text dialogue without any voiceovers. While not entirely bad, some dialogue occurs in the middle of a stage, which kind of takes you out of the action and momentum you may have created. So instead of flowing like water, you might end up crashing in the next segment.
Finally, while I like it when developers throw in Easter eggs, parodies, and references to other popular games, movies, and memes, it can be awkward at times.
In the case of Midnight Fight Express, they are random. I laughed when I saw references to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Hotline Miami, Netflix’s Daredevil, The Warriors and Fight Club. I also growled at some meme references while others just flew past my head.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee
So while Midnight Fight Express’s story is a bit sloppy, what it really excels at are the combat mechanics. If you’re a fan of movies that use mixed martial arts instead of traditional kung fu like Donnie Yen’s Flashpoint, SPL: Sha Po Lang (Kill Zone), Iko Uwais’ The Raid 1 and 2 or any Scott Adkins movies, then Midnight Fight Express will hit the spot for you.
Movements made by Babyface and enemies are motion captured so they look smooth and realistic. The punches and kicks are heavy and, combined with the crisp sound effects, really sell the brutality and pain delivered with every punch you land. Obviously, a lot of love has gone into motion capture, because not only do you have melee combat moves, but also close combat with melee weapons. Also, nothing looks revamped and each style and weapon used is distinct.
Unlike classic beat ’em ups where you can just press a button to go through a stage, Midnight Fight Express uses a system similar to the Batman Arkham series and the recently released Sifu. Much like actual combat, it’s all about timing and precision. Knowing when to strike and what moves to use will allow you to come out of a battle unscathed. It’s not enough to mash the attack button. And just like the aforementioned games, you also need to have good reflexes because the window of counters and parries scrolls in a fraction of a second.
This is also extremely important as you are graded after each step. Your total score is derived from the variety of moves you use, how long you take to complete a stage, how many challenges you complete, and whether or not you’re dead. The higher the score and rank, the more money you get to unlock new cosmetics.
One of the things I love about Midnight Fight Express leveling and progression is that you’ll have to go through all 40 stages to unlock all the skills. It’s pretty well done as it kind of shows how Babyface slowly picks up the fight and remembers the moves he had in his arsenal.
After completing each stage at least once, you will then unlock challenges to complete. These range from simple things like killing X number of enemies with counters or going through a stage without using guns, to more complicated things like finding a certain item and taking it with you until at the end of the stage or have enemies killed by friends. Fire.
For achievement hunters and runners-up, it’s a good idea to come back to these challenges later as some will require you to unlock specific skills. Additionally, completing these challenges will only unlock new cosmetics and gameplay modifiers or cheats, so you don’t miss out on the core gameplay experiences. Since we’re talking about cosmetics, you can customize Babyface’s appearance to be badass or as clumsy as you want, as cosmetics don’t add to stats or provide gameplay benefits.
Flurry of sweet finishing touches
To conclude, I must mention that Midnight Fight Express follows a very linear path. You are dropped in a stage and must make it to the end, where you face either a boss or a very difficult fight. You can complete most steps in less than 10 minutes (or 5 minutes if you ‘git gud’). Although you have challenges to complete, there are no branching paths or side missions to complete.
The monotony is broken up occasionally with stages that don’t require you to engage in melee combat. There are a few vehicle chase sequences where you have to chase an enemy or outrun enemies.
There is also a tribute to horde mode where you have to survive by killing enemies with guns. While it’s nice to have these setups, I found the vehicle chase sequences to be very difficult and frustrating, which points to another small issue – uneven difficulty. Some bosses also use incredibly cheap tactics, so it can get pretty nasty. Luckily, the checkpoint system usually causes you to respawn right before a boss fight.
To further spice up the excitement from level to level, stages take place in a wide variety of intricately designed environments, such as neon-filled nightclubs, seedy alleyways, dank sewers and abandoned subways, etc. Most of these stages are also filled with environmental objects such as garbage cans, propane tanks, tables, etc. which you can use to your advantage during fights by hitting them or throwing them at enemies. Be warned that enemies can also use them against you.
To tie it all together in a neat package, there’s of course the bass-heavy electro soundtrack that’s sure to get your adrenaline pumping. I found many that are very reminiscent and similar to the Cyberpunk 2077 and John Wick soundtrack. It just makes you want to take part in brutal fights, kicks and smashed heads.
Midnight Fight Express is just a really well done beat ’em up that I highly recommend to fans of martial arts and action movies. Moreover, after each stage, you can even create a GIF of your most impressive fight sequence and share it with your friends.
- Banger from a soundtrack
- Packed with pop culture references
- Addictive fight and combat mechanics
- Stages can be completed very quickly
- High replay value
- Forgettable and predictable history
- Some very frustrating levels
- Plot dialogues break up the flow of action
This article was first published in Potions.sg.