Midnight Fight Express immediately caught my eye during its reveal. A beat ’em up featuring hard-hitting combat and an upbeat synth soundtrack always catches my attention. I partly blame Hotline Miami for my obsession with this combination. Once I played through the campaign, my option about the game changed.
Developed by Jacob Dzwinel who solo developed the title and published by Humble Games, Midnight Fight Express packs blockbuster combat along with fun gameplay, for the most part.
The City Burns in Midnight Fight Express
It is past midnight. Babyface, the protagonist, is quietly sitting inside a police interrogation room. Right across him, two police individuals demand and question him about what transpired in the past couple of days.
The scene quickly shifts to Babyface working out in his apartment, with the television blaring out reports of riots by the criminal organization of the city. Immediately, our hero gets approached by an AI drone, who instructs him to help the citizens before sunrise. And thus, Midnight Fight Express begins.
The story is pretty simple and follows a very blockbuster plot of a bad guy causing mayhem across the city and the Lonewolf hero with exceptional strength trying to save the day. There isn’t any voice acting to accompany any of the plot points. The entirety of the story’s told through speech bubbles. What makes up for missing voice lines is the synth-wave soundtrack, which gives the game the speed and identity necessary.
The levels are presented in a top-down isometric style, with the camera following the players to the point where it opens up for some head bashing. The stages are fairly linear, containing forty of them for players to go through and replay the unlocked ones at any given time. The levels are pretty varied in terms of playthrough and show the journey of Babyface through the city.
Skull Bashing and Excessive Dodging
Of course, the levels are only fun to play if the gameplay is fun. Fortunately, Midnight Fight Express features a great beat-’em-up experience for the most part.
The combat follows the Batman Arkham and Sleeping Dogs formula, where one mashes a button in a set pattern and occasionally parries incoming attacks. Of course, there are environmental objects and weapons to beat the enemies with, along with grabs and finishers. When all of these come together in sync, it creates a beautiful symphony of head bashing.
Enemy variety also keeps changing once the levels progress, increasingly getting difficult to deal with. Some will carry weapons, which are usable once defeated, and others will be brutes with a high guard. These two were just a few of the many types of enemies one will encounter in the game.
Now, while the combat is satisfying to play, it is not without its flaws. The guns in this game feel horrible, be it on the keyboard or controller. There is no reticle to aim with, and most of the time I would empty them without proper usage. While the melee weapons are a blast, the guns are frustrating.
The big issue with the game, especially in the late stage, is the encounter with the enemy. There is no balance in them, and it has a habit of ruining the flow. Late-stage enemies force you to pretty much dodge because enemies, later on, make parrying and counters useless against them. What is the point of painfully handcrafting a moveset when a majority of it will be ineffective?
While the title takes the brilliant fluid gameplay inspirations from Batman Arkham and Sleeping Dogs, it forgot to finetune and balance things out. Rolling sounds fun, but only when I’m playing Dark Souls.
Create Your Unique Babyface
At the end of each level, players are awarded points for the way they perform, which gives them monies, and skill points and unlocks a piece of customization.
- The Upgrade screen allows players to unlock new movesets, finishers, counters and more. The upgrade screen is heavily modular, letting one choose their skill and create their unique style of play.
- The Appearance screen allows players to customize what Babyface wears. Starting from 150+ pieces of clothing to tattoos on seperate places of the body and even swapping the player character with specific skins. The customization is robust and vast once one starts mixing and matching it.
- Playground, which lets players test their movesets and skills on test dummies. It allows players to customize the conditions to use, weapons to handle and more.
- Finally, there is also an achievement and progression tracker for the completionists.
The hub also lets players replay the missions they have completed. Replaying missions are recommended as each finished level will have challenging missions. Completing them will unlock more pieces of clothing and perks for the user.
The developer certainly had fun ideas he wanted to try with the title, and it shows all over the game from the beginning. While the hub section outshines with its plethora of customization options and the fun and fluid gameplay is commendable, the game certainly has some minor and major issues, when ironed out, which may help in making this a perfect game.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my time with Midnight Fight Express, and I’ll recommend this game in a heartbeat. But there is some enemy balancing problem later in the game, which is worth pointing out. In the end, the journey of Babyface is a wild ride through the night, one which everyone should check.
A copy of Midnight Fight Express was provided by the publisher for coverage purposes.
Midnight Fight Express is a commendable attempt by a solo dev to create quite possibly one of the loudest and personality-drenched beat 'em ups this year. While the combat, customization and soundtrack make it a near-perfect game, the unbalanced enemy combat during the mid-late stage makes the title a frustration to make through.