Midnight Fight Express is an isometric beat ‘em up fighting game created by solo developer Jacob Dzwinel and published by Humble Games. Players will battle waves of enemies across multiple levels using various combat techniques that can be customized to your liking.
Players take on the role of Babyface, a former criminal who is tasked with destroying various gangs in an effort to prevent their takeover of the city come morning. Despite being a capable fighter, you are effectively Jason Bourne, as you also have no memory of your past. You are accompanied by a sentient drone that helps start you on your path of criminal destruction. However, after completing several levels it becomes clear that there is more to your story than the mysterious drone initially led on.
In Midnight Fight Express, players will battle waves of criminals across over 41 replayable levels. Pulse-pounding electronic beats from artist Noisecream set the stage for each level and the title of each track is listed in the bottom corner. Upon completing a level, you are given a score that can be improved upon in future runs. You will also unlock skins for the specific enemies you encountered as well as the music track for the level.
Catch These Hands
At the core of Midnight Fight Express is its fast-paced melee combat. Completing levels grants skill points that can be spent to unlock a variety of combat upgrades, including new fighting maneuvers and finishers as well as new ways to parry, counter, and grapple enemies. Your secondary gun can be upgraded with different types of bullets that cast special effects on enemies. Electrified Bullets, for example, will briefly stun enemies, giving you a window to get in a quick punch. Further along the skill tree are the Hypnotize Bullets, which cause enemies to temporarily become allies and begin fighting alongside you. Skills and upgrades can be assigned or unassigned once they have been unlocked, giving you the freedom to customize your combat build as needed.
Every punch felt smooth and responsive, which can be attributed to it being mo-cap animation done by an actual stunt artist. It was not until Act 2 that the combat really began to click. As you unlock more combat moves, new combos become available that allow Babyface to seamlessly maneuver between enemies. Among the various combat skills, my least utilized were the grapple maneuvers, as I found pulling off parries and finishers to be more effective.
Some missions stray from the beat ‘em up gameplay by introducing different obstacles to keep players on their toes. Examples include dodging trains in a busy train tunnel, avoiding the looming dot of a sniper laser, or weaving through traffic during a high-speed chase. Although most levels allow for a combination of hand-to-hand combat and ranged gunplay, there were a few levels that required guns-only gameplay that slowed down the pacing and felt out of place in a game primarily focused on melee fighting.
During combat, Babyface can pick up weapons dropped by enemies and use them until they break. This can range from melee weapons including knives and axes, to ranged weapons such as pistols and shotguns. Swapping between melee and ranged combat seemed to be the most effective method for completing most levels. You can also drop-kick items found in your surroundings, such as chairs or barrels, to knock down opponents from a distance.
Weapons aren’t limited to guns and knives, however. Nearly everything can be used as a weapon, from plungers and power tools to turkey legs and whole fish. What you have on hand will vary thematically between levels. One noteworthy mission consisted of a massive pillow fight where pillows and Nerf guns were the weapons of choice.
As you encounter different enemies and bosses, some will introduce new gameplay challenges for Babyface to overcome. Ratboys can spew toxic waste and create volatile puddles on the ground that you must avoid, for example. Despite having a slew of different enemy types, many enemies exhibited similar fighting behaviors that made them somewhat difficult to distinguish at times during combat.
You Are Who You Beat
Replaying levels and completing level-specific challenges will unlock new perks, music, and cosmetic items. Once unlocked, most items will need to be purchased using the cash you earn on each completed run before you can equip them. Although cash is relatively easy to accumulate, having to buy gear after having just unlocked it felt like an unnecessary extra step.
Cosmetics include new clothing items as well as enemy skins that allow you to change your appearance to one of the outlandish opponents you have encountered. Character skins and gear can range from simple to silly, giving plenty of options for bashing bad guys in style. Evil clowns, pirates, and overworked game developers are among the many skins available to unlock. Cosmetic items are just that–cosmetic. They don’t provide any gameplay benefit other than looking cool, and many of the outfits and clothing items are average at best. Rather than spending the time or cash on new clothes, I opted instead to simply don the sloth mask for most of my playthrough.
Come Out and Play
Players can further hone their fighting skills in the Playground, a designated practice area that can be customized to your preferences. Enemy AI can be modified to have various attack settings in the Playground for those looking to practice specific moves and counters. You can also apply the various cosmetic items, perks, and soundtrack music that you have unlocked from completing levels. While the added customization features are appreciated, I didn’t end up using them much in Playground mode.
Wit and whimsy are rife throughout Midnight Fight Express. Dialogue is written with a satirical humor that elicited a few chuckles out of me while playing. The game pokes fun at common themes in action films while simultaneously honoring and embracing the genre. It is littered with video game and pop culture references, along with hidden NPCs with unique dialogue to discover. The consistently comedic tone helps bring levity and balance to some of the darker narrative themes. Although I did not expect a strong story going into the game, its narrative did maintain my interest throughout and I genuinely wanted to see how Babyface’s backstory would unfold.
Midnight Fight Express offers players the tools to recreate their own John Wick-inspired action scenes while sporting the skins of their enemies. The replayability factor is there for players wanting to achieve S-rank or complete all level challenges. Despite its fluid and engaging combat, it is not likely that I will return to the streets for more.
This review is based on a PC copy of the game provided by the publisher. Midnight Fight Express is available now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PC.
Midnight Fight Express
- Fluid melee combat
- Pulse-pounding soundtrack
- Funny dialogue and overall zany humor
- Replayability for achievement hunters
- Practice area with lots of customization options
- Gunplay felt out of place at times
- Buying items after unlocking them seems unnecessary
- Little variation between some enemy types
Larryn Bell posted a new article, Midnight Fight Express review: Gotta brawl 'em all