Gaming has always allowed players to live out adventures that would otherwise be impossible, and who wouldn’t want to be the one to save the day against all odds, and feel the satisfaction of triumph? Humble Games and solo developer Jacob Dzwinel are preparing to give players that very opportunity with Midnight Fight Express, a beat-em-up brawler about one man’s crusade against a citywide criminal takeover that simply oozes style, delivers stellar combat, and rewards mastery in the best of ways.
Players step into the shoes of one Babyface, a former member of the criminal underworld that gets drawn back in thanks to a mysterious AI drone, who appears somewhat familiar but yet foreign. And thus begin a 40-level long journey full of brutal and kinetic combat while unravelling the mysteries that await in the night.
There are certainly some surprising twists and turns as you progress in Midnight Fight Express, some more plausible than others, while every villain that stands in your way plays a part in the past of Babyface. While it may not be a literary masterpiece, the information that gets revealed each time serves to drive players further even more, putting together a larger picture of everything. No spoilers, but this is an enjoyable romp through and through.
The game’s approach using a mixture of flashbacks and present conversations also helps add an interesting twist to the storytelling, but in all essence, it is all held together by the visceral and gratifying combat that powers this particular game.
Think John Wick, but with everything ramped up several notches. Throughout the different levels of Midnight Fight Express, players will have to contend with an extensive roster of 79 different enemies, ranging from the run-of-the-mill cannon fodder to truly intimidating foes that require more tactical nous to bring down.
Thanks to the mo-cap animation championed by stunt performer Eric Jacobus, every punch, dodge, counter, and finisher in Midnight Fight Express is as stylish as it is impactful, bringing to life an almost ballet-like sequence of martial prowess that is reflective of the player’s skill, awareness, and timing.
Light and heavy attacks, combos, environmental weapons, all of these come together to open the options when dealing with your enemies, and what a wonderful arsenal this truly is. You can weaponise everything from everyday objects like knives to other less conventional weaponry such as moving boxes. Of course, there are also firearms and plenty of explosives to exploit, and players will be spoilt for choice when it comes to combat.
That’s not to say that you will be steamrolling over the gangs of criminals that are now calling the shots, but rather, Babyface’s proficiency allows him to even the playing field, especially when faced with overwhelming numbers and threats from all angles.
The enemies are adept at what they do, knowing when to block and counter, while brandishing weapons of their own. By figuring out the best manner in which to eliminate said opposition, while taking advantage of your surroundings is the ideal approach one should have in Midnight Fight Express. This is even more pertinent when facing one of the bosses that usually serve as a timely test of your abilities, combined with the henchmen that could easily prove fatal if you are not careful.
Thankfully, Babyface is all about self-improvement, and the sprawling upgrade tree in Midnight Fight Express allows players to tailor how they want to fight and get better at it. Developing your own signature style means becoming a more effective fighter, and it is always fun to be able to turn enemy strengths against them, as long as you have put in the hard work of clearing levels first and accruing enough points for unlocking skills.
If you need more training, there’s also the option of the Playground, where you can set up sessions for yourself against specific enemies and circumstances, and keep working to elevate your mastery of street retribution.
Although you could fly through the entire game (as we did initially) in about 4-5 hours, the real star attraction of this particular title is its almost infinite replayability. The level design is varied and keeps things fresh, requiring players to think on their feet and learn. One minute you are fighting goons in a bar; the next might see Babyface racing down the highway shooting vehicles instead.
Furthermore, each level contains several challenges that require players to do certain things, which in turn unlock rewards that could change up gameplay further with perks, liven things up further with enhancements like Big Head mode, or unlock more than 150 pieces of clothing for your customisation pleasure.
Midnight Fight Express can also be tweaked when it comes to enemy types, weapons, difficulty and more for each level, allowing players to go even harder on themselves or cut themselves some slack. No matter your preference, there’s simply plenty to do beyond completing the 40 levels and seeing the story to the end, especially for those who love chasing high scores. This game has all the tools it needs to keep a fervent community constantly one-upping each other for a long time.
All of the time spent in this crime-ridden city is also made better thanks to the amazing soundtrack put together by artist Noisecream, punctuating every near-death experience with intense beats and sequences that will feel right at home in the best clubs around the world.
If there’s one thing to change about the game, it would be the removal of firearms altogether. While it does provide a quick solution in the fights, the same applies from the other side of the table, and it can become frustrating being trapped in a shooting circle in some encounters. The aforementioned vehicle-based levels are also not the best representation of the standout features of Midnight Fight Express, and could have been replaced by more hard-hitting engagements with the colourful rogue gallery.
For an indie title, Midnight Fight Express does everything excellently and far exceeds any expectations that we might have going in, and that’s a great thing. As the initial surprise transitions to an ever-entertaining romp, it is clear that the passion and commitment of Dzwinel are what made it possible. And as Babyface is fighting to save the city from the clutches of the many malefactors around, it would indeed be a crime if you didn’t give Midnight Fight Express a go.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
A triumph for games everywhere developed by a single person, Midnight Fight Express is stylish to the max, propped up by excellent combat design that celebrates mastery but is still accessible for everyone to enjoy.
Gameplay - 9/10
Story - 7/10
Presentation - 9.5/10
Value - 10/10