Ever since seeing John Wick and its subsequent films in theaters, I've been on the search for a video game that scratches a similar itch. I'm talking about an extremely action-heavy, adrenaline-fueled hero taking down the enemy left and right in a surprisingly familiar and grounded setting. Underground societies, unassuming assassins lurking at every corner -- that's what I want to see. No game has truly scratched that itch for me, but I thought Midnight Fight Express could be the one. And certainly, Midnight Fight Express fits the bill on paper, wearing John Wick inspirations on its sleeve, but in the end, it failed to leave any meaningful and lasting impression on me.
In Midnight Fight Express, you take the role of a badass named Babyface, this figure that's feared throughout a city filled to the brim with lawlessness, corruption, and crime. You meet a mysterious drone that awakes you as a sleeper agent, unleashing your powers and leading you through a violence-fueled spree hellbent on revenge. Taking down the mastermind behind all of this crime is your task, and there are a lot of folks standing in your way.
Midnight Fight Express' is Fun, but it's a Mess
At the heart of Midnight Fight Express' gameplay is brutal hand-to-hand, isometric combat. Your main objective is to battle across 41 different levels, and there are dozens of enemies in any given situation. Thankfully, you're quite the capable individual, able to pull off some truly brutal moves to defeat opponents with relative ease. Your fists are just the tip of the iceberg as far as weapons go. It's not an exaggeration to say there are over 100 items to reuse as weapons. This is certainly similar to Dead Rising in that random everyday items found in the world can be used to fight against opponents. In this regard, Midnight Fight Express keeps players on the hunt for new weapons and there's a sense of excitement, not knowing what new tools might be available to you.
But, the excitement soon turns into a mindless beatdown. You'll face so many different enemy types (most of which are, honestly, mechanically indistinguishable from one another) and there are equally so many ways to take down such enemies. In addition to light and heavy attacks, Babyface can dodge or parry enemies and counter. Your prowess in martial arts expands as you gain new points that you can allocate in your skill tree. These skills give new ways to fight enemies, mostly consisting of light fighting game combos like flicking the joystick a certain way while pressing a button prompt. Therein lies the main problem with Midnight Fight Express: it's a bit too convoluted for its own good.
You're given a rather large amount of information to begin with in Midnight Fight Express, which throws players into the deep end with a rather shoddy tutorial. I tried to remember the basic principles of combat and also learn new combos as I unlocked them, but Midnight Fight Express' controls didn't feel responsive enough. I'd try to pull off combos and even practice them in a training area within the game's menus, but replicating these combos was difficult. The gameplay for Midnight Fight Express is extremely fast-paced, with handfuls of enemies thrown at you at once, so you're better off going ham with your fists or a weapon than trying to pull off complicated counters and other moves.
There's really no easy way to fix the controls, but they left me just shy of satisfied. Sure, the hits from your moves are beefy and the impact of weapons is certainly substantial, but I feel like I only used a fraction of the abilities I unlocked, because it was much easier to rely on button-mashing than it was to input these moves. Later in Midnight Fight Express, I unlocked the ability to shoot rope and drag enemies closer, or take weapons out of their hands from far away. Again, it didn't feel super responsive when I tried this nor did I find it was more useful than getting in close and using a melee weapon.
Melee weapons are certainly the most abundant items in Midnight Fight Express, but I found guns to be my preference. You're not always going to find guns to pick up and use, but it was when I finally had a firearm in Babyface's hands that I felt like John Wick. The feedback from the guns and the power behind them were satisfying, but impactful as they are, it would be overpowered to have them readily available at all times. Unfortunately, they're just not as abundant a weapon. I quite liked a side pistol you could use later in Midnight Fight Express, which cycles through bullets of various types -- one stuns, one binds enemies, and more -- but it had a cooldown so it's not a constantly used thing.
Midnight Fight Express' Narrative and Overall Presentation Ain't Up to Snuff
Of the 41 different levels in Midnight Fight Express, you'll duke it out in so many different locations. There are brawls in the subway, in bathrooms, on the dance floor, and much more. While it's entertaining to see new areas and weapons available at every turn, these levels feel disjointed, with a flimsy narrative connecting one level to the next. I don't necessarily have a problem with the levels themselves (if anything, they keep players guessing what comes next) so much as I do the story.
There are many times when Midnight Fight Express takes itself too seriously, but other instances where it is overly sarcastic or silly. It's like Midnight Fight Club doesn't know what it wants to be. Does it want to lampoon the action genre or tackle a serious narrative? The end result is a messy story that ends up being too ridiculous, too edgy, or both. In fact, the violence in Midnight Fight Club's narrative is gratuitous, with civilians and innocents getting tortured in absurd and distasteful ways.
The narrative is definitely the most disappointing aspect of Midnight Fight Express, and in the absence of a strong story I look for engaging gameplay or, at the bare minimum, reasonably pretty visuals. I found the graphics to be pretty uninspired. I'm not averse to the low-poly look, but close-up shots are rather ugly and the overall aesthetic rather bores me. I think the lighting could have been used quite well in Midnight Fight Express -- it takes place within a city at night, after all -- but the end result is mediocre.
Midnight Fight Express | Final Thoughts
I don't want the harsher criticisms of this review to outshine the finer points of Midnight Fight Express. There's a lot of good tacked-on features that elevate the experience. I quite enjoy how much replayability there is; each level has multiple different challenges to accomplish and unlock new skins for your drone buddy and the like. Speaking of skins, there's a ton of customization options for Babyface himself. You earn money after each level and that money is spent on sweet, sweet drip. Your outfits can range from the nefarious to the outright ridiculous, so if you want to beat people up wearing nothing but a paper bag on your head, go for it. While I have issues with Midnight Fight Express' controls, you can still practice combat in a surprisingly robust training room that can be tuned to the way you see fit.
There's definitely potential in Midnight Fight Express' gameplay, but most of it is bogged down either by the sloppy story or its unresponsive controls. Gripes aside, it's an admirable effort for such a small team -- from what I can tell, most of the work is done through a single solo developer. It's far more than most single developers can hope to achieve, yet Midnight Fight Express just didn't hit the mark for me. If anything, I look forward to what other games developer Jacob Dzwinel might come up with.
TechRaptor reviewed Midnight Fight Express on PC via Steam using a code provided by the publisher. It releases on August 23 and will also be available on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
- Many Different Weapons and Satisfying Gunplay
- Many Features Add Good Replayability
- Sloppy and Unresponsive Controls
- Story is a bit of a Mess
- Uninspired, Bland Graphics