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August 2022

Midnight Fight Express

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Humble Games
Developer: Jacob Dzwinel
Release Date: Aug. 23, 2022

About Chris Barnes

There's few things I'd sell my soul to the devil for. However, the ability to grow a solid moustache? I'd probably sign that contract ... maybe ... (definitely).


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Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Midnight Fight Express'

by Chris Barnes on June 24, 2022 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Fight your way across the city in a brutal romp that mixes old school brawlers and fast-paced motion-captured combat.

I never like writing previews for games that feel good to play. I can elaborate on the design mechanics and gameplay loops to get across the addictive nature of the title. I can go into exhaustive detail on the distinct art style. When something just feels right to play, there's a temptation to tell the reader to stop reading and just go play the game.

In many ways, that's how I feel about Midnight Fight Express — a new, isometric, beat-'em-up, action game by Jacob Dzwinel. The trailer unveiled at the Summer Games Fest captures the title's adrenaline-filled vibe. The game features bass-bumping music; short-lived, room-clearing fight scenes; and a tinge of humor interwoven with the otherwise dark brutality. Players will be quick to notice its inspiration from games like Hotline Miami or Ape Out. Midnight Fight Express boasts tight controls, smooth physics and animations, and engaging challenges to create a highly addictive action game that you'll want to play again and again.

You play as a sleeper agent who's awakened by a drone to take down the rebellious gangs that are on the verge of overthrowing the city. There's an obvious tongue-in-cheek tone to the writing that's backed up by goofy character models and their respective names. As a sleeper agent, your goal in the demo is to take on L'il Toney, one of the lower-ladder crime bosses. You work through three different levels that slowly layer on various gameplay mechanics. With both melee and gun combat at your disposal, there are plenty of ways to clear a room.

Doing so is no easy feat, though. With parrying mechanics, dodge-rolls, and interactive objects in the environment, the combat in Midnight Fight Express is in no way a button-masher. Some enemies are equipped with knives and can't be blocked, and others are tanky enough to block anything but a charged power attack.

The combat isn't slow, though. Rooms can be easily cleared out in a few seconds if you're observant enough to determine who to take out first and how. The depth to the combat is highlighted when picking up your first weapon. With limited ammunition and no reticle or laser to guide shots, it's critical that you make every shot count. Surveying a room and picking your shots carefully is such a satisfying moment in the game. There's nothing quite like entering a room, landing two quick shots on a knife-wielding enemy, throwing your empty weapon at another nearby foe, and then rolling over to the now-dropped knife to continue the carnage.

There's a smoothness to the controls and a weight to the physics that make for extremely gratifying combat. Enemy bodies rag doll around after a successful finishing blow. Guns feel punchy and lethal. Blood covers the walls and floors at the end of an encounter. All of this wraps up into a nice package of carnage that's a blast to play.

The demo that's currently available on Steam allows players to experience the first three levels of Midnight Fight Express. The first level starts off as a simple introduction to the core melee combat, whereas the second level incorporates guns and more ways to interact with the environment. The first two levels were enjoyable enough, but it was the third level that gave me hope for where the game is going. You must get through the train cars and take on enemies in tight quarters, so it's a non-stop, one-on-one conveyor belt of battle.

The thing that sets apart this level is the helicopter chasing down the train and shooting at you through windows. With the helicopter's reticle visible on-screen alongside a cooldown timer to indicate when it will unleash the next onslaught of bullets, there was an additional level of tactics that took the combat to the next level. I was conscious of the train's windows to avoid incoming fire, but I was also aware that enemies aboard the train were just as weak to minigun bullets as I was. All of this results in a game of musical chair combat to see who can gain footing in the protected areas before the music stops and the bullets start flying.

On that note, Midnight Fight Express' soundtrack perfectly matches the adrenaline that surges through every moment of the combat, and it's not afraid to flaunt it. At the start of each level, the name of the song appears in the lower corner of the screen as if you have a mixtape of bass tunes on this wild ride of violence. The music isn't anything groundbreaking. It's similar to the various edgy beat-'em-ups that have come before, but it fits the vibe of this game so well that I can't complain.

If I did have to nitpick something about the game, it would be the bonus challenges that are tied to each level. While the addition of side challenges to increase replayability is a welcome addition, some felt too out of reach. Part of that may be due to my low character level. The demo only lets you unlock the first couple of abilities from a long list of three different skill trees, so there's it's possible that higher-level skills make some of the challenges more doable. Despite this, I still run through these levels multiple times because I enjoyed the gameplay so much; even a failure in the side challenges resulted in a good time. In addition to the unlockable skills, there are also cosmetics that can be purchased with the cash you acquire during gameplay. While they don't change much about the gameplay, it's a nice bonus feature that fleshes out the title's longevity.

Midnight Fight Express may have a tough time standing out among the other beat-'em-ups, and it even has competition from similar rage-fueled, room-clearing games on the horizon. Hotline Miami is quite old and can be picked up at a bargain price these days. Sure, the graphics are prettier in Midnight Fight Express, but in that regard, it has to stand up to upcoming games like Anger Foot, which also has a similar vibe but with an additional level of graphical polish. Don't let that dissuade you from trying Midnight Fight Express. It may not have the originality of Hotline Miami or the backing of Devolver Digital to publish it, but it has the heart and soul of a one-man developer who punches way above his weight class.

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