Midnight Fight Express Review – Keanu Reeves Simulator
Title: Midnight Fight Express
Developer: Jacob Dzwinel
Release Date: 08/23/22
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Humble Games
Many video games have tried to give players the feeling of playing through an action movie. Whether it’s the adventure approach found in Uncharted, the kung-fu stylings of Yakuza, or the choreographed ballet of Superhot, the goal of making you feel like you’re right in the middle of an explosive popcorn flick is one this medium pursues in many different ways. Midnight Fight Express, however, stays true to its name by going with the most direct approach imaginable.
You’re a guy who just woke up with no memories, with a drone telling you that there are people who want you dead, and many of them are close. You have a target, you have the instinct, and you have dozens of guys in your way.
Rather than taking the arcade beat-em-up approach, Midnight Fight Express takes combat cues from the Batman: Arkham games, seeing the player fluidly moving from one enemy to the next and snapping into position to deliver the next blow, block, or dodge. It takes these combat ideas and incentivizes the player to put them to work quickly, without stopping between fights. Keep pushing forward to keep your combo meter alive for the whole stage, and you’ll find yourself with a massive score at the end, particularly if you also didn’t die and used more than just your fists to punch your way through.
Each stage is brief, lasting between two to five minutes, and there’s even more incentive once you’re done to go back and try to improve. You’ve got target scores for everything, and the fleeting nature of Midnight Fight Express creates an engaging gameplay hook that will undoubtedly please those with the reflexes to go for A-ranks.
The narrative is a pretty standard action film plot – in the framing device, your character is being interrogated by law enforcement and is conspicuously missing their drone. Additionally, the agents foreshadow events from further along in the story. It’s not difficult to figure out what’s going to happen from just the details here, and indeed the plot isn’t much to write home about. It instead becomes something that mainly serves to interrupt gameplay occasionally.
Unfortunately, I ended up taking more issue with this the longer I played. Generally, I, as a critic, place a significant emphasis on writing and story. So, while Midnight Fight Express’s story isn’t inadequate by any means, the game is at its best when you’re smoothly flowing from fight to fight and racking up your combo. Alas, the frequency with which this is interrupted so you can see the short, expository conversations the enemies are having before you kill them is frustrating. It became an aspect I honestly wanted to skip to get myself back in the fight since the story and the score attack gameplay are melded together.
Though that isn’t to say that the fighting doesn’t eventually get a little tiring, either. The short bursts in which I’d recommend playing Midnight Fight Express aren’t the most conducive to a review period, so the experience is probably better if you’re able to pace yourself and only play a few levels in a day…but there’s also forty of these short levels. On the one hand, that still makes its playtime around five hours, not counting all the time spent shooting for better scores and seeking character customization items. On the other, that’s forty levels of mostly the same thing, and if you’re not really into that thing, it makes it wear out its welcome more quickly.
In a title with really only one gameplay mode, pacing can become a problem, primarily when the interim between stages entirely breaks the action. As someone not the most enthusiastic about this type of game, there were times when I found myself not wanting to start another level. Still, thinking about it now, I would say that if these levels were able to flow more seamlessly together – perhaps grouping up each miniature chunk of the story into longer levels and then splitting them up for the score attack stages – it would have held my attention for longer play sessions.
Midnight Fight Express is a title in which I can see a solid concept – make the player feel like John Wick. Plus, there’s focus and passion put towards that goal. It gives the player plenty of tools to take down their myriad enemies, including some entertaining uses of the stage elements. Of course, there’s a power fantasy element in any game where you can get your enemies hit by trains or crushed under shipping containers. Sadly, the stop-start nature of its stages brings the fantasy down a few notches, taking you out of the experience too frequently. That being said, for those that can hold onto it, it offers a fun thrill ride that keeps the tension going as you rush into the next fight.
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