Midnight Fight Express Review
A wild, fast-paced, and repetitive parody.
Midnight Fight Express was one of my most anticipated indie titles of this year. I learned about it after catching a trailer for it on YouTube, where I also found out that Eric Jacobus was heavily involved as a stunt man. I have been a fan of his work ever since I saw his fan-made Mario movie, which was a great introduction because he has consistently been doing really impressive stunt work since then. He was also the stunt man who did all of Kratos’ captures for God of War (2018).
When Jacobus’s involvement was revealed in the trailer, I got the impression that this game was going to be something of a love letter to the action genre. After playing it I can confirm that there are a lot of homages to action movies and tropes. Most work in the favor of the game, as most of the writing is self-aware of these cliches that have existed in action media for decades. Over-the-top villains and the sheer variety of enemy types aim to make the tone of this game familiar, but it doesn't always pay off.
Some writing gripes aside, Midnight Fight Express has a lot to love, particularly in the gameplay, animations, and humor.
All of the actions you see performed in this entire game are motion-captured by one man, which works in the gameplay’s favor. While all the character models are really low poly, the animation looks smooth and realistic giving this game a unique feel.
One flaw regarding the look of the game was the camera placement. I understand why the developer decided not to let the player control the camera, but it sometimes would detract from my enjoyment. When your view gets obstructed by walls and pillars, you can see an outline of yourself and your enemies, but that doesn't stop you from being at a disadvantage when it happens. It can also obstruct your view when you’re pulling off a finishing move against a wall, and instead of being able to see it clearly you get this vague outline of you and whomever's ass you’re kicking. I think these problems could've been solved by just letting players control vertical camera movement. That one gripe aside, the isometric camera angle does benefit the player by having a wide view of everything around you so you can soak everything in.
There is a photo mode that lets you look around horizontally so you can snap different angles of yourself which is a welcomed feature, but I never found much use for it.
The plot is unapologetically simple and predictable, thanks to a lot of repetition on individual levels. I started noticing patterns of how levels typically played out. You enter a room, the ‘boss’ sees you and remarks on your appearance, and then leaves a bunch of goons to fight you as they run away. Go through a couple more corridors and fight more baddies until you get to the boss fight. Rinse repeat. This wasn't the case for all 40 levels but it was worth noting.
To be fair, it is really easy to skip most of the story beats so it's not that big of a deal during the parts of this game I appreciated - like the humor.
While a lot of the humor is found through how enemies talk to you and your little drone companion, I found a lot more substance in the overabundance of enemy types and levels that follow one gimmick - like the one where everyone was dressed up in onesies and were having a pillow fight.
The combat did not disappoint. The tutorial gave me the impression that the combat was going to be very stripped down and basic, but after the 2nd or 3rd level, I started unlocking skills and abilities that added new levels of enjoyment and replayability.
Fighting reminded me of Sifu from earlier this year, which I also reviewed and gave a 9.5/10. A lot of attacks are very similar since both games take bits and pieces of fighting styles. While I still prefer Sifu’s combat over Fight Express, there are still a lot of mechanics to chew on that are exclusive to this game.
For one, you can actually use guns in this game. You can’t reload them - you can only pick up other guns with ammo which benefits the combat, making it more dynamic so you can't just use a gun the entire level. Enemies can pick up guns that are dropped, you can throw them after you run out of ammo, landing your shots feels rewarding, and it incentivizes more aggressive combat.
Guns are far from the only weapon you’ll use, however. There is also a wide variety of melee weapons, from knives, bats, plungers, shovels, guitars, construction equipment, pillows, etc. All of them essentially work the same way and fit the theme of the level or room you’re fighting in. As you unlock more skills, you can start pulling off more finishers with your melee weapons.
Some levels have more than one group fighting you, and sometimes two different enemy types will start fighting each other. This doesn't change combat in any big ways, but I was able to trick someone into throwing something at me so I could dodge and it’d hit the enemy behind me, so that was cool.
As levels progress, enemies become more aggressive, requiring you to move faster and use your entire arsenal of skills and abilities to take groups of enemies down. The harder it got the more I was motivated to get creative with how I approached fights. I think the combat overall is easily the best part about it, as there are plenty of valid ways to play how you want. However, the last boss fight, in particular, felt very spongey and only really let you hit them with one attack.
Midnight Fight Express has a lot to love that I think a lot of 3rd person action fans will also appreciate. While the story isn't the most compelling, there is still plenty of welcomed wittiness and self-aware satire to entertain you in between combat. Paired this with a library of lite customization, and it makes for a fun time that I would recommend trying out on Game Pass.
Midnight Fight Express is available now on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows.
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