Become a veritable John Wick in this action-packed beat em' up game.
A few weeks back, I published an article where I looked at a bunch of games that featured as demos in the summer Steam Next Fest. As part of that effort, I first came across Midnight Fight Express, which is an action beat em' up game that has a John Wick style aesthetic of one man versus an army. Needless to say, after around ten minutes of punching and kicking my way through wannabe gangsters and thugs, I was hooked. Unfortunately though, as this was a demo, my time with the game ended up being fleeting and fast. Jump to the present and Midnight Fight Express is almost here, and with that being the case, I've had unfettered access to the title and have spent a considerably larger amount of time getting into tussles with criminals.
Before I dive into the gameplay and mechanics, it's worth talking briefly about the storyline. Essentially, you play as a sleeper agent who is brought back, or rather re-awoken to their life of crime by a drone that brings the accompanying message that you have until sunrise to stop the criminal underworld from taking over the city you call home. From here, you set out on a journey to single-handedly prevent this move, and end up travelling all over the city limits, defeating countless mobsters and bosses along the way.
As I mentioned earlier, this game has a John Wick-vibe at its core, and what I mean by that is the gameplay asks you to use your advanced martial arts talents, skill with firearms, and ability to turn any object in the environment into a weapon to chew through the enemy types that stand between you and your objective - which is usually a gang boss. So, you have to use brawler-type moves to punch, kick, block, parry, throw, shoot, slice, grapple, and so on, to defeat the foes you meet and all without taking too much damage that you are eliminated yourself.
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Midnight Fight Express plays from an isometric camera angle, which means you get a good view of each level. The actual combat and movement is fluid and smooth, and it really does make you feel like the Baba Yaga, like a real badass. But it isn't without its flaws however, as the unmoving camera angle often means that certain walls and sections of the level are impossible to see behind, and you'll have to use a bit of intuition to survive in visually-obscured areas. Still, the flow of fighting works really. You can go from blocking and parrying an attack, to slide-kicking another foe, to throwing a propane canister at a group of attackers, before picking up a shotgun and dispatching whoever remains. It's a really enthralling system.
And while I have pretty much exclusively positive things to say about the combat, I'm less inclined to do so about the story, as aside from the occasional message from your drone companion, this is conveyed through level descriptions and meeting rare NPCs. It makes it difficult to follow the story in really any sense, and in fact turns Midnight Fight Express into a game where you feel like a mindless being that knows nothing but violence. It's stereotypically cool as far as action goes - but not at all impressive if you're looking for a more rounded experience.
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Which is a shame because there's some serious depth to the gameplay experience. Each level has challenges and scores to beat (which are determined by how quick you beat a level and in how unique of a manner you do so) and pretty much every level (of which there are 40) adds new enemy types. Granted the enemies aren't vastly different, but one level might introduce corrupt cops, whereas another will add a different gang to have to tackle. It makes for a good variety. And while I don't believe the customisation suite is particularly necessary at all, having the option to change the appearance of your character (be it skin tone, clothing, tattoos, and so on) is a welcome touch, one that just betters the whole gameplay experience.
Generally speaking however, I found myself rather impressed by Midnight Fight Express. It's a not a perfect action game in any sense, but it does serve as a great example of how fun beat 'em up brawler type games can be, and that if done in a similar manner, that we could have a fast-paced John Wick game that makes players really feel like the Baba Yaga.
7 / 10
Combat and gameplay feels fluid and responsive. Plenty of variety in enemy types. The customisation suite is a nice touch.
Storyline feels lacking. Camera angle often leads to obscured vision.