Midnight Fight Express is a kick-ass mix of Jet Li, John Wick, and actually funny referential humor that makes you feel like one of the biggest Badasses of all time. Pulse-pounding synth music pushes you through levels at a furious pace as you destroy every enemy you encounter. It’s released Day One into Xbox Game Pass and I’m going to break down why this one is absolutely worth your time.
Kick Punch It’s All In Your (Empty) Mind
The game starts off with your character handcuffed in a police station with no memory of who you are and what is going on. Through a series of forty 5–10-minute missions, you will punch, kick, stab, shoot, and explode hundreds, hell thousands of enemies. The city is falling apart and throughout an engaging story, you’ll discover just what your role in all of it has been. Everyone seems to know you, but you don’t know any of them. A drone with the brilliant name of “Droney” talks you through each environment, which range from apartment buildings to oil rigs, and even high-speed chases on a motorcycle. There is no voice acting of any type, but the writing and its English translation are superb.
Jacob Dzwinel led a very small team and has created something really damned cool. The motion capture work from the team at SuperAlloy Interactive sells the brutal hand-to-hand combat in a way that big-budget titles have struggled with at times. Controls feel standard for the most part. X is your main attack, and it can be held down for power moves. Y is your parry button and A is your very important dodge. B becomes both a grapple when tapped and rope gun when held down though that is not available at first. Left bumper is eventually your “secondary weapon” which you can learn about early on through the game’s upgrade tree. It’s a gun on a cooldown that can have multiple ammo types that replenish after a short amount of time. Holding down A is your run, left trigger puts you into focus mode which lets you see enemy’s health meters and any items around you that you can pick up. To pick up items you use the rb, and to throw or shoot them you use the right trigger in conjunction with the right stick.
There’s more but the game does a great job of slowly introducing you to each new mechanic early on though a few didn’t show up until the back half of the game. Combat itself feels fantastic after a few upgrades with the animations tied to your parry and finisher abilities being particularly nasty. There is a mix of melee and ranged that keeps things feeling fresh. Enemies will introduce bats, cudgels, knives, and a lot of different guns into the mix and all are temporary. Melee weapons break rather quickly, and guns have very limited ammo. The name of this game is variety, and at the end of each level, you’ll be scored with a big part of it being about how many different ways you took out your foes.
Brahs, Bros, Ninjas, and Priests? They All Get Punched
There is a lot of variety in enemy looks, though not a ton in their behavior. It generally breaks down into fodder that can’t block and goes down quickly, then a step up who knows how to block but not dodge, elites who have learned how to roll around to avoid you, and the top who can do everything you can. I appreciate just how many different skins it all has though, and each time a bulkiness to the fighter indicates how tough or easy they will be to take down. There are some enemies later on that can take you down with a single unavoidable move which was a drag for the 10 or so minutes the level took me. Outside of that area, things felt well balanced on the default difficulty. Another area the game shines is in those options. There are a few presets on hand, but you can also customize your experience and change things such as your character’s health, enemy aggression, how long you can use focus, and more.
I reviewed the game on PC, and it had a small number of options that I maxed out and ended up averaging roughly 240 fps the entire time. I won’t have console code until closer to launch, but I can’t imagine either the Series X or S will struggle with this one. That is in large part due to the fact that while I love the aesthetic of the game most of the character models look like a mobile game once you get up close. There is a photo mode which is cool, but it does showcase how low detail everything is when things are zoomed in. Still even with an obvious limitation to the technical and art budget on things I think the game looks fantastic. The animation work which I mentioned earlier carries a satisfying color palette and smartly chosen ¾ perspective camera. The action will zoom in during finishers or counters and it just looks awesome. More than any other game this one made me feel like the biggest badass action movie star of all time. I was… Jet Wick and tapping the left bumper to execute someone with my silenced pistol then immediately throwing the used-up hunk of metal into another person’s head and following THAT up with a quick counter as I kicked a person’s head clean off never got old.
The gameplay loop is incredibly addicting, and you can go back to any of the short missions at any time with all of your upgrades, push the difficulty higher, skip all the dialogue and try and get as high a score as possible on the leaderboard. Much like the recent Neon White, I could see this game having legs with friend groups who push each other every night across Xbox Live to have the best score on a certain level. The game being available in Game Pass means if you and your friends have the service you all get to try it for no extra fee, and a game that pushes the leaderboard so much like this one is brilliant in that scenario.
Another One of Them Block Rockin Beats
Another high point for the game is the music, which is non-stop adrenaline fuel. Even with missions being only 3 or 4 minutes sometimes my focus was as high as can be in large part due to the frenetic pace of the music. I wanted to be the deadliest maniac on the planet and the soundscape in the title added a ton to that feeling. The artist Noisecream’s work on the OST is something I’ll be listening to for a long time as I work my way up the leaderboards in each stage.
The game has a basic progression system where after each stage you gain one ability point. Certain abilities are gated by the number of levels you have completed but by the end, you’ll have unlocked them all. Cosmetics are tied to cash which you earn in-mission at a rather generous rate, and you can customize your psychopath through a very large variety of both skins and slotted items. The Playground lets you test things out at your leisure and can be accessed anytime you’re in-between missions, and you can even set whatever song you’ve unlocked in there to listen to as well.
I did run into a few bugs in my review build of the game. Multiple times the game’s waypoint system failed to initiate the next area. Thankfully the levels are quite short, so I never lost more than a minute or two of progress, but I hope it’s fixed for launch. Otherwise, the game was stable on PC with no crashes. A cool feature that PC had and I’m not sure that console will is an auto-generated .gif file at the end of each stage that you can save with the press of a button.
Midnight Fight Express kicks serious ass. It is short, sweet, and packs one hell of a punch. The combat never gets old, and with it coming to Game Pass at launch I highly recommend it to anyone that loves action movies.
|Reviewed on||Windows PC|
|Available on||Xbox One/Series X|S, Playstation 4&5, Switch, PC|
|Release Date||August 23rd, 2022|
|Rated||M For Mature|