Midnight Fight Express is a new isometric punch-up simulator, where one man takes on an army of enemies in this modern take on the beat ’em up genre. The game is also packed with pop culture references including Fight Club, plus the game doesn’t take itself too seriously, meaning you’re going to be in for a fun time in this all-action indie brawler.
The game is all action, and impressive work given its only one person working on it. Jacob Dzwinel is the creator, although he’s helped by stuntmen Eric Jacobus (God of War) and Fernando Jay Huerto (Destiny 2) to help bring the game to life. We’ve had a few side-scrolling beat ’em ups this year with plenty of Turtles releases with the recent Coabnunga Collection, plus Shredder’s revenge, plus we also had Sifu, the tough Kung Fu game.
Midnight Fight Express show plenty of influence from fighting games, and single-player story games, with multiple enemies surrounding you and trying to overwhelm you. You have combinations and counter-attacks in your arsenal, and there’s weight behind each attack which helps Midnight Fight Express feel very good in the midst of the action. If you get bored of fighting with your fists then you can always whip out your gun, which acts as a major deterrent in the game given how deadly they are compared to fists.
As you play you’ll open up more abilities and moves, unlocking new nodes on your skill tree. While this is a feature that isn’t new, it’s nice to see it here in a fighting game setting, and it helps set the game apart from others. Different attacks start to emerge as combos from your basic attacks like uppercuts, sweeps and ground pounds. As you progress through the ranks you’ll get access to other tools like a rope, which allow you to drag them by their feet or whip around the enemies to knock over their mates. Guns can be modified too to include electrified bullets, which take care of enemies very quickly.
Finishing moves quickly open up too, so when you grab an enemy you can throw them into a wall, or kill them with a flurry of punches. Finishers often act as an exclamation point to a combo. The game portrays a good variety in attacks including Muay Thai, Taekwondo and wrestling, with the creators sparing no expense when it comes to the motion capture and that plays out well in-game. The motion capture has had care and attention as it’s not only two players facing each other getting the complex animations, side attacks, from behind, standing up against a wall, or standing in particular environments like a kitchen or a bathroom, the motion capture caters for multiple variations, and it comes together well in the gameplay for Midnight Fight Express.
As well to the fighting moves, styles and techniques, there are lots of weapons to play with too. Knives, guns, Tire Irons and wrenches. You are incentivised to experiment with different equipment due to the points system, where you’ll accumulate points throughout the levels and then your performance is played back to you and graded at the end. This means using different moves, styles, and weapons and creatively using the environments mean more points and higher scores.
The scoring system adds more incentive for the player to go back into the game and play levels over and over for the high score. There are 41 levels in the game, but they are short and digestible, often only lasting for 5 minutes each. The different environments help, providing variety through nightclubs, high-rise buildings, underground tunnels, and even video game studios. There are vehicles to mix things up to including motorbikes and jetskis, although these sequences are few and far between. Much like beat em up games of the past, where you have the level moving you on, here you have contextual levels too like moving trains. You have to make your way through the tight level on a moving train with a chopper in the background trying to kill you with a mounted machine gun, it’s very cool.
While the action, fighting and motion capture are all very impressed with the game, unfortunately, it’s slightly lacking when it comes to the story element. The main protagonist doesn’t speak or have any dialogue. In fact, there’s no voice acting in the game at all, no doubt to keep the budget manageable, especially given the investment in stunts and motion capture. Dialogue is delivered through text lines and often the quality of the writing doesn’t stand up to the quality of the combat, which is a shame.
All-in-all, Midnight Fight Express is a great example of a modern-day beat ’em up brawler, with excellent fighting mechanics which ease the player in and ramps up the difficulty. Where Sifu started hard and only got harder when it first came out, Midnight Fight Express eases you in and offers up a more player-friendly fighting experience. It’s also available on Xbox Game Pass, so if you have that service then I’d recommend giving it a try.