by August 30, 2022 @ 5:00 pm
Reviewed on Xbox Series X/S
We’ve seen a lot of really cool modern beat ‘em ups lately. Games like Streets of Rage 4, The TakeOver, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge have been awesome throwbacks that are both retro-styled yet refined to modern standards. That’s why a game like Midnight Fight Express comes as a nice surprise. It’s an arcade-like brawler presented in an isometric camera view, and it takes some fun inspiration from action movies. It’s not perfect, and there’s a little too much emphasis on exposition, but it’s a fun ride for the most part.
Gangs, Betrayal, and a Talking Drone
Midnight Fight Express follows a silent protagonist who’s being pried by two detectives. The two cops — both hard-boiled but one sillier than the other — are slowly getting the main character’s story out of him, and that’s where you come in to play through the events that led to our hero (or perhaps villain?) being held in custody.
The game puts a heavy emphasis on its story and characters. There’s a lot of written dialogue, and it’s used to detail the events surrounding the main character, as well as each of the bosses you encounter along the way. The deeper you get, the more you learn about your character, as well as the talkative drone that follows him around throughout the entirety of Midnight Fight Express.
While the plot and characters are generally interesting, the exposition can be a bit much after a while. There’s a lot of text-based dialogue here, so if you’re just looking for a straightforward beat ‘em up, you might find the story bits distracting. You can skip through certain text boxes, but that’s not always the case. As such, it never feels like Midnight Fight Express is necessarily forcing its story on you, but it does seem like it’s demanding that you care about it.
Top-Down Beat ‘Em Up
The core action in Midnight Fight Express consists of brawling that combines strikes, grapples, melee weapons, and eventually firearms. You’re usually outnumbered by large groups of enemies both strong and weak, but you’ve got everything you need on you and around you to take all those fools out.
You’ll be able to punch and kick your way out of most situations, but it’s always a good idea to pick up a bat, bottle, or machete and clobber or slice your way through enemies. You can also perform grapple attacks, including some cool wrestling moves like German suplexes.
Every level you clear rewards you with an attribute point that you can use to increase your fighting repertoire. This means you can add new grapple attacks, environmental finishers, and counter attacks to your arsenal. It’s a cool, easy-to-grasp system that lets you add a bit of variety to your skill set over time.
In addition to the brawling stages, there are also a few vehicular levels. You’ll pilot a small boat or motorcycle, using guns to take down enemies. These levels are fine, but they’re not as fun as the standard stages and can get frustrating at times when you’re instantly killed by an explosive projectile.
Though there’s plenty of fun to be had with Midnight Fight Express, the story, which is decent, kind of gets in the way at times. Sure, you can skip some dialogue, but when you can’t, it creates an abrupt break in the flow of the action, which can be a problem if you’re in the zone and just really feeling the gameplay. Bosses, thugs, and especially your drone all talk way too much, and it happens pretty much every time you enter a new area in the same level, so it can get to be a bit of a slog.
Stylish Action in an Overall Good Package
The 40 stages in Midnight Fight Express will take you about five or six hours to clear. Beating a level unlocks different challenges for you to take on, too, so there’s plenty of stuff to do here. In addition, you can find hidden characters (that act as quasi-collectibles) in each stage, as well as unlock different outfits for your character. It’s all optional, but it’s there for those players who want more outside of the main campaign.
The graphics of Midnight Fight Express are a little simple in a cool, minimalistic sort of way. Nothing is overly detailed, but it all looks really dark, gritty, and stylish. The visuals work well and are used to create some interesting-looking, seedy locales that could’ve been ripped from an action movie.
I had fun playing Midnight Fight Express — for the most part, that is. Though the story is enjoyable, all of the dialogue and exposition interrupt the game’s flow too often. So if you’re just looking to bust some heads, the narrative here might feel like a bit much. Still, the gameplay mechanics are solid and the levels are genuinely entertaining to play through. If it focused more on its game-y aspects, Midnight Fight Express could be a really great game. As it is, it’s still good, if a bit on the chatty side.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
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