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Midnight Fight Express Review

Violently express yourself

No time to waste, kick the door in, flip the table, grab a piping hot cup of coffee and read this immediately. Sorry, sorry, I don’t think my blood pressure has levelled out just yet. That’s the exact mood you’ll find yourself in while playing the solo-developed brawler Midnight Fight Express. Wearing its cinematic influences like Oldboy and John Wick on its battle-torn sleeve, it’s easy to draw comparisons between Midnight Fight Express and the heavy-hitters in the genre like Hotline Miami and Sifu, but can it stand toe-to-toe with them, or is it left battered and bruised?

I won’t mess around with you or bury the lead, this game kicks arse by way of legitimately kicking arse.

A mysterious drone is delivered to the amnesia-riddled player’s unit, explaining that they’re a sleeper agent with extraordinary skills that can be used to save the city that’s fallen into chaos. You’re told by the affectionately-named Droney that the carnage that’s tearing the city apart is all down to a shadowy figure known as The Boss, and that it’s high time that someone steps up to take them down – that someone is you. So, with that as your fuel, you kick down the door and get to work.

You get a GIF of your most awesome moment at the end of each level, alongside a disappointing score (might just be me)

As you’re accosted by some brutes upon your exit, you’ll be introduced to the basics of Midnight Fight Express’s brutal brawling. As it’s early doors you’ll start with a simple light attack, a parry, a counter punch and a savage finishing move to fell the ferals attacking you. Right out of the gate, even before you get to the flashy moves (which we’ll get to shortly), the combat looks and feels fantastic. Punches, kicks and everything in between have weight behind them, making the beatdowns you give out feel incredibly satisfying.

Upon completion of the opening level, you’ll immediately see how deep your arsenal will eventually become. At the end of each mission, you’ll be awarded a skill point used to unlock new abilities across the six different trees – Fighter, Parry and Counter, Finishers, Grapple, Rope and Secondary Gun. These abilities expand your moveset with devastating combos and techniques that allow you to mow through enemies with style and skill. From a quickfire flurry of punches and lethal suplexes to crowd-disturbing slides and long-distance leaps, the skills you gradually unlock turn you into a creative killing machine. Unwrapping a new move between every one of the 41 levels provides an excellent sense of progression, as your bag of tricks grows with your mastery of the game itself.

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Your fists and feet aren’t the only weapons you’ll use though, as pretty well everything in the environment can be used as a death-dealing tool of destruction. Chairs, crates, tables, pots, pans and just about everything else that isn’t nailed down can be picked up and thrown at your opponents to damage and stagger them. You’ll also get your mitts on knives, bats and an assortment of other close-quarters items that help put whatever’s in front of you down for a dirt nap. As the game rolls on, firearms are thrown into the fray, giving you even more ways to dispatch your would-be killers. The guns, whether they be pistols, rifles, sub-machine guns or something a little more…explosive…are suitably overpowered against squishy humans, but they’re only good for a clip, to keep the focus on the brawling.

Oh shit, this isn’t even my stop

The levels themselves act as a playground fit for violence. Each room you enter is filled floor to ceiling with well-placed projectiles or weapons that make you feel like a badarse. The layout of all but a few rooms manages to funnel the action into areas designed specifically for fighting, so as to not overcrowd you. The isometric view can occasionally make it hard to see what’s going on, but those moments were few and far between and even if you’re taken down for the count, the combination of excellent checkpoints and near-instant loading has you back in the action in no time.

As I briefly mentioned before, there are a total of 41 levels for you to brawl through, scattered across several visually distinct and interesting locations. From a burger joint filled with cops and crazed waitresses to a sewer crawling with mutated rat-men, you’ll never feel like you’re retreading the same ground. Even if you were, the levels are quick and snappy, with most breezing by in five or so minutes. The exceptionally fast-paced combat has you bucketing through levels, busting noses and breaking furniture, so you could easily lose yourself and hit credits within four or five hours, but with the inclusion of a scoring system that takes your time and skill into consideration, you’ll more than likely head back to previous missions with your expanded skillset just to set a higher score.

The enemies that you’ll encounter during your tirade through the city are just as varied as the rest of the game. Dozens of unique fighters will step up and be put down, including general thugs, pirates, police, gang members and even pillow-wielding game developers. Just as you become more powerful, so too do your enemies, with the difficulty being ratcheted up the further you progress. You have all of the tools at your disposal, but this game can be hard as nails, especially when you’re faced with a mixed bag of opponents that all have different attacks and patterns. Planning out a strategy before unleashing hell on an entire room of enemies feels amazing, even if it’s only possible on your fifth or sixth attempt. The only time I felt slightly overwhelmed in a negative sense was when the number of gun-toting foes outweighed the brawlers, as the telegraphing for ranged enemies isn’t as obvious as the others, but that did make it more satisfying to disarm them and then literally disarm them.

Number nine, a number nine large and a fist to the face

Scattered throughout the campaign are boss fights and, even more excitingly, action set pieces that break up the formula. The Boss’s lackeys are a tough challenge to take down, often thanks to the myriad of goons accompanying them, and they each come with some kind of gimmick to make them feel special. Additionally, you’ll occasionally be met with an action sequence like a car chase or a daring escape on a speedboat that mixes things up between cracking skulls. Mostly with a gun in hand, you’ll go speeding through an on-rails mission that throws everything but the kitchen sink at you. With over 40 levels to get through, these act as fun distractions that never outstay their welcome.

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Accompanying every level is a thumping, blood-pumping, banger of a music track that perfectly matches the intensity of the game’s violent combat. The electronic soundtrack by Noisecream is high tempo and bass-heavy and complements the action so well that I’d argue it wouldn’t feel the same without it. I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that the same artist put together tracks for Hotline Miami because that game was elevated by its soundtrack and so is Midnight Fight Express.

Sometimes you just need to abandon ship

While the story is just a vehicle that takes you from one bombastic scenario to the next, it’s entertaining and very tongue-in-cheek. Completely told through text, there are dozens of sly references and cheeky jabs at pop culture that gave me a laugh and the unfolding plot surrounding the player had me interested from start to finish, even if I was chomping at the bit to get back into the action at every break.

Final Thoughts

Seeing as though it bares more than a passing resemblance to Hotline Miami, which is one of my favourite action games ever, Midnight Fight Express had an uphill battle to impress me. Wasn’t I surprised when I hit credits, only to look back and wonder if I enjoyed it more than my beloved top-down indie hit. Exceptionally fun and satisfying to play, this brawler is also engaging in a way that few other games are, thanks largely to the ever-expanding content and brilliant sense of progression. The savage melee combat is flawlessly paired with a fist-pumping soundtrack and set within bite-sized levels that beg to be replayed. Midnight or otherwise, be sure not to sleep on this action brawler.

Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher

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Midnight Fight Express Review
Brawler Brilliance
With combat that’s as brutal as it is satisfying and a progression system that truly makes you feel like you’re mastering the craft of kicking arse, Midnight Fight Express is a brawler that surpasses most and challenges those at the top of the genre.
The Good
Brutal and satisfying combat
Excellent progression and awesome abilities
Great enemy and level variety
Level design that incentivises creativity
Cracker of a soundtrack
The Bad
Ranged enemies can be a pain in groups
The camera can occasionally get in the way
9
Bloody Ripper
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  • Jacob Dzwinel
  • Humble Games
  • PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / PC
  • August 23, 2022

Midnight Fight Express Review
Brawler Brilliance
With combat that’s as brutal as it is satisfying and a progression system that truly makes you feel like you’re mastering the craft of kicking arse, Midnight Fight Express is a brawler that surpasses most and challenges those at the top of the genre.
The Good
Brutal and satisfying combat
Excellent progression and awesome abilities
Great enemy and level variety
Level design that incentivises creativity
Cracker of a soundtrack
The Bad
Ranged enemies can be a pain in groups
The camera can occasionally get in the way
9
Bloody Ripper
Written By Adam Ryan

Adam's undying love for all things PlayStation can only be rivalled by his obsession with vacuuming. Whether it's a Dyson or a DualShock in hand you can guarantee he has a passion for it. PSN: TheVacuumVandal XBL: VacuumVandal Steam: TheVacuumVandal

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