The review of Midnight Fight Express, a fighting game full of senseless massacres and bizarre enemies, but not particularly successful.
Babyface is a former criminal who decides to clean up the city he lives in from crime, pushed by a strange sentient drone. At the beginning of the adventure we find him tied to a chair while being questioned by the police, who are apparently trying to understand his motives, before condemning him to death. The whole game is therefore a back story of something that has already happened and that, as we will see in Midnight Fight Express reviewinvolves a large number of corpses left along the way.
Developed by independent Polish developer Jacob Dzwinel alone, Midnight Fight Express is a top-down scrolling brawler featuring a combat system definitely technical. We are not from the parts of Sifu, but not even from those of a Final Fight. Let’s say it’s the classic system designed to give the player the opportunity to grow and experiment with new combos as they are unlocked. The moves available to Babyface are many: he can punch and kick, he can grab enemies, he can sprint, he can use a firearm with different types of projectile and he can throw a grappling hook to pull an opponent too far away. In reality, at the beginning, you do not have all the moves and all the tools available, which must be unlocked level after level by spending the points that are obtained at the end of each stage.
However, in addition to his abilities, our solitary executioner can also exploit them in combat weapons collected from the corpses of enemies, by hand to hand or by fire, various objects to be thrown around the scenarios, be they explosive barrels, bottles, boxes, chairs and so on (there is a special button that is used to view all collectible items) and the walls themselves, handy for smashing heads.
All this translates into a constant search for the most effective and choreographic massacre possible, in which the opponents are faced trying to exploit the available moves to do more and more harm, first in a rather clumsy way, then in an increasingly fluid and dynamic way. In short, we are faced with a conception sandbox experience for which you can exploit the tools given as you wish, also developing personal action strategies.
Unfortunately the Midnight Fight Express combat system has not only lights, but also different shadows. When it works, it allows you to create engaging situations and exciting game moments, but in some cases it proves to be a bit too slippery, i.e. it does not always manage to follow the player’s actions, thus creating unpleasant situations, in which you don’t understand well. what is happening on the screen, also aided by feedback of the shots often not exactly flawless.
Maps and enemies
The maps in themselves they are decidedly linear and simply require you to follow the predetermined path. There is nothing to explore and nothing to look for in the levels. We advance quickly, we arrive in front of the opponents on duty, obviously to be massacred without regard, then we start again. Repeat until the end of the level. Three levels take place aboard vehicles (a boat, a motorcycle and a truck) and introduce some fairly sketchy classic shooter mechanics, but fortunately they don’t last long and only serve to create a bit of variety, even if they could have been made a little better.
THE enemies of them are many and range from the classic gang of drug dealers, to special police squads, through ferocious nightclubs, a completely female band, religious fanatics, the Russians and all the fauna that underground culture has accustomed us to. As we will see later, unfortunately a lot of variety does not coincide with the same quality. In addition to normal enemies, from time to time it will be necessary to fight against bosses, the classic strongest and most resistant beasts, who enjoy special attack and defense patterns. In theory they should represent the pinnacle of difficulty for each section of the game, but in practice they offer a variable and unpredictable level of challenge. After all, the management of the difficulty is one of the most evident problems of the game.
Let’s explain: in some situations, Midnight Fight Express has peaks of difficulty remarkable, which then fall immediately, so much so that it is not clear if they are wanted or if they are simply the result of uninspired design. These are moments in which the game becomes very difficult, even against generic enemies, and then returns to its traditional tracks. For example, one of these spikes is recorded in the first levels, when you face mutant humans in the sewers (which then disappear for the entire game), another is when you are chased by a lawnmower, another when you fight against motorcyclists who, despite appearances, are much more dangerous than SWAT. One section in particular, in which we had to face zombies, made us particularly nervous, either because it was totally free, or because the fight was not particularly interesting, since the game mechanics are not designed for that type of gameplay (yes suffers a lot, in fact) and suddenly we were asked to use only firearms to keep creatures at a distance.
Too bad that the latter have limited ammunition. Considering also that it is a unique moment in the game (the zombies are only in that level), it is not clear why it was inserted. The idea is that we tried to artificially create variety, even by making controversial and absurd choices from a narrative point of view.
Strange modulation of the difficulty aside, which is also forgivable if desired, one of the problems major of Midnight Fight Express is being a little out of focus, in the sense that the developer has tried to put into it everything that he thought interesting and that could surprise, but creating an often tasteless mixture. If some quotes or situations even make you smile and appear tasty, like those of Hotline Miami or Portal, or the moment you infiltrate a triple A development studio victim of crunch, where you are celebrating the launch of a game by warring with pillows, the excessive number of enemy gangs is a bit confusing, as well as the fact that many enemies appear different from each other only in appearance, i.e. they always follow the same attack patterns and are equipped with similar abilities to others their colleagues already met.
As the game progresses they become more resilient and hurt more, but that’s all. It must be said that in this way it is not even possible to deepen the themes and aesthetics that the bands bring with them, given that after a few minutes of meeting them we have already moved on to something else and we also forget what role they have in history (often they don’t even have it).
Thus, for example, we find ourselves fighting with criminals dressed as priests whose implications in the general picture are very weak. There is a church full of banknotes, which if you like is a very mild criticism of the ecclesiastical system, but you don’t have time to look around that you have already gone to fight against someone else. It almost seems to be in front of a fashion show, in which the same actors wear different clothes which, on balance, do not determine much of the general sense of the game. From this shapeless mixture even the story comes out weakened, also because there are no characters who are deepened.
The plot itself is quite bland. At first, the mystery behind Babyface’s motives can be intriguing, but revelation after revelation it becomes clear that you are faced with a rather childish tale and at times very weak, carried on by the dialogues between the protagonist, his drone and the other characters. Of course, the umpteenth criminal astonished by the return of Babyface begins to turn up their noses, as well as twist them in front of certain twists, which trivialize everything a bit.
To end the forty missions of Midnight Fight Express took about five hours. Once finished, it is possible to replay the individual missions to unlock specific objectives, such as collecting a certain number of gold teeth, obtainable by hitting enemies in the mouth, or getting to the end in a given time. This is certainly the best way to put all the skills learned to good use and to enjoy the gameplay without dialogue or cutscenes. Finishing missions yields money and unlocks new items that can be purchased in the shop. In short, it is the classic mode for completists that takes away more hours than the basic campaign and that allows you to really master the combat system.
From the point of view of graphics, Jacob Dzwinel’s title fares quite well. Characters and scenarios are not particularly detailed, but the choice of framing the action from above and the good animations compensate and make some clashes particularly beautiful from a choreographic point of view. Too bad for the aforementioned feedback from collisions that occasionally spoil the show. On the other hand, the accessory elements are poor, such as the intermission sequences and the dialogue scenes, which make their weight felt a little especially in the final part, considering how much the game cares about its narrative side. Finally, the soundtrack is excellent, with songs that perfectly accompany the action, galvanizing the player especially in the most excited moments.
- When the combat system works, it’s a show
- Forty levels with actually a lot of variety
- The soundtrack
- When the combat system fails, it creates a lot of frustration
- Insipid story and with sometimes ridiculous twists
- Some design choices create problems