I honestly was not expecting too much from Midnight Fight Express when I saw that it launched on the Steam platform. (The game is also available for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles.) Graphically, it kind of looked like a mobile game in a lot of ways, but I was intrigued at its claims of smooth, stylish melee combat. In watching some of the videos, it looked like something out of a John Wick movie, or maybe one of those chaotic fight scenes that John Woo is known for directing. And after picking up a controller and giving it a try, it’s clear that both of those were likely influences on Midnight Fight Express.
There is very little plot in this title. Basically, thugs have taken over the city, and it’s up to you to race across town fighting each and every one of them in a massive running battle. Take down the bosses, rescue the people, destroy every breakable object you come across, and save the city before sunrise to stop the thugs from claiming total control. You are assisted in this endeavor by a talking drone that flies along beside you and acts like your hype man, encouraging your use of extreme violence, and helpfully reminding you that you are a highly trained assassin who has had their memory wiped. The drone shocks you, and that somehow restores your memory. And once you start breaking bones, it all comes back to you.
I was most impressed with the smoothness of the combat, but you really need to play this one with a controller. Although it does support mouse and keyboard controls, it’s basically designed as a twin-stick shooter, so having those twin sticks is kind of important. Thankfully, the Steam platform supports controllers, so just plug any PlayStation or Xbox controller into your PC using the USB port, and you can play any games there that support controllers. Of course, if you are already playing the PlayStation or Xbox versions of Midnight Fight Express, then you already have the loadout you need to start cracking heads.
This game starts off fairly easy, and only tasks you with memorizing a handful of moves like a light and heavy attack. As you play through the first level, your drone will introduce you to advanced techniques like blocking, countering punches and dodging out of the way. The early thugs are quite helpful in allowing you practice on them. Your drone will talk about how some enemies need to have their heavy attacks blocked, and a bunch of thugs using that tactic will rush into the room. Eventually, you will learn how to use melee weapons like clubs, knives, and even pistols and other guns. The guns in the game have limited ammunition but are quite fun to use. And when you run out of bullets, you can throw them at someone for one final shot of ranged damage.
After you get through the tutorial, you will start to earn cash and experience points each time you complete a level. This experience can be spent to buy new skills and combat moves, which makes you more powerful, but does often require you to learn more button combos. The cash can be spent on cosmetic items to make your fighter look increasingly cool or outlandish, whatever your preference. Being able to play dress up with your fighter is a surprisingly fun additional activity.
The graphics in Midnight Fight Express are passable. You can tell what everything and everyone is, and it does a nice job with blood sprays and other grievous injuries as you fight. The soundtrack is where it really shines though. There are a series of adrenaline pumping songs in the game, and it helpfully tells you which one is being played. You can go back and listen to any previous song you have unlocked as you fight later if you take a particular liking to one. In general, this type of music is not one of my usual top choices when listening to music for music’s sake, but it’s awesome to listen to in this title while your character is performing a long-running dance of death, destruction and combat. If you just can’t get enough of the music through your gameplay, the Midnight Fight Express Soundtrack is available to purchase on Steam with 47 tracks offered in both MP3 and FLAC formats from the composer Noisecream. Also in the sound category, hearing the bad guys yell and holler as you thump them adds a surprising amount to the game’s fun level.
I honestly felt a little bit like John Wick while I was playing, especially as I learned increasingly advanced moves. While playing, I would have my character kick someone in the face, disarm them while ragdoll tossing them across the room, fire their pistol into a bunch of other bad guys until the clip ran dry, and then threw the pistol into the last enemy’s face, knocking them off balance and rushing in to finish them off with a flurry of blows. It’s extremely violent gameplay, almost comically so, but also extremely stylish.
There are quite a few hours of gameplay in Midnight Fight Express. If you are like me, you may lose track of time as you pounce through many levels of hapless bad guys in cutting your swath of destruction. There is a fair amount of replay-ability in the game too, especially given that you are scored on your progress based on things like the variety of kills you make and whether or not you pull off cool special moves, plus how long you take to push through all of your opponents. So, it’s almost always possible to go back and get a higher score and earn more cash. I found that I often only earned a B or a C grade the first time I went through a level but was later able to raise that in subsequent plays.
Midnight Fight Express is currently on sale on Steam for just $20, which is an amazing deal. If you are looking for a way to kind of turn off your brain and enjoy some smooth, stylish combat, then step up and take your swing, and see if you can do both Misters Wick and Woo proud.