We got the chance to meet with Humble Games during Gamescom last month, and our look at Midnight Fight Express was one of pleasant surprises of the show. We’ve since been able to play through the game, and continue to be impressed. Here’s our look at the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which is available on both consoles and PC.
Also present at our demo session was developer Jacob Dzwinel, who developed the game almost single-handedly with the help of a script writer and a motion capture expert. It’s an impressive project for such a small team, and clearly a passion project that’s loaded with personality. Jacob’s impressions are also clear, from classic arcade brawlers to modern ‘flowing’ fighters like the Arkham games and from cheesy action films (starring much of the cast of “The Expendables”) to the more brutal modern examples like John Wick.
What also stands out is that Midnight Fight Express is extremely accessible, making you feel like a genuine badass within 10 to 15 minutes of playing even though you’ll keep learning and adding to your skillset long after that. It’s not just about pummeling bad guys into submission though, there’s a plot here as well – one that was written by one of the writers behind Destiny 2. And if you like the kind of classic action movies and games that inspired Dzwinel, then you’ll love the subtle and not-so-subtle nods that have been included here.
We love the nostalgia that the story adds, though the delivery of the story could have been better. Much of it is told through the ramblings of a drone called Droney who follows you on your adventure, but rather than hearing the sarcasm of someone like GLaDOS you have to follow along with written text. No matter how fun the story is, this kept taking us out of the fast-flowing action for a brief moment every time it happened – Midnight Fight Express is excellent but would have been even better if the story flowed together with the action.
In a true classic action movie sense, you’re the lone protagonist looking to clean up the streets, which involves facing countless bad guys, a few bosses and diverse locations that nearly all come with opportunities for environmental kills and/or attacks. Each level is quite short, but with 45 of them it’s no issue that levels are over after a handful of minutes. In fact, a lot of the action is so intense and non-stop that each ‘mission complete’ screen is a welcome breather – this is a game where most levels feel like a killer fight scene that goes on for a few minutes, where you’re the choreographer and main actor all at once.
With leaderboards and secrets there’s a reason to go back as well, and unlocks make sure that you can go back and try your hand at levels with new a moveset as well. And with tons of items that you can use as weapons in each level, it’s fun to experiment – and the payoff is that it looks and feels great. There are ranged weapons like guns too, but they have limited ammo, so obviously you throw your empty weapon at an enemy and hit them right between the eyes. Enemy designs can feel a bit repetitive, but with so many ways to take them out we never cared as fights never felt like one-note affairs.
Thanks to the motion capture that was used, the action looks and feels great, and the fighting feels incredibly visceral and brutal – there are few games out there that manage to make you feel like an action star the way that Midnight Fight Express does. One of our favorite action games of the year, and we hope it gets a follow-up with things like multiplayer and a more cinematic delivery of the story, as even without those elements this is already a blast to play.