In 2006, Lionsgate Films distributed a project touted as one of the most high-octane movies of all time. Crank, an incredibly raunchy action film starring Jason Statham, revolved around a highly-skilled assassin who was poisoned by his rival and subsequently forced to keep his adrenaline pumping in order to survive. The premise was promising, and seemed to indicate there would be plenty of over-the-top violence and radical movement occurring throughout it’s 88 minute runtime. Unfortunately, aside from some deceivingly shaky cameras and the occasional thrown punch, the movie mostly just used unnecessarily offensive dialogue and some truly awful public behavior to illustrate it’s concept. Midnight Fight Express, on the other hand, is everything Crank should have been and more.
An exciting new Beat ‘Em Up from the folks at Humble Games, Midnight Fight Express is actually the rip-roaring brawler it’s title suggests it will be. The basic idea is relatively easy to comprehend, and honestly, the gameplay is too. Babyface, a dormant sleeper agent, is activated by a talking drone and sent out into the streets of a city on the verge of collapse. With the landscape overtaken by an innumerable amount of gangs and crime syndicates, the player controls Babyface as he wipes out every bad guy in sight and begins to learn more about himself and the forces he’s singlehandedly opposing. It’s as straightforward as that, and the game is much better off for it’s commitment to simplicity.
The player starts off with a few base abilities – punch, dodge, and grab. One can either punch their way through a group of evildoers, or pick up a weapon to help bash their heads in. Aside from the occasional firearm, which proved the hardest to control in combat, the amount of damage a weapon does is pretty clearly related to how big it is. If a player would like to take a large man down in fewer hits, they should probably find some sort of massive wrench or metallic baseball bat. If they want to roll around and swing in for a sneak takedown, they should probably beat the snot out of someone with a knife and take that instead. As they clobber their way up the baddie ladder, players will also find themselves able to unlock new moves and techniques that diversify gameplay and aid in taking down boss characters. This keeps the game interesting without overcomplicating what already works.
Of course, while the game is not that hard to understand, it’s also not without it’s challenges. As the player progresses though the city and, eventually, down into the sewers – among other places – they will encounter tougher and tougher opponents. Every time a new class of evil is introduced, the gamer must adjust their playstyle slightly to accommodate the new type of threat. Additionally, not every level plays out exactly the same way. Some feature a bit more traversal, with Babyface jumping around rooftops or fighting his way through subway stations, while others focus more on a specific gimmick. Some standouts include a sequence of tasks involving trains, where the player must fight inside while avoiding a sniper aiming through the windows or use oncoming cars to their advantage, and a mission that takes place entirely within a single bathroom, where Babyface has to clear waves of gang members before he can leave.
After using both a console controller and the keyboard to play, it can probably be said that the controller is best for the way this game handles combat. As the footage and Crank comparison might imply, everything that goes on in Midnight Fight Express is designed to happen very quickly. The brain has to think fast or not at all in order to continue surviving, and a controller seems to be more applicable to that kind of scenario. This might be a matter of preference, but especially when it comes to ensuring one swings a punch in the correct direction, there was a noticeable difference in play quality between the two gaming options.
Last, but certainly not least, Midnight Fight Express allows the player to have a lot of fun with customizable appearances and sandbox elements. Beating up baddies in a variety of fun ways earns the player coin to spend in the main menu’s shop, where they can make Babyface look as cool or goofy as they please. This is a great way to dive further into the spirit of the game, which is also sort of hilarious when it wants to be. As with most Steam games of this generation, a lot of the dialogue is incredibly silly without being anything too uncomfortable to read. Police are idiots, thugs are idiots, bosses are idiots, and even sometimes, the drone can be an idiot too. It’s all a bit cheesy and plays in good respite.
Overall, Midnight Fight Express is a dumb, simple, full-throttle, kick-ass, good time. It’s exactly what it advertises, and can almost be cathartic if the player needs it to be. All the action of John Wick packed with the energy of Crank and wrapped in the scenic views of Escape From New York. Highly recommended to anyone who simply wants to spend an afternoon smacking villains upside the head at a breakneck speed.