For years fans of the racing scene have known only one thing – go fast and you shall be victorious. But with Overpass, precision is king. For if you stick the pedal to the metal you’ll be left spinning your way to nothing but failure. Much like the game itself.
Racing games come in all shapes and sizes with a whole host of different ideologies pushing them along. The Forza Motorsport series for instance cares for nothing but realism, with its Horizon cousin allowing us to hit the open road and have a bit of fun. Similarly, Codemasters’ brilliant GRID reboot empowers the gamer who prefers the more arcade way of thinking, while the rally scene and offroad entities are covered by the likes of the DiRT series and the unmistakable Spintires: Mudrunner.
Overpass from Nacon and Zordix however attempts a different route, one which embraces the slow pace of Mudrunner, but mixes in the odd bit of excitement found in a rally title. It throws us behind the wheel of an ATV or UTV and requests we get to the end of an obstacle course or hill climb as fast as possible.
The problem is, in Overpass fast isn’t necessarily the way forward and that is as much an appeal as it is an utter turnoff, Because when Overpass gets it right, there is a whole swathe of excitement that will come over you. But similarly, when it goes wrong, the frustration levels are on a par with nothing I’ve ever seen in video gaming.
At its core, Overpass is simple – take charge of either a covered Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV), or a similarly specced, open-cockpit All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) and work your way as delicately as possible around a specified track layout or up the most vicious of hill climb routes, dodging, rolling over and plowing through all manner of obstacles. Get to the end before your opponents, with as few penalties as possible, and you shall be crowned the winner of said race, tournament or World Finals.
However you tackle Overpass, that is the overriding mechanic and premise, but Nacon and Zordix have at least allowed us to go about it in a few ways. A deep tutorial will happily let us spend a bit of time with both the UTVs and the ATVs as we learn how to control them, lean into slopes and work our way over tree stumps and across seesaws as safely as possible. It is here where we also get to grips with utilising differential locks of the wheels, or powering on through with full 4WD or 2WD grip options – all things that will be needed should you wish to climb some of the steepest inclines or deepest bog pits. And whilst the tutorial is fairly lengthy, it does a great job of letting us get insider knowledge into every last aspect of Overpass. It’s just a shame that this tutorial is voiced and delivered by the most dour of instructors.
From there a number of options open up. The Career is the main draw and will be the place that many get their Overpass fix, yet there are also those race staples of Quick Race options, Custom Challenges which let you pick and choose how you wish to tackle an event, and both an online and local multiplayer scene.
The Career is obviously the largest element of Overpass though and it is here where you’ll be tasked with making your way through a multitude of events, split across both obstacle courses and hill climbs. The former of these is most definitely the most fun and this is where Overpass comes to life as a proper racer, as you go up against the clock to make your way around a number of laps (usually 3), in order to beat up to seven others in your Career group. These obstacle courses are full of obstacles – unsurprisingly – with mud baths, seesaws, steps, rocks, tree stumps and more in place for you to get over and through. With flags denoting specific obstacles that have to be tackled – if not, penalties ensue – and taped off areas keeping you on the right track, the challenge is real with the obstacle courses that are included in the Career. Should you be able to get some momentum, and start to learn the specifics of each track and the best route available, and then work out exactly how to get over that damn batch of boulders that did you in last time, the obstacle courses become great fun as you try to shave vital seconds off of your best times.
Alongside these come the hill climb sections – shorter, tougher, absolute bastard tests of skill. And this is where Overpass can sometimes come a little unstuck. The challenge with these can fast become nothing short of frustrating, as you know that every single second you are out there spinning your tyres in vain, attempting to climb a mud-laden hill, or as you fall into a roll and need a reset for the hundredth time – a reset that takes an age by the way – your chances of career success begin to falter. I’ll be honest and even though I’m a fairly patient gamer, some of the hill climbs that play out in Overpass have left me on the verge of boiling point, with rage quitting thoughts constantly overruling any common sense and integrity. And if I, as a laid back guy, can be pushed to the limit by what is in front of me, I hate to think what Overpass could do to others.
This sense of frustration doesn’t ever really appear in the Quick Race or Custom Challenge modes though as these can be used for learning the ropes. In the Career however it can easily see the downfall of a whole season of racing. And for me, that borders on the verge of being unfair, particularly as working through 12 rounds of a Career season allows for the unlocking and in-game purchasing of a variety of vehicle components which are vital to future success. These include additional liveries, engine types and transmission and suspension options accompanied by new frame parts which increase specific vehicle stats.
Things get even more realistic – or just plain worse, depending on your way of thinking – when you take into account that every incident you happen upon will affect your licensed vehicle. The likes of Yamaha, Polaris, Arctic Cat and Suzuki all have UTV and ATV options in Overpass, and each and every one of them is liable to damage – damage that you need to fix with your career earnings, occasionally seeing said vehicle taken out of action for a round whilst things are fixed up. Being neat, precise and opportune is key in Overpass, yet with the near impossibility of avoiding any form of damage over anything but the most simple of courses, when you find yourself barrel-rolling down a hill with little in the way of stopping it, that damage meter fast becomes your nemesis.
If you do find success though then placing near the top of your Career group will allow access to the World Finals, pushing you through even more events in the hope that you can become the overall champion. Chances are though that for this to happen you’ll have to have previously attempted the Career a few times at the very least. This is where the tiled event system comes into play, letting you pretty much pick and choose the events you wish to compete in, in the hope that the rewards for doing well in each will deliver new vehicle, upgrade and driver customisation unlocks. If you wish to unlock everything found in Overpass and get Career access to the very best vehicles, you’ll need to be prepared for a grind and I guess this is where the various difficulty types come into play. Amateur, Pro and Elite difficulties are all standard stuff, but should you be some kind of maniac then the Hardcore mode will suit – at least for those who find pleasure in playing without any form of respawn or restarting. Personally, the frustrations found in Overpass on the default levels do away with even consideration for the Hardcore mode.
For the annoyances of Overpass though there are some great things. Firstly, I absolutely adore the menu music, with it harking back to the days of the indie music scene, helping you get yourself properly psyched up for the action ahead. Unfortunately it’s in short supply and even though the rousing tunes are by far the best bit of the audio, and the spinning tyres and revving engines that you discover in the game are decent enough, after just a few races it’s all a bit too much for the head.
Visually I like Overpass too. The vehicles look decent and even though I’m not in a position to be able to really tell one ATV from another, as a gamer who likes his motorsport what Nacon and Zordix have delivered here is good stuff, without pushing the modern day console to any limit. The tracks and surrounding areas look great too, with mud splashing up as you hit a crater, and water rolling around as you dive through a river. Ultimately though and unless you’re some kind of precision throttle king you’ll probably be left to bear witness to a whole host of smoke emitting from spinning tyres as you attempt to get a grip on the well presented landscapes.
For as good as the visuals are though, I would however love to be able to see a proper overview of each obstacle course and hill climb route prior to being thrown into the unknown – not just for visual eye candy sakes but to get a lay of the land and a quick understanding of what is ahead. With some fairly lengthy loading screens taking place prior to every event type, filling this with some kind of camera wizardry would have been much appreciated. And while we’re on about the camera, Overpass is crying out for a proper free-roamer for when in the action – clicking in the right stick and fighting against a lock just doesn’t cut it when you’re trying desperately to work out the best placement of a specific tyre over the toughest of obstacles.
I’ll also say that as a multiplayer experience, Overpass is alright too. With online elements working smoothly and catering for up to 8 players across host-chosen events, there’s a degree of fun to be had away from the Career. Again though, much like everything else with this game, it falls short in the long term. The event types are a prime example of this and, while the host can choose multiple events, there seems little rhyme or reason to do so, as after each and every race we’re taken back to the lobby again. That’s if you ever get to finish a race mind, as I’ve yet to be witness to any form of time-out period for those struggling with completing a race, leaving those who finish early sitting around twiddling their thumbs, spectating their competitors as they struggle to understand the complexities of a specific vehicle or track. Yes, that’s not an issue if you’re playing only with friends or via the local split-screen or hot seat options, but in a toxic online world that is well known for causing havoc, you’ll have to be wary of strangers joining and interrupting the flow.
Overpass on Xbox One just about fills a spot in the racing genre without it ever really being a game for the racing fan. In fact, if you’re looking for all-out speed then I’d tell you to stay as far away as possible. This is instead a precision motorsport brawler that pits you against the clock and tells you to get on with it – faults and all. While the Career is reasonable fun, working well across the obstacle courses, the sheer hellish nature of some of the hill climb events knock this off-roading beast down a notch or two, quite possibly causing far too much frustration and annoyance for anyone outside of the ‘scene’. When you also include a few little slack points with UI elements badly placed, long loading times and the need for sheer luck to occasionally overcome any form of skill, Overpass fails to live up to its initial hype and certainly doesn’t warrant a full triple-A price tag. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an okay against-the-clock racer for those who just love to grind and get down and dirty, but for everyone else I fear the overruling frustration that it brings will be its ultimate downfall.