One of the genres of video games I like best are racing games. I have loved them ever since the first ones I got my hands on for NES and beyond. While I prefer a more arcadey racer to a realistic/sim experience, I’ve tried my hand at both throughout the years.And while I prefer the reckless fun of racing without all the bogdown of tuning,tweaking, and repairing, I can appreciate the detail and discipline required to really master a good simulation based racing game, and I really enjoyed titles like Forza and even Gran Turismo from time to time.
When I picked up the controller and fired up Overpass, I hoped to be soaring over boulders in my muddied ATV in no time, but soon realized this title is angling for a more realistic experience than an easy to pick up rough and tumble roll-around on some muddy tracks. So, I changed my mindset and set off to master the (lack of) road. Overpass promises players an “extreme off road” experience with realistic physics and “big name buggies and squads” with expansive tracks and a gameplay experience that’ll have high replay value.
It does some of these things extremely well. For example, livery. To begin with, you’ll be able to choose from just a few big name off-roading rigs from Suzuki to Polaris. It’s clear a lot of care went into emulating these rides, too, and no matter if you prefer a UTV or an ATV you’ll find an impressive lineup. While I can’t claim to know if they share the same driving characteristics as their real world counterparts, I can say the detail on the vehicles alone made me want to start my career, earn more money and check out some of the higher end models. That said, I could also (and did) see myself spending some of that hard earned cash on cool looking racing suits, gloves, and helmets.
As with most racing titles, Overpass features a career mode as well as quick race and multiplayer modes, with multiplayer offering both online and local play. Quick Race offers an impressive array of tracks right off the bat. I thought I’d get my feet wet in Quick Race mode just to see what things handle like, but after an incredibly long load time that negates the term “Quick Race” I soon found I’d need to start my career just for the purposes of unlocking the massive tutorial.
Cue another long load time, and I found myself embarking on my journey. Overpass’ tutorial is truly monstrous, starting off slow with the basics of any driving game like gas and braking controls, and then gradually getting into things like when to lock your differential and how to hill climb.
Here’s where the problems start to appear, though. Corny “country” voiced narrator aside, there’s little joy to find while you learn. Overpass as a whole is FAR too severe–even so much as to become unrealistic. So much as breathe on a barrier ribbon and you’ll receive a time penalty. Miss the very corner of the first pipe? Failed entry. Run into a rock wall at about 5mph? Obviously, you’ll need to restart your navigation of the entire obstacle, even though that could be a significant chunk of track, as opposed to just backing up from it.
If you don’t get automatically respawned from your harrowing bump into a rock, you’ll definitely end up hitting the respawn button a lot to right yourself. Obstacles that in real life off-roading would be much more easily navigated end up going beyond “realistically” challenging to navigate and become Sisyphean tasks. It seems like your UTV/ATV (no matter which you choose) has almost no torque going forward, but miraculously has enough torque going in reverse to send you flying backwards in the race enough to get an angry “Wrong Way” message. Steering with a locked differential is exaggeratedly difficult, and inclines a pair of motorized rollerskates could manage seem herculean to overcome. Another issue with the aforementioned differential lock is that it’s touted (and works) as a help in getting unstuck and climbing, but turns out to sort of be the “cheat button” to get through anything, even in circumstances where in real life, it would not assist.
That’s not to mention that just navigating the course can be a difficult task on its own, with yellow ribbons only providing very broad ideas of where to go, and out of bounds penalties awaiting you should you go too wide of them. This too is inconsistent, as it seems that sometimes the game wants you to explore in an almost sandbox environment sometimes while other times even in the same type of course though it looks like you can do that, it’ll quickly get you out of bounds.
Getting beyond the tutorial brings you to your career map, where you can sign contracts if you do well enough and move through the ridiculous amount of content. Unfortunately, you need to pass each race in one specific order, which means if you’re bad at hill climbs and a hill climb is next, you won’t be able to take on anything else until you succeed. Something else that causes needless suffering is the UI, which in some cases features the same long load times as races, and which can in fact be hard to navigate. At times, I found myself wondering how to get back to the map to navigate to the next challenge.
As for Overpass’ performance, long load times aside, the tracks look beautiful but I did experience both screen tearing and delays in rendering that I didn’t in other Xbox One titles. Once loaded though, they are pretty nice to look at, even if you’ll find yourself staring at the same obstacle over and over again (and you likely will). I also found that there were times in my racing career where it seemed to register a particular successful obstacle attempt as a failure when it was in fact not a failure, which is especially frustrating when you’ve just attempted it with no success about fifteen times.
My final issue with Overpass is minor, but impacts my enjoyment significantly. Overpass has a great track playing behind its menus, but for some reason no soundtrack at all behind courses you’re racing through at the start. This would go a long way to help alleviate any frustration as it covers up the extremely grating whine of your engine struggling to get over the rock that you could get out and leap over yourself.
Overall, Overpass is a pass for me. It’s joyless, with long load times, inconsistent and overly punishing rules and a clunky UI. With no soundtrack and a good bit of performance issues, as well as a lack of soundtrack, Overpass misses the muddy, chaotic fun of offroading entirely in favor of a “big name” title that’s punishing even for those who love to engage with more realistic racing titles.
Overpass is available now on XboxOne, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC.
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