Review – Overpass
Overpass is an interesting take on the racing genre with its focus on defeating the track rather than speeding past competitors. This is what first intrigued me about Overpass; a driving game where the track is the puzzle and your solution is the physics. I had the chance to talk to a representative from Zordix Racing at E3 2019 and he expressed they wanted to make a true to life sim of off-road driving. While they mostly nailed this, there are some massive issues that muddied up the tires.
In the career mode you still compete against AI, but not at the same time. It feels more like a simple race against the clock to finish more so than racing against others. There is no intense last second takeovers to win a race. You only need to beat whatever time is posted for a Gold, Silver, or Bronze to win that award. At the end of the match it will show other racer’s times, but as long as you placed somewhere in those award times then you’re good.
There is an attempt to make it feel like you’re in an actual race by giving the drivers names and you can even make side bets with them for extra money. But ultimately it feels like a fairly solemn affair and removing “AI” and making it time trials wouldn’t even change the game. The career mode consists of a sprawling web like UI where you’ll select races to participate in. Once you complete a race there are a couple unlocks in the form of cosmetics or upgrades. You can then spend your money on customizing your rides and your driver.
The career mode is pretty short, even though some tournaments will have two or three races each. Each race only lasts about five minutes and under, of course depending on how many times you restart. Once you complete your career, you can then reset and do it all over again. It’s not a very fulfilling or rewarding experience, in fact, it often frustrated me far more than any Dark Souls boss. Some of it is my fault, but often it was things that I could only describe as poor physics.
As I mentioned before, Overpass is all about you conquering the track. How you conquer the track is the puzzle and the appeal of the game. Some of these puzzles and obstacles are natural, others are man made, but both have some major issues. The decently in-depth tutorial does a good job at preparing you for the tasks ahead. It teaches you how to switch from 4-wheel drive and Differential to get past certain obstacles, as well as how to approach obstacles in both buggy and ATV vehicles. The majority of the time going full throttle is the worst idea. A slower but steady pace will win the race.
However, once you’re let loose and you get into the career maps, things don’t seem so well put together. There were often times where I would be able to open up and gain speed, but as soon as I would hit a slight ramp it was like I hit a wall. My buggy would stop and take damage or my rider on the ATV would fall off, making me reset. This would happen every time I would get to a fast speed. There is also an issue with the seesaw obstacle (an obstacle where you can’t move until you’re tilted downwards). I was penalized for jumping off the seesaw early (which I didn’t), or if you need to turn directly after and a back tire fell off the seesaw early, it would still penalize you.
Another annoyance is the lack of consistency when it comes to tire traction. In the tutorial it makes it clear to look for rocky terrain for better traction, while dirt and mud will spin you out. Too often during the uphill challenges did it feel like rocky terrain didn’t give me any sort of extra traction. The ATV frustrated me the most though mainly because of the rider falling off way too easily. Tipping is extremely easy in both the buggy and ATV, but with the ATV if you’re even a bit sideways he will fall and reset. Even if it didn’t flip and would have corrected itself once you got passed the rock. Any actual rider could have easily held on.
Needless to say, the biggest issue with Overpass is with its physics system. However, it’s not all frustrating. There is something satisfying with memorizing the track and nailing each obstacle with precision. Unfortunately, these are short lived in the lackluster career mode and annoying physics issues. To extend the title there is a multiplayer, co-op, and tournament maker mode, but with how the game is setup you never feel much competition. There is no big thrill with side-by-side racing and take overs, it’s just another race against the clock mode.
The visuals aren’t anything to write home about, but it can at times look pretty. Certain tracks in the lush forested areas or on the beach can look nice. However, once you get to the tightly packed maps where you move slowly and you can see the textures up close, it can look very muddy. Some textures are stretched out between multiple objects, material transitions are abrupt, and the models overall are not impressive. There is some nice attention to detail when it comes to mud splatter and tire tracts though.
Sound design is decent between each buggy and ATV sounding different, various ground conditions, and materials have realistic sound effects. Like most racing games, you’ll mostly be hearing your vehicle’s engine. However, unlike other racers you’re constantly tapping the gas button around various obstacles so you’ll be hearing the revving sound a lot. Since these are smaller vehicles, the revving is a bit higher pitched and can get a bit annoying as well. There really isn’t any music while in a race to take away from that constant engine sound either. The soundtrack in the menus consist of country and country rock, which I’m not the biggest fan of, but it fits the dirty off road theme well enough.
Overpass is a title that may appeal to a niche audience of off-road enthusiasts. The slower pace will definitely tire on those who prefer racing at breakneck speeds, but there is definitely something engrossing about it. The way it makes you focus more on the track itself and how each obstacle is its own puzzle to conquer is appealing. However, even the niche crowed of off-road enthusiasts won’t be able to overlook the physics issues. With a bit more polish and content, Overpass could be something unique in the racing genre.
There are times when Overpass looks really great on the track. However, up close textures and models don’t hold up.
For the most part the gameplay works fine. Unfortunately, there are quite a few annoyances with the physics and the ATV.
Not much to go on here since voice acting is only in the tutorial and the music is only in the menus. The various ground conditions are well done when driving on them.
Overpass has a lot of potential to stand out over other racing games. The idea of using tracks as puzzles and the vehicle physics to solve them is unique. Unfortunately, there are too many issues with it and it lacks a bit of content.
Final Verdict: 6.0
Overpass is available now on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch.
Reviewed on PC with an i7-9700k, RTX 2070, and 16gb RAM.
A copy of Overpass was provided by the publisher.