When we think of racing, it summons up the image of fast, furious and high octane action with nail-biting finishes. By that very definition, Overpass does not fit into that category. It's more of an off-road driving simulation that has a competitive element. So, is Overpass great, or is it one to pass over?
As soon as you boot it up for the first time, you'll head into a tutorial that does a really good job of preparing you for what you're about to face. You learn that speed is not always the way, and that thinking about how to overcome an obstacle can sometimes be quicker. We do realise that sounds like some ancient philosophy but bear with us.
What you're effectively looking at is the sim equivalent of the tortoise and the hare. When you approach and obstacle made of logs, for example, you can't just rag it and hope for the best. You have to turn into it, carefully angling the tyres. So, it's kind of like the thinking person's slow-paced racing sim. Likewise, when you need to go over tyres, you have to line your vehicle up perfectly or you'll be thrown off.
It all sounds a bit negative, but the major takeaway from this was that it's a game with big intentions to do something different, and while there's a lot we like, the overall feeling we took away from it was frustration.
As mentioned, it does try to do something different. It's not just a case of holding down the R2 trigger and blasting it around a track - that was a welcome change of direction and a nice break from what else is out there. We enjoyed having to think about how to tackle obstacles and avoiding muddy areas to climb hills. For gamers who like a sim, this will certainly appeal, and if you loved Mudrunner, this is definitely up your alley.
When you head into the main area, you have four game modes. There's a custom competition mode, a quick race option, multiplayer with split-screen and online, and of course, there's the career mode. The majority of our time was spent focusing on career, so much of our experience came from that.
When you head to the career section, you have a spider web map where you can basically choose your next race; a feature we quite liked. Most of the races are just you alone on the track trying to beat a certain time as quickly as possible. It sounds like you need to go fast, but in fact, it's about strategic thinking about how to overcome the next tyre, or pipe, or log obstacle with the right power and setting of your tyres. We enjoyed this idea, but the lasting feeling we got from this approach is it's a bit empty.
Sure, you earn money to upgrade your vehicles and drivers, but in the end, we were left contemplating the frustration of getting stuck on tyres in a race or continually falling over on some logs. One mistake can cost you seven minute's worth of driving. Yes, there is a respawn button, but it doesn't quite make up for the overall frustration.
We mentioned how the game felt a bit empty, and no more so than in the actual races. There were no crowds, no music blaring out like in Onrush, and zero commentary. The only voice we heard was in the tutorial and the guy sounded a bit nonchalant if we're honest. It gave the game a desolate and bleak feeling that felt a bit out of keeping.
There were some positives, however. For example, the sound of the quad bikes and buggies was really atmospheric - not enough to make up for the lack of atmosphere in the other areas of the soundscape, but still rather good. The graphics looked awesome too. The different environments and tracks were top notch. The surfaces like mud and sand were great to look at. The drivers and buggy designs are also worth a mention.
The game also has great physics and handling, even though we found the experience a bit gruelling at times. There was nothing more frustrating than trying to get your quad bike over some tyres and falling off every time. Now, for gamers who love sims, this isn't going to be a bad thing. That said, unlike in other sims where you drive trains or trucks, we've actually driven a quad in real life. To be totally honest, it didn't really feel the same. The quad almost felt detached from the track. Sure, the mud sticking to the tyres was great, but we wanted to feel more connected. The controls though did feel responsive, so it was probably more about the friction between the surface and the wheels.
While sim fans should find things to enjoy, some of you more race-focused gamers may be put off and, in our case, all too many times we wanted to rage quit thanks to punishing and gruelling difficulty spikes. We've already mentioned Mudrunner, but that had more charm in its open-world environments. What's more, it seemed to have a sense of purpose that Overpass lacks. Taking a potential high octane sport like quad bike racing and stripping it back to make it realistic will appeal to some, but we wondered whether everything needed to be so realistic. By reversing away from chaos and skipping on the soundtrack, it removed too many elements that could have made it more fun for more people.
All in all, Overpass is a game that tries to do something different. We applaud the intention and we know it will appeal to a certain type of die-hard sim-loving gamer. That said, it felt a bit too lonely and frustrating at times, and if you're after something with a bit more hi-octane energy then perhaps leave this one parked up by the side of the road.