STAFF REVIEW of Overpass (Xbox One)


Wednesday, April 1, 2020.
by Kirby Yablonski

Overpass Box art Racing games are dominated by circuit racing, street racing, off-road racing (rally), and the vehicles that one uses to challenge the clock, AI or other people, range from high powered exotics to everyday commuters. There are also the two-wheel too, again both on and off road. The formula is standard, as you race against other vehicles for first place or you race against the clock. Recently we had the opportunity to review a unique take on the racing genre, and that game is Overpass. Developer Zordix Racing has created a game that is original, giving you a chance to take on mother nature, as well as a few placed human obstacles.

Overpass challenges you to drive on various courses, either in a circuit-based track or a hill-climb filled with natural obstacles. You take control of fully licensed 4 wheeled buggies (UTVs) and 4 wheeled ATVs from the likes of Arctic Cat, Polaris, Suzuki and Yamaha. Although the goal is to finish first, there are no other racers on track, as it is all about getting the best time on whatever course you are. Sure, you want to go as fast as possible, but Zordix has taken this style of racing game to the max given the nature of the racing itself.

There are three skill levels that you can choose from, plus an even harder skill level that you need to unlock. I chose the middle skill level, Pro, which I had hoped would allow me the best balance of challenge and success. The career mode starts with a lengthy tutorial and this is VERY much needed if you want to succeed in the game. You’ll even find a few sections to be challenging, which is a sign of things to come.


The main crux of Overpass is its Career mode. Here you need to be successful in all the available races to move on to the world final. In terms of progression, it is not locked on a specific path. Although it’s not an open world, you do have some choice in what events you participate in as they are found in a ‘web’ of choices. You must beat events to continue to the next one. Some of the events open new items to purchase in the ‘garage’ (vehicles, shocks, frames, engines, and a few more things), but you have to finish in the top three to these open up. As you race, and place well in each event, you are offered contracts to sign from various sponsors, buy gear at a discounted price and even wager bets with other racers.

In the circuit tracks, there are both man-made obstacles (e.g. piles of telephone poles, concrete pipes, see-saw ramps and more) and natural obstacles (mud, rocks, gravel, water and more). For the hill climbs, the obstacles you face are all natural, and your trip from start to finish is made more difficult as there are multiple paths that you must find on the go to make it to the top. If you are looking for a game that is easy, then this is not it, as navigating all the obstacles, especially the hill climb courses, will take patience as you find the best route for you and you don’t get stuck. Some of the obstacles are mandatory, and these are identified by red flags at the entry point of the obstacle challenge. Should you miss the entry point and keep going, you are hit with a time penalty. All the courses are also marked off by tape, and should you hit any of the tape outlining the course, you are also hit with a time penalty.

One of the interesting features of Overpass when traversing the various environments is that you can flip your buggy or ATV should you not take the time and right angle of entry. You’ll have to give some thought to your navigation of both course specifics and that obstacles you’ll face. When you are using the buggies, there is not much you can to do counterbalance the angles you may find your vehicle leaning at; however, when using the ATVs, you can lean left, right or forward to help with counteracting the forces of gravity. It adds a bit more touch of realism. You also control the traction of some vehicles by switching from 4WD, 2WD and Differential Drive on the fly. You can also choose manual or automatic transmission. The ability to change your traction while racing is important, as you can get better grip when you need it or open it up to speed on straightaways. You wouldn’t think that this would be a feature you’d notice is functional, but it indeed is. If I had one complaint in this area, it is that sometimes your vehicle flips over too easy. There were more than a few occasions that my vehicle flipped during a turn, and I was puzzled as to why.


The challenge in career mode ramps up quite quickly. Circuit races are quite manageable and provide their own challenges; however, the hill climbs that you are faced with can be very frustrating. It is here that Overpass stumbles in its overall enjoyment factor. When navigating the various hill climbs, you can be making great progress only to be stopped in your tracks by a simple obstacle or angle. Wheels will slip on the terrain a lot and finding the perfect route through each area leading to the top requires not only skill, but a lot of luck. I can’t count the number of times that some of the hill climbs had me on the verge of throwing my controller. There is no doubt in my mind that many people may be turned off by this fact alone. That being said, once you pass one of these stages, the satisfaction of doing such is off the chart given how hard it can be. I wish that after so may attempts that the game would provide something like a virtual assistant/navigator to help with the struggle to the finish.

For those looking to open all the licensed vehicles, gear, and mods in the game, it will be a serious grind. You will be restarting courses, repeating various challenges and even a new career mode a few times to get everything open and accessible, but the feeling of beating it, or placing in the top three all the time, is quite satisfying. You won’t be getting through the six venues and 43 courses anytime soon.

For those looking for other modes outside of career mode, there are a few more to keep you busy, including quick race, custom challenge and multiplayer. Quick race is best defined by its title, as you can pick from any of the tracks and their corresponding environments and race. This mode is actually advantageous in such that it allows you to tackle a track that you may be struggling with in career mode, but without any penalty (e.g. failure to place high enough that it may affect overall career placement). You can repeat the track over and over without restarting and figuring out what might be the best way to tackle what is in front of you. You can experiment with different routes on a specific circuit or hill climb and then head back into career mode to find some success. Custom challenge allows you to create your own series of events from the venues found in the game and each course/track within.

Multiplayer is an interesting affair. It is not your traditional versus mode given the nature of game itself. You’ll be racing with other racers ‘ghosts’ in real time. This allows you to focus on the course in front of you and the challenges that they present, while not worrying about the other driver(s) on the track. It’s a simplistic affair, and more akin to a chatroom while you and your opponents are vying for the best time. While some may be disappointed about this, I can understand why, as it would be a crazy demolition derby at times, especially when going over, though and/or around the various obstacles. You can choose to run a course that is presented to you by the game, or you can add various tracks and create an event with multiple courses at multiple venues. You are always brought back to the lobby to ‘ready up’ and start the next race, so it is not seamless. There is no way that you can make a lobby private, or at least one that I could see. Your game will be public, and people join and leave as they don’t have the patience for you and others to complete what in-progress event. Finally, should you finish in first, you can watch your opponent(s) navigate the course; however, it is a ghost image of a static vehicle, with no animation or sound. It would have been nice to see an identical representation of what your opponent was seeing, with moving parts and driver. Regardless of its’ simplicity, and a few hitches, it was still nice to see multiplayer added to the gameplay options.


Visually, Overpass is solid, but not without some faults. The six different venues are quite different from one another. You’ll be navigating forest courses, beach courses, jungle courses, gravel pit courses, canyon courses and a man-made area within a forested area. You will also find yourself racing at different times of the day and night. Seeing the sunset on a beach-based course was striking. The venues are full of environmental centric scenery too including vegetation, rocks, water and more. The frame rate is generally pretty good, and the only thing I noted was some screen tearing that become noticeable, along with the textures in near distance popping in. You may overlook this though as there is lot of detail in the environments. In terms of the in-game vehicles, they are quite detailed too. The licensed brands all look different from one another right down to the cargo baskets, shocks to the size of tires. As you make your way across the many obstacles (man-made or natural), watching the sway of your buggy or ATV, the shocks compressing as your wheels go over objects, your driver leaning out of a buggy to see the course or leaning on an ATV to keep upright, and of course getting all muddy, all adds to the look of the game.

As for the audio, it’s a mixed bag. The menu music is rock-centric, and given what the nature of the game, it suits it. You won’t hear too many environmental sound effects though, as the sound of your buggy or ATV drowns it out. I found the majority of vehicle sounds to be grating. Yes, different buggies and ATVs sounded sightly different, but most of them sounded like a 2-cycle weed eater engine. Even my wife was surprised that the noise she heard from my office was the soundbar and not from someone outside weed eating. I wish I could have heard more of the vehicle going over rocks, tires or piles of telephone poles as the suspension would struggle to get over each item.

Overpass is a racing game that defies the genre, as it’s not what you would consider a true racing game. It is more of an off-road, slow paced driving game where you need to discover the best way to get from start to finish. It is one that will no doubt frustrate you often, and one where the sound may grate on your nerves, but the foundation of something special is here. I truly hope that this is not a one-off title, as a sequel to fix some of the annoyances would make this a game that driving fans must have, but as of right now, Overpass is an experiment that has many redeeming qualities, but the negative ones hold it back from being the great gaming experience it could be.


Suggestions:
Please take the time and effort do develop a sequel, as there is such a great prospect of this franchise to carve out the niche it is and fill a need for an original race oriented game.


Overall: 6.8 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10

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