Overpass Preview – the hills are alive with the sound of all-terrain racing

Climb every mountain, ford every stream...

Overpass is the kind of game that would give Sonic nightmares. You’re racing against the clock, trying to get to the finish line faster than all the other competitors, but the best way to do that is to go slow and be methodical. Counter-intuitive, right? Well, it’s better than losing a wheel on the many, many hazards you’re racing over.

It puts you behind the wheel of some impressive bits of cross-country kit, the kinds of thing that you’d expect to see taking part in the Dakar Rally, but with much more treacherous terrain to cover than would be ideal. It could be natural impediments like rocky outcroppings, steep muddy slopes, or tide pools, or something manmade like piles of logs or vehicle-sized see-saws. Whatever it is in front of you, you need to get through it, but take it too hard and too fast and you’ll come a-cropper.

Producer Jimmy Kalhart told us, “It’s inspired by real types of races, and there’s a lot of races like this in the US and they call it Hillclimb, but it’s not like Pikes Peak. They have competitions where you have to climb some things like this, so yeah, it’s inspired by real types of competition, but all of the ones in the game are original ones.”

You’re much better off taking your time, making sure to measure your throttle use and push your way over boulders and up steep inclines using all-wheel drive, instead of trying to force your way through with speed. Zordix are gearing this toward being more of a simulation than a bouncy, over the top arcade game.

“We want to have something as realistic as possible,” Jimmy said. “That’s why we still have to tweak it a little bit, but it’s really encouraging as it is right now. It’s in beta stage, so you don’t have manual gears, but you will be able to change it to manual, you will be able to switch on some vehicles from 4WD to 2WD, depending on what you want to do, and you can also turn off the differential lock, where the spinning of the wheels are locked together. That helps to climb some difficult obstacles, but it means you turn really badly.”

You can race at speed through the clearer sections, but even there, a stray rock or boulder can knock you quite severely and damage your vehicle. Even at the best of times, you’ll see your front tyres taking a good amount of abuse through the stage, wearing down as you fight for traction, and while you don’t see physical damage, it is taking place on all four corners and the chassis. There’s some fun to be had in going a bit hell for leather, tumbling over a sand dune and simply carrying on – spinning is, after all, a good trick – but just beware of what you’re doing to your vehicle.

“It happens a lot that they’ll do a barrel roll, but it’s not usually on purpose!” Jimmy said when I asked him if my intentional tumbles were a valid strategy to get down a sand bluff more quickly. This was racing around one of the circuits with the routes defined by posts and tape, but rolling the car definitely won’t be of use on the mountain climbs. “These ones, you start at the bottom and you have to climb and arrive at the top, but the way is not shown as in the circuit races, you have to find your own road.”

You’ll find licensed vehicles from over 20 manufacturers, including Yamaha, Arctic Cat and Suzuki, and there’s a career mode in which you have to try and attract sponsors and juggle the use of your vehicles through the competition. You’ll have to make the decisions on whether or not to run with your best, but somewhat damaged vehicle or use a second tier UTV in your garage, and sacrifice time to make repairs instead of trying to push on with a half-broken car.

Overpass reminds me of the MudRunner games in some ways, and Jimmy admitted to me that, while not a direct inspiration, it certainly showed to Zordix and Bigben that there was a market for this kind of game. Of course, there’s a ton of differences. For one thing, Overpass puts you in top of the line modern vehicles, instead of ageing Soviet era trucks, you’re not dealing with diesel engines putting in too much torque and spinning your tyres through the deep, slippery mud, and you’re racing against the clock instead of simply trying to survive and get to the end.

Regardless of the inspirations, comparisons and differences, there’s something inherently appealing about Overpass. Overcoming the vehicular obstacle courses put in front of you requires thought and dexterity – even more-so if you take advantage of the racing wheel support – is just so satisfying as you weave around what’s in your way, mount awkward looking rocks and crest every ridge on your way to the finish line.

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I'm probably wearing toe shoes, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!

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