Overpass is the kind of game where the tortoise beats the hare. Sure, you’re racing against the clock, trying to cover ground and hazards as quickly as possible, but screaming because you want to go faster won’t do you much good here. No, Overpass is the epitome of needing to go slow to be fast.
The reason for this is that you’re not racing on roads, you’re not even racing on gravel or dirt tracks, but are instead heading into the wilderness to overcome natural obstacles and hazards. From craggy outcroppings and steep slopes to boggy streams and swamps, you’ll be having to prioritise absolute grip and torque instead of high speeds and drifting around hairpin turns.
A racing game where you rarely get to put your foot down sounds pretty dull, right? But there’s just something about Overpass and its ilk that still manages to be engrossing. From a non-racing perspective, it’s similar to the teasing control challenge of games like Octodad and Surgeon Simulator, but the much more likely parallel is going to be MudRunner, the viral streaming sensation from a few years ago all about getting rickety old trucks and their cargo through the wilderness.
Things are much more structured in Overpass, and you have far, far better tools with which to do the job. The courses that you take on are clearly defined with tape marking out the sides of the track and a clear finish line for you to reach. In addition to the natural obstacles that you’ll face, you’ll also encounter manmade obstacles. These could be piles of logs that can start to slip and shift under the weight of the vehicles, seesaws that you have to tilt before you can roll off or face a penalty, haphazard looking concrete tubes that you have to manage your speed to jump between, and much more.
Your first attempt at any of the courses will likely be one of exploration, instead of challenging the top of the leaderboards, and there’s a lot to learn about the courses. Some a stricter than others, funnelling you through tight gauntlets where there’s only really one way through, while others are freer with multiple ways to climb the side of a hill and different paths to consider. It’s not all tortured slow-paced manoeuvring either, as you might go from a natural hazard to a manmade one, before being let loose to barrel down sand dunes and across open ground for a few moments. A cathartic release, if ever there was one.
You’ll be tackling these time trials and hill climbs in an array of licensed buggies and quadbikes from the likes of Yamaha, Suzuki and Arctic Cat – there’s 23 real vehicles in the game and one fictional one. There’s a number of techniques to quickly learn to get the best out of them, such as tackling an obstacle at an angle so that you maintain as much grip as possible and can use a single leading wheel to drag the rest of the car forward, or switching off the differential, to allow the four wheel drive to spin each wheel at different speeds, enhancing the grip you have on an incline at the cost of turning speed. Through it all, being able to teasing the throttle to get just the right amount of wheel rotation, or learning how much momentum you need to pass what’s in front of you is key.
You’ll need to look after your vehicle, instead of just bashing it up against the rocks. Spin up your tyres too much and you’ll start to damage them and lose grip, smack it about and it’ll start pulling in one direction or another, take too much engine damage and you’ll be down on power.
That can have a real impact on the game’s career mode, where you set off around the world and take on races – there’s 43 tracks set in six contrasting biomes and with different weather conditions to test you. You’ll be building up a garage of cars, making sure to fix them as you bang them up in competitions, and always competing to top the tables. There’s no head-to-head racing here, which simply wouldn’t work when there’s often barely room for one buggy and certainly no overtaking spots, but you’ll always have that time pressure spurring you on.
There’s a few options for multiplayer in the game as well, with real time online races against other players’ ghosts, and both split-screen two player and pass-the-pad local multiplayer for up to eight. Thankfully, for multiplayer and quick race, there’s no need to do any vehicle unlocking, they’re all available from the very start.
Overpass feels like it could be a sleeper hit amongst racing fans. It doesn’t have the high speed thrills and spills of something like Dirt Rally, and it doesn’t have the off-beat quirkiness of MudRunner, but finds a happy middle-ground between the two that could be just as moreish.