Overpass is a vehicular mud-em-up, combining the slippery physics of Mudrunner and the gruelling challenges of Trials. I would argue though that it also takes some inspiration from the much less known but still thoroughly enjoyable Descenders. Unfortunately the best bits of each of those games are lost in the mud as it admirably tries to be its own thing yet falls short.
The first thing you’ll notice when hopping into the game is just how UNBELIEVABLY LOUD it is. For the first time in a long time I actually had to turn the master volume down to about 50%. Normally it’s not such a bad thing, but when the heavy bass of the roaring engine and spinning tires nearly blow open your ear drums it’s hard to let it slide.
When you launch a career mode you have 4 difficulty options to choose from: amateur, medium, hard and hardcore. Hardcore is locked behind a certain parameter; where you have to beat the game by placing in the top 3 at the finals. I tried out the amateur mode first (since I’m not an avid driver and don’t know much about engines, pistons, torque and the like) which turned out to be pretty easy. I would recommend it if you don’t play many driving games, just to get to grips with the controls at least.
The problem with that is you end up breezing through the game pretty easy, and make ridiculous amounts of money that it becomes pointless trying to earn more later on. You'll unlock upgrades pretty quickly, I even managed to get top-tier upgrades after just a couple challenges without ever buying the lower-tier ones.
The career mode itself consists of 12 days of challenges, after which you compete in the finals for your chance to win the championship. The challenges you compete in have multiple races within them, and each challenge takes 1 day to complete. Upon launching the career mode you will encounter a web/map of the challenges you can play. You gain points depending on which position you come in under each event in each challenge day, after which your position on the overall leaderboard is updated.
After completing a challenge you unlock other nodes on the web/map, each node consists either of another challenge you can compete in or rewards you can claim if you placed in the top 3 of a challenge.
Okay, but how does it feel when driving an ATV/UTV on difficult terrain? Well, pretty damn good actually. There is a rush when making it through a particularly difficult section with ease and coming in 1st place 2 minutes ahead of the next guy, which certainly sparks some genuine pride and excitement. Or even just completing a really difficult level that was causing lots of frustration. As is the nature with any difficult game, overcoming a particular challenge can be immensely rewarding.
The problem is when all that joy is wrenched out of you because of some excruciating bugs that halt your progress. I’m not a scientist or an engineer and so I don’t know if this is how real-world physics work: but when I get stuck in an area and decide to reverse, I would actually like to reverse, because for a few seconds the complete opposite happens to me. I turn my wheels left so that I don’t go flying off a cliff that I suddenly screeched to a halt on, but then hitting reverse puts me full speed into forward movement, hurtling myself off a cliff that I didn’t intend to hurtle myself off of in the first place.
There are multiple times that I got stuck on small rocks or logs and was forced to respawn because a tiny rock got stuck in my undercarriage, and respawning takes a while too. That makes sense in the racing situation, as you are competing for the best time against other opponents, so having the ability to instantly respawn is obviously an unfair advantage. But then the game just randomly teleports you to an arbitrary spawn point, there's no set checkpoints so you could just end up in a really difficult position after respawning.
There's also a distinct lack of music whilst traversing these treacherous environments. Whilst the silence of the open air mixed with the gurgling of your engines and the roars of your tires is somewhat appealing, I would have at least liked the option in-game. Going from the menu that has only the 1 song playing on a loop, to complete silence except for your own vehicle is a little jarring. Sure, play your own music if you want, but that's not a good fix.
And there’s no one on the tracks with you either, usually I wouldn’t find this a problem but every challenge you play feels like you’re the only one who does it. There’s no crowds, you never even see what your opponent looks like let alone what they drive (you're told what they drive but I have no idea who these other people are). It all feels empty… Like this is some kind of death dream that an ATV driver is having after smashing his head open whilst hurtling himself off a cliff because his car went forward rather than reversed.
The controls take a long time to get used to, the tutorial can be quite gruellingly difficult for first-timers and people who don’t generally play driving games or know that much about cars (like me), and even then the game doesn’t tell you everything. Not once does it describe what 2 Wheel Drive is for, I understand the concept but I don’t see the benefit of using it whilst in a challenge.
Vehicles also somehow feel floaty but rigid at the same time? I don’t understand how that works, but when going over objects and getting the slightest amount of airtime your vehicle seems to deny gravity for a short while, it feels like you're driving a cardboard box, but when hitting objects like big rocks or stones you come to a startling halt that gives you whiplash. There is a damage and repair system, but that brings up the whole repair mechanic issue which is another bag of worms, but the problem is that there’s no discernible issues with damaging your vehicle. When my UTV was at 48% damage, I seemed to slightly pull to the left, but there was nothing that indicated what exactly caused that, and no noticeable damage appeared on the car either.
So the repair mechanic is either broken or poorly designed. Between races you can repair vehicles for a cost, but if, like me, you made an extortionate amount already then this just doesn't matter, repair to your heart's content. There's lots more I have to talk about the repair mechanic, but I think it's unfair to keep digging into all these small issues so much.
The mud physics look great, but since the camera is so close to the vehicle you barely ever notice your tracks making dents in the mud. When the mud is wet it looks great and it builds up quite realistically and seamlessly, and the mud then dries seamlessly as well and looks great again. Each type of terrain looks and feels real. But I can't help but feel that's all the developers tried to focus on, without thinking about actually making a game in the process.
To put it quite simply: I'm very conflicted about Overpass. It truly has some great moments when traversing the difficult terrain sometimes, but then there's so much that feels either unfinished or unpolished. There's not a whole lot of content to the game when you realise that there's not much meat on the bones...
There’s a couple things I would like to see added to the game in the future if possible: like medal times displayed whilst driving (currently you get a brief look at them before the level starts and have to awkwardly pause the game if you want to remind yourself what they were), or a distance marker displaying how far through the level you are.
A lot of little issues come with Overpass. On their own, none of them are particularly that problematic, but the fact that there are so many makes them all the more noticeable. It’s a real shame because the environments can be really beautiful as well. Trekking across the rocky planes of desert canyons or through misty jungle areas I couldn’t help but take a look around sometimes. And traversing tough terrain is actually really really fun most of the time (when it works).
For online fans, a multiplayer mode is also included but I didn’t get a chance to check it out. I was either too early or too late to join other reviewers, so I have no idea if the multiplayer is even worthwhile. It looks to me like you just select certain maps you want to play and, well, do them. I don’t know what it’s like with multiple people, maybe there are ghost outlines, maybe everyone’s side-by-side, or maybe it feels just as empty as when playing the main game.
There isn’t much else to be said about Overpass, it is an enjoyable game and of all the bad stuff I said about it: they are genuinely only small issues, but they do all stack up. When it’s fun it can be really fun, but when it’s bad it can be really frustrating. Luckily all the issues I have with it are easily fixable in later updates, whether they actually do it or not remains to be seen. But for now the overall Overpass experience is generally just okay to me. It’s a great, challenging game that’s bogged down by bugs, a lack of content and questionable game design at times.