Thanks to the success of such games as Super Meat Boy and the Demon Souls / Dark Souls series, there’s been a lot of interest lately in video games that are intentionally hard. But there’s a big difference between challenging and infuriating. And it’s on the wrong side of things that we find Overpass (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Switch), an off-road racing game that’s decidedly more frustrating than fun.
you race All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs) against the clock (not other drivers) on dirt tracks that are fraught with hazards, both natural and man-made. Not only do you have to deal with mud and large rocks, but there are also piles of stacked logs, unevenly embedded tires, and even seesaws, which you have to drive to the top of and then wait until they come down before driving off — no jumping.
What makes Overpass different from other off-road racing is that it’s not about going fast. Or, more specifically, not just about going fast. While you do want to finish quickly so you can earn a Gold, Silver, or Bronze reward, events in Overpass are more about navigating a track than just speeding through them. There are times when you have to figure out how to get up a hill or over a large rock or around a curve made of (hopefully empty) oil barrels. You’re also penalized, time-wise if you circumvent a hazard, say by driving around a large cement pipe instead of through it.
But this is where things go awry for Overpass. While the idea of having to quickly figure out a track does put a unique spin on things, these courses are not well-designed. Some of them are nearly impossible to get around, especially since there are times when you can’t get enough speed to get up a muddy or bumpy hill.
Now, Overpass tries to compensate for this by allowing you to shift the weight of your driver when you’re using an ATV, and to switch the UTV from 4-wheel-drive to independent suspension (see the end of My Cousin Vinny for details). But neither help all that much; certainly not as much as, say, having better tires or a bigger engine or, I don’t know, a track that’s actually designed to be traversed. Even with these assists it sometimes took two dozen frustrating tries just to get up a hill…only to have to do it all over on the next one.
It also doesn’t help…
that both the ATVs and UTVs in Overpass are prone to tipping over. In fact, in just the training exercises that begin the “Career” mode, my drivers flipped and fell over so often that I just kept my finger hovering over the reset button. And it’s something I felt compelled to continue doing as I played the rest of this mode and some one-off races. Not that it helped since the game often resets you in such a position that you have to back up to get enough speed to make it up the hill you just fell over on.
As a result, events in Overpass are not so much challenges of your ability to figure out where to go but rather your ability to calm yourself before rage quitting because you can’t figure out for the life of you how to make it up that hill without getting stuck or flipping over or sliding back down.
It’s basically like Death Stranding if that entire game was just about driving the top-heavy truck over the rocky parts of the world. Y’know, the worst part of that game.
Oh, and for those who may be wondering, while yes, Overpass does have options when it comes to its difficulty, the lowest setting, “Pro,” is clearly not “Easy.” Or even “Normal.” God only know how maddening the unlockable “Hardcore” setting must be.
The sad thing is…
that were it not for these glaring, prohibitive, and seemingly easily avoided problems, Overpass might’ve been an interesting driving game. It certainly has a lot to offer, with more than 40 different tracks, including some picturesque beaches, lush jungles, beautiful forests, and interesting industrial areas. There’s also nearly two dozen real ATVs and UTVs — including Yamaha, Arctic Cat., and Suzuki — while its “Career” mode is similarly deep. It’s also an interesting idea for an off-road racing game, one that makes it different from such recent dirty racing games as Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame 3, WRC 8 FIA World Rally Championship, and MXGP 2019: The Official Motocross Video Game.
But just that makes this an even bigger disappointment. Being a bad game is one thing; ruining a good idea with bad mechanics — especially bad mechanics that could’ve easily been avoided — is worse. Which is why Overpass is a real stick in the mud.