Video Game Review: Overpass

Images via Overpass

UTV-loving gamers, rejoice: there’s finally a console game out there for you.

The latest in a number of niche racing games published by Bigben, including the most recent entries in the WRC series, Overpass puts the focus entirely on UTVs and ATVs for an off-road experience unlike any other. And while it’s not the kind of game that you’ll probably want to show off to your friend who’s new the sport, off-road lifers who enjoy grueling real-world events like King of the Hammers will probably find a lot to love.

Let’s start with that: if you were hoping for the chance to race UTVs in SCORE-style desert racing, or even in races in general, this isn’t the game for you. Unless you’re actually playing in multiplayer mode, Overpass is a very solitary experience, to the point where your time on the obstacle course or in hillclimbs doesn’t even have officials, course marshals, or anything else. It’s literally you versus the game, and whatever challenges it can throw at you, at all times.

And throw challenges it will. In fact, Overpass may be one of the most difficult driving games out there because of the nature of its subject matter. You’ll be taking on mud, rocks, logs, concrete, steep inclines, seesaws, and basically anything else that the developers thought might be fun to put you through. If you actually have some real-world experience, or at least familiarity, with this type of driving, you’ll probably get the gist of it pretty quickly. If not, you’re going to be in for some long hours figuring it out, if you don’t choose to abandon it entirely out of frustration.

But if you’re able to push through the tutorial, the game has the capability to suck you in. CVT driving is approachable to those who never learned to shift in video games, but that doesn’t mean you’re not shifting, in a sense. Instead, in most vehicles, you’re jumping from 4WD to 2WD or differential-locked driving to find the way to most effectively traverse whatever’s in front of you. Entering each test one wheel at a time is paramount, or else you’ll be holding the reset button for an agonizing four seconds before you can get going again.

The career mode takes some time to work through, especially as most individual events will take a good chunk of time, but the off-track experience is interesting, with sponsorships and upgrades adding some intrigue and strategy to the proceedings. The in-game season sees two events going on at the same time, with the top eight drivers in points in one and the bottom eight in the other. So if you’re lucky enough to conquer the physics model, you’ll always be facing top competition, and if you’re still struggling, you have a decent opportunity to figure it out.

It’s hard to find the right words to describe the in-game environment as a whole. There’s just as much of an emptiness to the menus as there is to the gameplay, with your firesuit and helmet choices the extent of any player interaction during your experience. It’s clear that the driving itself was the focus, but it leads to a strange vibe and almost an apocalyptic feel, as if every event was supposed to be a big deal for spectators but ended up totally abandoned for some reason. Given the context of a global pandemic that has brought the world of motorsport to a screeching halt, that vibe hits way too close to home.

The vehicle selection is reasonable given the niche setup, although the “hero” vehicle that comes with a download code in the Day One Edition is a fully upgraded Polaris RZR carrying Bryce Menzies’ familiar Red Bull livery. Of course, there’s a matching firesuit as well. There are significantly more UTVs than ATVs, and while all of the vehicles will look much closer to showroom models than anything else, you’ll be spending so much time focusing on the diverse forest, beach, and mountain environments (among others) that you’ll probably forget about what exactly you’re driving anyway.

In the end, Overpass is a Bigben game to its core: a carefully crafted product based around a niche motorsport, with a laser focus on the driving itself that comes at the expense of some of the bells and whistles that make the environment feel a little more vibrant. Its audience will likely be pretty small, but as frustrating as it will be for any casual gamers who stumble upon it, it should give off-road gamers something fun to take on while we’re all dreaming of our next opportunity to go out and play in the mud.

This game was reviewed for the PlayStation 4.

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