Having been a fan of the Trials series since it’s HD debut on 360, I was eager to try Overpass out when it referenced it having a similar style, but in a 3D plane. Zordix Games certainly nailed the challenge aspect – this is not for those who are after an easy time – and the feeling of accomplishment when besting a section of the track. It doesn’t quite have the same charm as Trials mind, which can make the grind a little less bearable.
You know you’re in for a tough time when even the tutorial poses a challenge. Learning the ropes of Overpass is essential, as barrelling in to obstacles full pelt will do you no good. We learn to enter steep inclines at angles, not to put too much pressure on the gas and more over 30 minutes or so before being let loose in an open environment to test out what we’ve learnt. You’ll need to heed the lessons well, as once into the thick of the career you’ll struggle to proceed otherwise.
At times, Overpass can be supremely frustrating. Entering into a steep hill climb with a good run up might see us just fault at the top – the respawn places us much closer to the hill, negating any speed advantage we had and making things ten times harder. While the physics are generally spot on, occasionally our buggy will flip over for seemingly no reason while at other times we can brute force our way through with little problem. Respawns are fairly quick – though not instantaneous as in other titles – but when they need to be used multiple times in a row the time soon adds up. Damage is also accrued to our vehicles as we traverse each track; take too much on and we need to forfeit the event, costing us valuable points. This can be repaired with earned currency (or repair kits before races for an instant fix) but often it’s all too easy to do more damage than currency we’ve earned, leaving us perpetually on the back foot.
The thing is, when it all comes together the feeling of overcoming a tricky section or climb is immensely satisfying, accompanied by a huge sigh of relief. Learning to navigate through mud, water and gravel, or over stacks of tyres or pipes is tough, but rewarding. Rarely did we have the trigger fully depressed; instead it needs a gentle, feathering touch to succeed. A little haptic feedback in the triggers wouldn’t have gone amiss, giving that extra little help in feeling the obstacle, as it were. Allowing us to rotate the camera by default would have gone a long way too, as it is it needs a press of the stick to do so, though it snaps back behind the car as soon as you release it.
The vehicles all have a great sense of weight in action though. As each tyre mounts a new hurdle, the chassis sways on the suspension in a believable manner. Flicking between 2WD, 4WD or Diff Lock changes the handling in noticeable ways. Using these to nudge the vehicle inches closer to overcoming a sticky point feels just right and keeps us in control, even when it’s all going wrong. Digging the tyres into the mud as we slide down an incline, managing to just catch it right before slowly pulling back up again never gets old. While some may find the pace a little too stop start, if you can get into it, Overpass rewards your patience with some very satisfying little moments of triumph.
The career mode at least allows us to choose our path through the challenge. Split up into a web of multiple events, clearing one opens up those connected to it for us to take on. At least 12 of these must be cleared – either by finishing the races or forfeiting – before the end of season points are tallied up. The top 8 finishers play off in the finals, while the bottom 8 get a run off of their own. Challenges range from steep hills climbs, arguably the hardest of the lot, to races against the clock across 3 laps of a course. We never directly compete with other racers, our finish time determining placement, so there’s no danger of being knocked off course by a rogue AI or two.
More powerful ATV’s and Buggy’s can be bought along the way, with parts able to be upgraded to give us an extra edge. You’ll need to unlock both though by clearing stages attached to them in the career web. It was a little frustrating to know that a tough stage needs clearing in order to unlock a vehicle or part that we had ample cash to buy – one that would no doubt make clearing said stage that bit easier. Customisation is pricey too, with even a simple pair of gloves for our rider coming in a several thousand dollars. It’s safe to say that you’ll need to play for a fair while to get the set up you desire. Unfortunately, outside of this aspect there’s very little charm to Overpass. Menu’s feature fairly generic rock music, but in races all we get is the roar of the engine. Some in game music or commentary would have alleviated some of the frustration perhaps.
While it lacks the charm of Trials, Overpass mostly manages to get that one-more-go feeling of trial and error right. It can be quite frustrating at times, and a little more feedback for the player to use wouldn’t have gone amiss, but if you’re after a challenging racer there’s plenty to enjoy here.