I can understand why most of the Overpass reviews are bad–the game is way too brutal to be approached casually. You could call it a “racer” but it needs to be appreciated for what it really is: A technical UTV and ATV off-road driving simulator. If you’re already confused, this game’s not for you.

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(Full Disclosure: A company repping the publishers of Overpass contacted me and asked if I was interested in testing and reviewing this game. I said “sure,” and they sent me a code to download it onto my Xbox One for free.)

Gameplay

This clip was uploaded by the game’s publisher and gives you a preview of what it’s like to play. Check out the official Overpass site to see more official details, download it, or buy it. The game’s available now on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. I played it on my X-bone and Samsung 4K TV.

The Concept

You pilot a UTV (also known as a Side-By-Side/SxS) or ATV (also known as a quad) through obstacle courses in a variety of terrains and settings. The goal is to finish the courses as quickly as possible, but technical skill and low speed are required to plot your way through the puzzles presented by rocks, slopes, see-saws, and other crap the trails are littered with.

It’s about strategy and traction management, not flat-out speed or nerfing competitors.

The Experience

For those who aren’t familiar with competitive rock-crawling or trials-style racing, Overpass feels kind of in the middle of a Venn diagram between WaveRace 64 and Forza 7. The tracks look a little ridiculous with their sheer rock faces and jumps, but to be successful you actually need to take a pretty scientific approach to driving.

This is a simulator, not an arcade game. In other words: It’s challenging; unforgiving. It’s closer to the cold hollowness of reality than the cartoonishness of casual video games.

The graphics are kind of whatever and the game experience is rather lonely and quiet, but that seems fairly standard in simulators.

The “Campaign” mode starts with a tutorial, narrated by an instructor with a very dramatic drawl to his voice. It’s great, and like, is exactly how a UTV/ATV driving instructor would probably sound in real life. Realism in sound design continues to the vehicles–the discordant drone of a UTV’s engine is replicated to painful perfection.

There is no music, no real atmospheric ambiance. Your ears are just pummeled by the raucous BrrrRRR BR BR BR of small-displacement powerplants with continuously variable transmissions.

Illustration for article titled iOverpass/i Is A Tediously Challenging Off-Road Powersport Simulator

The race tracks are obstacle courses, I can’t emphasize that enough. Picking the right line with a careful application of throttle is critical to getting up, over, and around things. On the ATVs, you also need to manage the rider’s weight to keep from tipping over.

Aside from that and steering, you can manually switch between 2WD and 4WD (though I didn’t find any opportunities for 2WD to be advantageous) and UTVs have a differential lock you can activate on the fly to get you through particularly sticky stuff. The diff lock hinders your steering, just like it would in real life, so you’ll want to deactivate it for turns. It’s neat.

The vehicles take damage as you fall off rocks, the dings aren’t visually represented but they do adversely affect performance but I had so much trouble doing well in this game that I couldn’t really tell!

Illustration for article titled iOverpass/i Is A Tediously Challenging Off-Road Powersport Simulator

The courses are, mechanically, pretty impressive too. Logs, big tires, mud, sand... not only do things bump and jounce the way they might in real life, but even tire tracks and mud-slinging seems realistic. The seriousness in precision and patience you need to navigate the game’s intimidating obstacles make for a uniquely strategic “race” experience.

As for the physics of weight and traction, they seem realistic enough for entertainment. The mud, rocks, and sand are distinctly different to drive through. I saw one review complaining that the game “breaks its own rules” and surfaces aren’t consistently grippy. But in real life... sometimes things look sticky and they ain’t.

Also like real life off-roading at this level: Patience and finesse pay off more than brute force. Mashing the go-button and holding on won’t get you very far. So if you’re looking for an arcadey Forza Horizon-style experience, this ain’t it.

The downside to Overpass’s commitment to creating a technical challenge is that the game’s learning curve is just as steep as the rock faces you have to drive up. Even on the easiest difficulty setting it’s really fucking hard. And frankly, it’s tedious. You’ll be using the “respawn” button after landing on your roof a lot.

The game’s challenge isn’t complicated lore, character settings, or button combinations that need to be memorized. It’s largely about self-control: Overpass puts you into loud, tough-looking off-road vehicles and then demands you patiently pick your way through obstacles for so long.

Races are seven to ten minutes, and they’re time-trial based, so you’re generally alone in a very empty and quiet video game world. And your only real motivation to stick it out is to unlock new vehicles, which you’re also only likely to care about if you’re really into UTVs or quads.

I knew I was in for a rough time when I had to elect to skip some of the challenges in the tutorial after the game took pity on me for so many consecutive fails. But man, even slogging through the grab-and-go “Quick Race” courses wore me down with flip-overs and the relentless engine sound got me down in short order.

The Vehicles

The UTVs and ATVs, and the little perched guy (or girl; you can switch your driver’s gender) are all rendered in good detail. The vehicles are (mostly) officially licensed, so if these things are up your alley you’ll appreciate the visual realism there. Polaris, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Arctic Cat are represented.

There’s one fake one: The “Zordix” which looks like a high-speed rock bouncer, though it’s billed as a Rock Crawler. Honda and Can-Am are notably absent, but that shouldn’t deter anyone who’s enough of an ATV or UTV fan to appreciate this game.

Illustration for article titled iOverpass/i Is A Tediously Challenging Off-Road Powersport Simulator

It’s very cool to see the suspension move, switch the diff lock on and off, and watch the bodies get drenched in mud over the course of a race. There’s also a great in-cockpit view that gives you a pretty good sense of what it’s really like to drive a UTV.

You can upgrade and modify all these vehicles as you progress through the campaign, but I didn’t have the patience to get that far into Overpass.

Verdict

If you’re really into UTVs and ATVs, you might appreciate the simulator quality of Overpass. If you’re willing to tackle a driving game that’s more like a puzzle than a racer, you may also have some fun with this. To the latter group, I’d recommend you play it on mute though. Or at least put some fun music on.

For me personally, Overpass confirmed that I never need or want to drive a UTV in real life again. The engine sounds alone were enough to stoke shadows of the PTSD I was diagnosed with after maiming myself in a Can-Am Maverick X3 wreck a couple of years ago.

I don’t really like realistic video games in general and the slow pacing of this one brought me way more frustration than fun. Part of me feels like I’ll revisit it at some point, sit down and really try to carefully pick my way all the way through one of the courses. But in reality, I’ll probably just cue up Forza Horizon again to send sports cars flying off huge jumps with no consequences and delete Overpass as soon as I need more space on my Xbox’s hard drive.

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik | 1975 International Scout, 1984 Nissan 300ZX, 1991 Suzuki GSXR, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, 2005 Acura TL

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