Bigben Games wants to be your racing simulation racing studio of choice (WRC 8 was a pretty excellent sim on PS4 and my favorite console racer last year), and its upcoming off-road title developed by Zordix Racing in Sweden, Overpass (set for release on March 12, 2020 and March 17 for Switch) is certainly shaping up to be a really solid game experience. I got an hour or so of playtime with the PC version and can report that it’s going to fascinate some and frustrate others, but this is actually a really good thing. If you’re more used to arcade-style racers where all you do is floor the accelerator and powerslide to the fastest victory you can manage, well, here comes a game that’s a test of skill where learning the literal ups and downs of the tracks becomes part of the game and speed needs careful mastering and consideration.
Does anyone remember Spintires? If so, imagine that with faster off-road racers in mind and the needs to both master a track’s hazards and nail in a quick time despite those hazards. Overpass does this somewhat magnificently, with analog triggers and a thrilling use of controller feedback where you’ll feel the road beneath your ride of choice and need to navigate through the environment unless you want more free badly done rolls than you can find at an Olive Garden.
The demo kicked off with a multi-part tutorial that showed off the physics system as one needs to literally get a grip on the handling model compared to other racers. There’s a need for speed here, but it only comes from learning the ropes and knowing when to use the 2WD, 4WD and differential lock flawlessly. There was a satisfying feel to all this even when I failed a few times in getting up some seemingly impassable courses and as later tracks were played, there was a sense of immediate small to major victories when formerly troublesome areas were conquered.
Details are important in a game such as this and Zordix packs in some nice little touches on rides and in environments (check the wheels spinning for what looks like motion blur, for example). This is a pure fist-pumping, sweat-filled racer if there ever was one. I mean, other than doing it a real life off-road vehicle as presented here, where else can you work up a sweat from taking a hill at a slow 5 mph pace before tearing downhill as fast as you can, but very carefully to make a good time?
There’s a two player mode also, but I didn’t get to try it out, as there was no one online to play with, but Zordix promises local multiplayer with 2-player split screen and hot seat play for up to 8 players, which is an excellent thing in my book. I’m excited about this one because in a sea of arcade-like experiences (which are fun, yes), Overpass is looking like a game with legs where more skill and patience will go a long was in providing even more satisfaction. Or, practice makes perfect, so get ready for a lot of practice to be perfect.
Some screens are in my earlier preview here, and here’s a bit more info on the game from the developer:
- 23 licensed vehicles from Yamaha, Arctic Cat, Polaris and Suzuki
- More than 40 tracks (43 in total), in 6 different venues offering unique challenges
- A full career mode, where you start as a rookie and have to win some races to gain reputation to attract sponsors, win money to repair your vehicles and buy new ones. Ultimately you want to reach and win the world championship.
- Local multiplayer with split screen (2 players) and hot seat (up to 8 players playing one after another, as it is in real competitions)
- The goal is to make the best possible time. However, the first time you discover a track, it is more about exploration and understanding what challenges the game has for you here. The level design has been one of the main focuses, along with the physics. The key is to find the right amount of power with the throttle. Too much will get your wheels to spin on the spot. Building some momentum, the right amount of speed, and then keeping just the right amount of acceleration is the way to not lose grip and succeed.
- The tracks are not licensed ones, but are inspired from real ones, allowing the freedom for level designers to get something interesting and unique enough for a video game.
- Tracks are about 3-15 minutes, split in 2 categories:
Obstacle Courses, where you find a succession of natural and artificial obstacles.Hill Climb, which are usually shorter but more technical. You are at the bottom of a hill and need to reach the top.
As much fun as I had with this one, I can’t wait to dive into more – keep an eye out for this game, is what I say.