STAFF REVIEW of Overpass 2 (Xbox Series X)

Thursday, December 14, 2023.
by Kirby Yablonski

Overpass 2 Box art I remember reviewing the first Overpass in 2020. Back then I thought the game had some potential even with some of its negative aspects. Well, fast forward to 2023, and Publisher Nacon has released Overpass 2. For those wondering, the game released back in October, and we got a review code; however, it slipped between the cracks for me and alas I am writing this review in December. I don’t remember seeing too many reviews out there for it, which is surprising given it is a game that shies away from most traditional racing games that are dominated by circuit, street, and rally racing.

Overpass 2 follows the same formula of the original game. It challenges you to drive on various courses and areas, either in a circuit-based track, point A to point B course, or a hill-climb, and all of the race types are filled with natural or man-made obstacles. You take control of fully licensed 4 wheeled buggies (UTVs) and 4 wheeled ATVs from the likes of Arctic Cat, Suzuki, Polaris and Yamaha as well as some custom Rock Bouncers. Although the goal is to finish first in each of the events there are other factors to take into consideration given the nature of the races. Some races can have specific paths that give you an advantage while others are meant to strictly stay on the only path and don’t crash. This is one of the bigger features of the game that I enjoyed, as it just wasn’t another race clone, racing other cars on streets or gravel roads to win.

Although it’s classified as a racing game, it also has a simulation component to it. You oversee your support team throughout the career mode, which is the meat of the title, via a “center of operations”. You’ll be managing staff and activities throughout each season. The focus will be on your calendar of events, research and development, sponsorship, emails (in-box), staff (hiring and firing), vehicle repairs (the garage), and more. It’s more complex than just picking events, fixing vehicles and choosing the right staff. For example, you will hire up to three staff per department (e.g. mechanics, meteorologists, researchers, etc.). To hire the staff, you must scout them which takes time, and once the appropriate time has passed you will eventually hire them for their specific skills and service(s) while firing others. The R&D department on the other hand oversees investigating and opening better equipment for your current vehicles and opening new and improved vehicles.

The one thing that is very evident in Overpass 2 is that you must maintain control of your vehicle (I know... DUH!). You’ll be racing on various forms of terrain, in different types of weather, and facing varying forms of obstacles. Should you misjudge an obstruction, corner, or just lose control of your vehicle as you’re driving too fast, you will flip, tip, or crash, and quite often too. This was one of the bigger frustrations of the game for me, as I truly felt that the 'luck of the video game gods' was in play during some of these moments. The consequences of these are such that you are penalized with time penalties that can make or break your event. Going through my notes that I took as I played, there were many times that I wrote in caps when facing this kind of situation, as it was totally out of my control a lot of the time. I can tell you though, given this set of circumstances that you must manage, when you win an event with little to no penalties, it is very rewarding.

Something that was interesting, and a step back somewhat for the game when compared to the original, was when using the ATVs. In the original game I remember being able to control my character by leaning certain ways to counter when the wheels were starting to come off the ground when I didn’t want them to. I even checked my initial review of the first game, and low and behold I noted that fact in it. This time around, there is no way to lean when using the ATVs, or at least I could not find any instructions or control schemes to do so. I also found that when racing in the various events that the vehicle collision detection was quite wonky. Something like a simple cactus, pylon or even a light on the side of a road could literally derail my race as I flipped and flopped when I believed I missed or just slightly grazed it.

Something that did carry over from the first game is your ability to control the traction of each vehicle, which is quite important. Switching from 4WD, 2WD and Differential Drive on the fly can make a difference. The ability to change your traction while racing is important, as you can get better grip when you need it or open it up to speed on straightaways. You wouldn’t think that this would be a feature you’d notice to be so functional, but it is.

As you make your way through the career mode you will earn EXP points which allow you to level up and earn skill points that you apply to a skill tree. There are six different areas, from research, race information, vehicle, simulation, currency, and scouting. Each of these skills are geared toward improving the experience, such as earning more money or EXP per event, having your vehicle better grip specific surfaces, or toughening up your vehicle’s body to take less damage during each event to such things as having a faster repair time, better weather analysis, better research and more. It is a detailed skill tree that can assist you in your overall racing and management of your team.

Overpass 2’s difficulty can be tough, particularly at the start when you don’t have access to better parts, equipment and/or vehicles. You will want to quit more than a few times, but if you persevere you will be able to start to find your way through your first season, acquiring the parts and vehicles that will enable you to do better. You’ll also find the game’s AI ruthless as they don’t have any vehicle awareness and will just plough into you at various times in the events. You will have to be very careful around them given their recklessness.

During your career mode, you will be tasked with various events like product demonstrations, show off events, extreme challenges, and training days. These events lead up to the main event, where you are required to race three separate events, one in each different vehicle. As you get used to the different events, you can choose to skip various ones through your season; however, you cannot skip the main event. You can simulate one of the three events within the main event though should there be something you don’t particularly excel at or find too frustrating. When I did simulate an event in the main event, the outcome was varied, as I could end up at the back of the pack while other time, I ended up in the top three of a specific challenge. It’s a nice touch, and given how the game plays, something I appreciated.

Should you wish a break from the career mode, there is a Quick Race and Multiplayer mode. Quick race is best defined by its title, as you can pick from any of the tracks and their corresponding environments and race. This mode is actually advantageous in such that it allows you to tackle a track that you may be struggling with in career mode, but without any penalty (e.g. failure to place high enough that it may affect overall career placement). As for multiplayer, I really wish I could comment on it, as I wasn’t able to join any matches online as there were no available matches to be found. You can play split-screen mode for multiplayer; however, the limit being the screen size as you are cutting your screen in half. It’s functional, but not something that I think those who want to play this style of game will enjoy as much.

In terms of the visuals in Overpass 2, there were times when I found myself very impressed, then an event or two later, I found myself disappointed. The game can look like it is indeed using the power of the Xbox Series X at times; however, other times you’ll question which machine your playing in the first place. This is very evident when in your base of operations. The garage looks Xbox 360’ish while the character models are just the same. Of course, I need to comment on the game’s vehicles, which are realistic. I have been ATV’ing a few times in my adult life, but I do admit I have never ridden in a UTV or Rock Bouncer. Regardless, the vehicles overall look true to the source, including some of the accessories that you will open as you progress through the game (e.g. light bars, bigger or smaller tires (tyres for you U.K. folk), changes and netting). Seeing a vehicle’s shocks and/or tires responding to the various terrain one will go over was cool and seemed to be what you’d expect.

When racing, you’ll find that the game can be beautiful at times, with night racing being noteable from the headlights of your vehicles to the pockets of fans around a fire or light source as you race by. Various terrains can look good too, from the lime-like rock mountains to the rocky courses found in various mountain valleys to the muddy and rainy events found in various fields and forests. There are some stunning environments and vistas to be seen. And although it sounds like I am more positive than negative in the visuals area, I do have to question some of the textures used, or assets presented when finding the instances of 'WTF is this I am seeing?'. I wonder if some of the original game’s visuals were carried over to this current game, but I can’t say for sure.

While the visuals were a mixed bag, the audio can best be defined as “okay”. The generic ‘metal’ soundtrack had me turning it right down, or even off, given its unappealing nature. The various vehicles do manage to sound different, and as you level them up and upgrade, you’ll hear a slight difference now and then. The sounds of the terrain, weather, and environments do make up a nice plethora of sounds, from wind blowing or a dust storm making its way through the environment to running creeks, waterfalls, or creaky boards of a raised wooden section of a track. You will even hear the cheers of the crowd when passing the various groups along the course. Make sure to keep your expectations manageable though, and you will find that you’ll enjoy the sound that Overpass 2 offers.

As with the first game, Overpass 2 is not what one would consider a traditional racing game given the events you participate in and the sim-like management of your team. You will be frustrated when you first start playing, even if you’ve gone through the tutorial, but push through and it gets somewhat better. Like the original, the foundations of something cool is here. I know when I reviewed the first game, I hoped that there would be a sequel with improvements in various areas, and although there are some, Overpass 2 still has annoyances that continue to hold the franchise back. The experiment of the first game continued with the release of a second, but the result is one that feels like it could have used more time. So, the major question is: “Dare I wish for a third kick at the can?”. In some ways yes, but they need to take the time to make improvements, or the third time could be unlucky.

**Overpass 2 was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

This franchise truly deserves the time to be developed right, with little room for errors. Please, should you take a third kick at the can, take your time, fix the negatives, and make it the game it can be.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.9 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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