A remaster of the original Steam release title Pressure, Pressure Overdrive finds itself on multiple platforms, hitting consoles for the first time. The Steampunk visual style is charming, pitting you against lighthearted foes in inflatable tubes, wooden barrels connected to wheels and other cliche cartoon-like vehicles. As a mix of a racing game with shoot 'em up mechanics, Pressure Overdrive lets two players play cooperatively through the entire game’s campaign.
As the name implies, vehicles in the game are powered by pressure, essentially steam-powered machines that would fit in a modern take on the Victorian Era. Your buggy, which is highly customizable, is graded based on the parts you currently have equipped. There is a total of nine different purchasable weapons, each one with three different tiered upgrades. These updates improve damage output, decrease the amount of pressure it costs to use, and more. As you earn money, you can swap out the primary machine gun with a new weapon, such as a flamethrower, a piercing railgun that can tear through multiple foes, an auto targeting lightning gun, or even a contraption that shoots bouncing saw blades.
Weapons aren’t the only parts that you can swap in or out, as your buggy has customizable slots in the front, top, bottom and rear locations. In fact, you can even replace the entire frame of your buggy if you wanted. Just like weapons, each component has three upgradable tiers, except the buggy itself, which only has single upgrade. There are dozens of levels in Pressure Overdrive, broken up into different themed locations. Each area is protected by a boss battle, which is probably some of the most enjoyable moments in the game. Although the multiplayer is limited to local only, there are global online leaderboards for every level. The leaderboards are separated by whether you are playing cooperatively and by your difficulty setting.
The actual gameplay in Pressure Overdrive combines racing with vertical shoot ‘em up controls. As you destroy enemies, you gain additional pressure, countering the fact that discharging your weapon costs as a set amount of pressure. Fail to take down foes fast enough, and your buggy becomes a slow moving easy target. Considering the nature of the game, I expected to see power-ups much more frequently than I did during my time with the game. Only lasting for a few seconds, the power-ups in the game grant invincibility, double damage and more, but since they only last a short amount of time, they don’t feel worthwhile. Not only that, but you can go multiple levels without ever seeing a single one. It's definitely a head scratcher considering power-ups are quite common in vertical shooters.
Racing towards an end point, there are no laps in Pressure Overdrive, enemies frequently outpace your buggy, even once you use your boost. I assume it was a conscious decision to ensure you always have targets to shoot, but as your vehicle is tied to the bottom of the screen, having foes considering crash right into you or fire before you can defend yourself is off putting. Instead of using a button to accelerate, you control your buggy using the left analog, while firing your weapon is tied to the right analog stick. There is certainly a lack of customization when it comes down to the controls, especially since the setup does take some time getting used to it. Holding up in a racing game, let alone a shooter feels antiquated. Why doesn’t your buggy move automatically, like in just about all vertical shooters? Not only that but since firing consumes pressure, I felt the need to stop using my weapons regularly, something that has been ingrained in me since first playing shooters in the arcades during my youth.
I appreciate the desire to do something unique with a vertical shooter, but some key elements hold Pressure Overdrive from being great. Local coop is appreciated, but outside of the starting machine gun, I found the additional weapon choices to be lackluster due to a low rate of fire. Not only that, but the lock-on mechanic of the lightning firing weapon would miss half of the time, firing into the ground instead. Boss fights are quite challenging, especially on highly difficulties, but the lack of customizable controls is questionable.
Note: Pressure Overdrive was reviewed based on a digital PlayStation 4 copy of the game, provided by the publisher.