Reviewed on: Playstation 4. Copy supplied by publisher.
Coming from some of the team responsible for the long absent Motorstorm series, Onrush is a racer than makes absolutely no effort to embrace realism whatsoever, and you know what? It’s glorious.
Taking the racing genre, Onrush tips it on its head and throws in elements of co-op team play and hero shooter. It’s a game that’s less about racing for the winning position, and more about racing for points in various game modes that encourage teams to work together in order to come out on top.
Before you hit the track you need to pick an avatar, which is purely cosmetic, as well as customise your appearance, vehicles and so on. There are eight different vehicles in the game, each of which has their own unique abilities, giving each different roles. There are rides that are purely offensive, with specials that focus on ramming and wrecking opposing drivers; and others are more about buffing the team, with increased boost for example.
On the most basic level, though, the game plays very similarly to the aforementioned Motorstorm, with a heavy emphasis on using your built-up boost to catch up to the pack and cause havoc. Whereas your boost (or temperature level) in Motorstorm built up over time, here you need to build it up, Burnout-style by ramming foes, narrowly missing obstacles, getting some air from jumps, and performing drifts. To aid you, as well as the two teams of actual racers, the game dumps in “fodder” cars. These race along with the pack, and can easily be rammed off the road for a small boost bonus. This also keeps things interesting, no matter where you are in the pack, as there’s always someone to hit or smash into the nearest wall or obstacle.
The game modes are varied and interesting, really focusing on the team unit, whether you’re playing online with friends, or even alone with AI. Either way it’s a team game, and the modes reflect this. “Overdrive” is a mode where you simply need to race hard and fast, ramming foes off the track and earning the most points before the end of the race. The team with the most points, wins.
“Countdown” sees each team race to drive through gates at high speed in order to keep their countdown clock from reaching zero. The first team to zero loses, meaning you have to hit your gates and try to force opponents out of the way of them to damage their time.
“Switch” is a mode that starts you off on a fast, speedy bike, and each time you wreck it, you’re put into the next larger, slower vehicle. The team with switches left is the winner.
“Lockdown” is a moving King-of-the-Hill mode where both teams fight to control a moving zone. It’s hectic, but a lot of fun. Each of these modes has been implemented into the racing genre very well. If Onrush is anything, it’s certainly different.
The various vehicle types aren’t for show, though, and the abilities each has are essential when taking on difficult teams. Unfortunately, I found that your choice of vehicle doesn’t really matter all that much if you’re playing solo with AI, and although it’s fun to experiment, to really get the most out of the game, you need to play with real people.
Racing as a support class, like the Dynamo which drops boost pickups for team mates and has a super that gives boost to nearby allies, for example, doesn’t really make a great deal of difference unless you communicate it to your team, who are then able to respond and capitalise on its benefits. Likewise, the Titan, which can give allies a shield, is pretty much ineffectual unless you’re online.
Of course, I can’t criticize the game too much for this. After all, it’s a game clearly built for multiplayer, and I always applaud a developer that gives those who prefer to play solo that option. In this regard, Onrush may not be at its best when played solo, but cranking up the dynamic soundtrack and hitting the many and varied tracks makes for a very enjoyable nonetheless.
The actual racing feels very close to Motorstorm, with a similar feel to the vehicles and handling. Courses with big jumps, walls, various degrees of angled surfaces, and all sorts of crazy obstacles instantly took me back to the likes of Motorstorm: Pacific Rift. As a huge fan of that game, I found myself grinning with glee as the thumping audio accompanied the smooth, yet brutal racing, and the cinematic wrecking replays and almost Robot-Wars style presentation of the vehicles and game modes hit all the right notes.
The game never lets up either, and even when you wipe out, after a few seconds off the track, you’re dropped back in the action, already moving with the pack. This is a major benefit of a game that isn’t about being number one to win. Instead, it’s about working with the team, meaning you can contribute regardless of your skill in the genre, even when playing online. I found this to be one of the best features of the game. Hitting the tarmac in any online racer can be a daunting prospect for those who don’t have the same level of skill as others, so many steer clear. Here, however, there’s just no need to worry. Just as it’s FPS cousin, Overwatch, makes it fun to play, even if you’re not great, so too does Onrush. You simply contribute to the whole as a team, and any score you may rack up can help.
Sadly, the evil of microtransactions and loot boxes does make its presence known here. In a system that’s nigh on identical to Overwatch, you earn loot boxes as you level up, and can buy more with real-life purchases. These boxes feature vehicle skins and shells, new jump tricks, new avatar clothes, and more. It’s all purely cosmetic, but the fact it was felt the game needed this in the first place is unfortunate. The actual cosmetics on offer aren’t very good either. There are some cool car skins and shells, but the game’s cast of racers is very, very dull, especially when I was expecting Overwatch-levels of cartoon creativity. That’s just not the case, sadly.
I was immediately stoked when I first heard of Onrush and its connections to the Motorstorm series, as I was a big fan of Evolution’s games, so I was expecting big things from this. What Codemasters has delivered is a fitting spiritual successor, and one that isn’t afraid to do something different in a genre that really hasn’t changed all that much in years.