Onrush-Review Onrush Review

   07/06/2018 at 10:25       Chris OToole       0 COMMENTS. - Score 5/5
 - PS4, Xbox One, Racing, Multiplayer

Review by Rich Boulton.

 

Codemasters Evo, formerly Evolution Studios of Motorstorm and Driveclub fame, wondered what would happen if you took the best clips out of a Fast and Furious trailer, of metal grinding metal and outrageous looking cars slamming into each other, and made an entire game out of it. They also wondered what happened if you made a hybrid of an arcade racer and a competitive team-based shooter. It turns out that what you get is Onrush, and ultimately an incredibly entertaining experience.

So let’s get this bit out of the way - Onrush isn’t a standard racing game. It’s not a run to the finish line, and there are no points for being ahead of the opposition. If you crash you get respawned somewhere near the running pack, so you’re always close to the action. Every game type has two opposing teams, and the track is additionally littered with ‘fodder’ - slow AI cars that go down with one hit, contributing to your boost bar. Tracks are wide and filled with ramps and obstacles. You’ll be boosting, jumping, ramming and occasionally driving along with all four (or two) tyres on the ground. 

Currently there are four modes: Overdrive has you scoring points by boosting and rushing (more on that in a minute), Countdown places gates along the track for you to hit to add precious seconds to avoid your team running out of time on the clock, Lockdown sees you jostling for ownership of a moving control zone, and finally Switch brings Gun Game to racing, placing everyone in fragile bikes at the start, with each wreck suffered placing you into a heavier vehicle, first team to run of out of ‘switches’ loses.

Those vehicles then, there are eight and although you will pick a driver as well, the vehicle is the true character. Modelled like a hero shooter, each falls into a class from lightweight bikes and buggies up to heavy hitters, with the range of agility and fragility that you would expect. On top of that they have active (e.g. hitting an opponent disables their boost), passive (e.g. gain rush charge by driving near teammates), and rush abilities. The latter function are like ultimates, supers, or whatever lingo you are familiar with. Blade is a bike that leaves behind a Tron-style light wall which instantly wrecks any opponent that touches it. Dynamo feeds boost to nearby teammates. Enforcer trails a wake that blinds opponents caught in it. In addition, while your rush is active you receive a huge speed boost and gain the strength of a much larger vehicle, swatting opponents away like flies.

The combination of game types and vehicles gives Onrush a great deal of variety in the moment to moment action. You’ll find your personal favourite vehicles and tactics for each mode, adapting your choices and approach to the changing situation of each match. Once you begin to take on board the nuances of each mode and vehicle, and the potential teamwork, the game’s depth starts to unfold before you.

If any of this sounds familiar, it likely won’t be from racing games, but rather from competitive shooters, especially hero shooters such as Overwatch. And the comparison there is apt - there are a number of parallels in the clean presentation, the vibrant characters, and the emphasis on cosmetic customisations unlocked mainly through loot boxes (without microtransactions at launch). 

Thankfully Onrush doesn’t falter in that comparison on its quality either. The whole package is incredibly slick, the handling feels very good, the art style is appealing and flavourful, and in particular the music is a standout. In game the graphics are gorgeous, frame rate has been rock solid on a standard Xbox One, and lag seems to be minimal, even during the sparsely populated pre-release review period, holding up for release as well. Matches are filled up with AI and seamlessly swapped out for humans as they join, so you are rarely left waiting for matchmaking.

Multiplayer is the focus here, but there’s a significant collection of single player content to distract as well. These are structured series of events within the multiplayer mold, but against only AI bots. Each event has multiple challenges, many of which you are unlikely to achieve on the first attempt, so there is plenty to come back to. On balance though, if you won’t enjoy wrecking real life opponents, your time here will be limited.

To keep players engaged beyond the excellent on-track action, there are a huge number of cosmetic items to chase after. Characters have outfits, tricks ,and celebrations (displayed in the stat highlight breakdown after each match), vehicles have wildly varying skins, and whenever you die a customisable ‘tombstone’ is left behind. These items are all randomly unlocked through loot boxes, but in addition your ‘crashtag’, the banner associated with your profile, can be selected from any you have unlocked, and these are locked behind stat challenges such as winning a certain number of matches within a mode, or earning medals of specific types.

The longevity of the game will depend on the roadmap the devs are able to deliver. A ranked mode will be coming within the next few weeks, with further plans for additional cosmetic items, modes, vehicles, and characters. The wider response to the game may determine how much we end up seeing on this front, but for now Onrush is off to a strong start.

There are a couple of nits to be picked - characters have no gameplay impact and seem like a bit of a missed opportunity at the moment, occasionally spawns or contact results can seem unfair, and maybe balance issues will appear as they usually do in competitive games. 

However these are all things that can be addressed as the game moves forward, and unlike many ‘live’ games, Codemasters have not shipped half of a product here. There’s a very complete and satisfying experience to be had, that incorporates a fresh take on racing and competitive online gaming, which is thrilling to play in the moment. Gaming has not given us many outstanding arcade racers in recent years, but here we are being offered one that is absolutely to be cherished, and deserves to find a sizable and dedicated fanbase.

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Better late than never, eh Ror?
 
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