Onrush is not a racing game. You are not jostling for position, but position is important. You do not want to be first past the line or goal usually, but sometimes you do want to. You don’t want to be in last place, but there’s no such thing as last place.
What? Yes, Onrush sort of makes no sense at first. The nature of driving cars will make you want to adhere to racing game conventions. Forget everything you know about racing games. Onrush has no labelled positions, no starting grid or finish line.
So how do you win? Well, it depends on the mode. Either, you want to score the most points (by doing tricks, earning boost, boosting – called rushing – or smashing up the other team), deplete the other team’s time by hitting gates and earning time for your team, controlling a moving zone, or by switching out your opponent’s cars through all of the classes till there are none left.
Ok, so it sounds kind of weird. The tracks are wide, multi-layered and endless in terms of laps. There really are no laps actually, you just keep going round until the game mode ends. Onrush itself tries to help you realise it isn’t a racing game. Normal racing terminology calls the big group of cars the ‘pack’, in Onrush the ‘pack’ is always together, and this is known as the ‘stampede’.
The core concept is as follows; two teams compete in one of those four game modes. Also driving are NPCs – the ‘fodder’ – who are there to be smashed and supply you with boost. Smash other player cars and they sit out for a short time (giving you more opportunity to diminish their chances of scoring) and increase your own boost. Fully complete your boost meter and you get the chance to enable Rush Mode. This is your ultimate. Oh and you can swap between any vehicle class at any time, and each has their own abilities.
Sound familiar? Sounds like Overwatch. That’s the best way to describe Onrush. It’s Overwatch with cars. Classes vary from the small and nimble bikes, with abilities such as heavy slams to knock away opponents (since the bikes are weak and light it’s hard to smash cars to take them down) and big trucks which can obliterate others but are harder to manage. Ultimates too vary, from healing other cars, draining enemy team boosts, or dropping blockades to slow down others.
This is where position counts. Being at the front doesn’t necessarily help, maybe you’re the Onrush equivalent of a damage dealer. You want to be in the middle of the Stampede, brawling and taking out the enemy team. Maybe you’ll play a support, and be close to these guys giving them a shield to aid their attacks, or at the front dropping the previously mentioned blockades to slow down the other team and give you an advantage (although this tactic depends on the mode). The more I play, the more I come to grips with the abilities of each class, the benefit of the ultimates and the makeup of my team and how suited it is for that game type. And this makes Onrush quite special.
It doesn’t help that it looks very nice and is buttery smooth. It handles well, and you can choose between 60fps (on all consoles apart from basic Xbox One) or higher resolution and 30fps but honestly, you’ll want to go 60. And the sound, oh the sound. The music is incredible, the smashing and crashing is crisp and crunchy, the announcer is within striking distance of being annoying but doesn’t get there quite thankfully. The developers suggest that you play this as loud as you possibly can. I agree with this.
Loot boxes (boo) are in but they are only accessible via in game credits (yay). Skins for vehicles, drivers and nameplates are available, it’s kind of cool although the driver animations for celebrating are a bit naff really. It’s a minor point but I sometimes do a little cringe on the inside when the victory screen plays.
I wasn’t sure if this has legs, but Onrush is excellent. I think it’s best enjoyed in short bursts, intense and loud and left as you want more but before you devour it completely. I think the price point (full price RRP) may put some off given the slightly odd concept and deception of cars racing, but not a racing game. Still, I’d recommend giving it a go and giving it chance to sink it, as it’s quite pleasurable.
Reviewed on PS4
Iain’s Second Opinion
I went into the Onrush beta with all the wrong kinds of expectations. I’d seen a few video clips and several screenshots, and assumed (as a lot of others had) that this was the next Motorstorm. It’s not. As Matt has already highlighted this isn’t really a racing game. You drive quickly, and there are other vehicles around, but you’re not out to be first across the line. If you fall back too far you’re teleported back into the middle of the main fight without any real penalty. Onrush wants you to be mixing it up, taking other drivers down and taking huge jumps with the hope of landing right on top of an opposing car.
So when the final retail version arrived, I was ready. I had more accurate ideas of what the game was, and while it took some time to get to grips with the finer points of the game there’s no doubting how much fun it is. It’s also worth reiterating the point of how much noise this game should make. If you’ve got even a half decent headset you’ll want to get that fired up as high as you ears can take, because between the music, booming sounds and oh-my-God-how-pretty visuals this game is an assault on your senses that you’ll want to experience to its fullest.
So if you’re looking for a new racing game to scratch your itch, this probably isn’t it, but if you like the sound of driving like a madman with the sole intention of just causing as much chaos as you can then this is the game for you. It’s fun, it’s intense, and it’s amazed me at just how much I ended up liking it. I feel quite stupid for doubting Codemasters now.