Arcade racer or competitive hero experience? Onrush commits to both in a rather tepid manner.
Boost trails blazing around your car, sick jumps and crashing thumps against the world, a bombastic presentation with three different announcers assaulting your ears and a format that’s the racing equivalent of a dog pile – that somewhat describes Codemasters’ Onrush. Developed by the same team behind Motorstorm and DriveClub, Onrush has been making waves for its unorthodox approach to racing, replacing starting positions with a constant stampede of metal while classes and kits supersede vehicle tuning. An arcade racing title with takedowns and team-focused gameplay with an atmosphere reminiscent of Jet Set Radio – what could possibly go wrong? In Onrush‘s case, quite a lot but it doesn’t make for a bad game so much as an uneventful one.
"Onrush doesn’t function like a traditional single-player game. There are no positions. There’s no benefit to being in first and if left behind for too long, the game will automatically throw you back into the fray."
From the awkwardly scripted tutorial to the splash screen at the first touch of “Rush”, Onrush wants to be in your face. Constantly. Not so much overpowering as constantly wowing, there’s a barrage of fast-paced tracks, voice samples in various takedowns (and wrecks) and a stream of avatars that are too cool for school. Loot crates aren’t just unboxed – they’re run over by cars. Despite all this, Onrush is surprisingly tame with its content – there’s Quickplay and Superstar. If there’s a specific mode, weather type and track you’re looking for, then Custom Games are your friend.
Right off the bat, I didn’t play online. Much of this review is based on the single-player component including the eight vehicle classes, balancing and overall content within the various modes. If you’re looking to pick up Onrush for its multiplayer, then you might want to wait a bit to see how the servers and net code pan out at launch.
Anyway, Onrush‘s Superstar mode is the de facto Career path, telling the tale of friends coming together and apparently attempting vehicular death while looking as cool as possible in the process. This quickly gives way to the first set of events, each offering a single vehicle class to get the hang of. As you continue, more class-specific challenges and races will unlock. This offers some nice variety to the action though I really wish Onrush had more outlandish scenarios and unique missions to really push the boundaries. As noted above, Onrush doesn’t function like a traditional single-player racing game. There are no positions. There’s no benefit to being in first and if left behind for too long, the game will automatically throw you back into the fray. AI controlled opponents called Fodder litter the races, prompting takedowns and granting boost. Keep boosting and the Rush meter is filled with Rush serving as a class’s Ultimate ability.
Each mode played has you and five other racers on one team competing against the other in rounds. Overdrive demands constant boosting, jumps, takedowns and stunts to score points – activating Rush when the point meter is at its peak will effectively double them. Hit the 10K mark and the round ends. Win enough rounds and the match is awarded to your team. Countdown focuses on how long the clock can be extended by hitting time gates. Lockdown generates a moving King of the Hill zone which must be captured. Switch is the most intriguing since it starts one with the smallest vehicle and each elimination gradually builds to the biggest machine. Those who rack up deaths can then prioritize protecting their smaller teammates or hunting their weaker foes.
"Blade is clearly head and shoulders above the rest with its fiery Rush trail that can easily wreck any trailing vehicles. Heck, blinding foes is a Rush ability for Enforcer and Blade gets that as a passive by simply dying."
Objective modes are the bread and butter of Onrush’s gameplay. Working together is the key to winning but the game also rewards players who play the objectives (or take out Fodder and enemy vehicles). Not all vehicle kits feel like they synergize for team play but there are some dedicated roles to play. Classes like Dynamo and Titan, the former dropping boost pick-ups and granting Rush when driving near teammates while the latter offers shields to allies, feel like decent supports for example.
Whether you’re playing as an Interceptor, Charger, Vortex or Enforcer though, the main focus is on takedowns and driving recklessly. That’s all fine but the various classes feel redundant when they boil down “Improved magnetism for air attacks” or more effective “Timed boost landings”. The worst part is that if you’re going for takedowns, Blade is clearly head and shoulders above the rest with its fiery Rush trail that can easily wreck any vehicles behind it. Heck, blinding foes is a Rush ability for Enforcer and Blade gets that as a passive by simply dying (that is, if opponents run over its tombstones). As it stands, even if the class isn’t blatantly overpowered, it feels annoying to play against. The addition of class switching feels more arbitrary than significant to turning the tides but it’s nice to change out if a specific class isn’t suiting your style.
While one could imagine teams strategising together to have the Titans and Enforcers create space while the smaller vehicles play the objectives, that’s something I could see highly coordinated teams pulling off. Unless you’re playing Lockdown, which is basically “Get as many cars in the zone as possible” resulting in either chaotic romps or annoying dashes to get back in. Onrush neither has any tools to find teams, an LFG system if you will, nor does it boast a competitive racing mode or ladder (as of now at least) to properly accommodate those teams. Despite this, even when playing solo, the team aspect can wildly vary. Some matches you’ll feel like you accomplished very little while others will see you out-perform everyone but still lose. More solo options would have been greatly appreciated due to the hit-or-miss nature of team play.
"The soundtrack may not always grab you but its energy is undeniable and helps set the mood amidst the backdrop of racing factions with their bizarre get-ups and outlandish vehicle paint jobs."
There can be some pleasure to activating Rush and rampaging through fodder and the opposition. However, Onrush can feel somewhat inconsistent when it comes to normal takedowns. Crashing head-on into certain objects won’t wreck you but if an opponent so much as grazes your vehicle on a landing or that passing rock is nudged, then it’s to the scrap heap. Granted, it’s not as inconsistent as the beta – perhaps because I played the single-player – but it still crops up every now and then. Furthermore, taking damage results in red flashes on screen, further limiting your POV. Between all the boost trails, Rush effects, cascading Fodder, environmental objects and weather, Onrush‘s visual clutter can become nigh unbearable at times.
The lack of overall depth of the racing is also troublesome. I don’t mind Codemasters removing any vehicle customization options and emphasizing the abilities. However, the lack of any racing techniques like drifting or drafting ensure that real skill lies on coordinating with your team. Did I mention that such a feat can become especially tough to pull off when the action is so fast moving?
It’s not all bad news. Even running at 30 frames per second on the Xbox One, Onrush‘s performance is very solid with almost no issues. The tracks are pretty well designed, offering enough space to assault enemies while playing the objective. Sure, not every track is as spectacular as Glory Dam with vehicles crashing and riding on the walls of the dam. But even if Volcano Lake and Blast Pit looked like typical outdoor environments, each with their own unique traits like rainbow water bodies and giant dump-trucks as roadblocks respectively, they still felt good to race on. Whether 12 tracks will be enough or not at launch is really down to personal preference.
Lack of advanced racing techniques notwithstanding, Onrush does feel pretty good to control. The weight of the Enforcer as it navigates rocky terrain and smashes into vehicles feels just right. Similarly, the unsteady and frail nature of Blade and Outlaw can make tricks and stunts that much more exciting. The soundtrack may not always grab you but its energy is undeniable and helps set the mood amidst the backdrop of racing factions with their bizarre get-ups and outlandish vehicle paint jobs.
"Onrush wants to meld arcade racing with the dynamic, free-flowing nature of hero-based competitive games. In terms of visuals, presentation and controls, it mostly succeeds without over-achieving in any department."
A note on the cosmetics in Onrush – they’re fine and not completely bogged down by the loot box system (with frequent level-ups ensuring plentiful rewards). Currency is earned from each race so it’s not difficult to eventually purchase the items directly. The addition of a special deals section for certain cosmetics is also a nice touch. Overall, though, I felt the cosmetics to be fine. Nothing truly amazing but not Lawbreakers-tier either.
As a concept, Onrush wants to meld arcade racing with the dynamic, free-flowing nature of hero-based competitive games. In terms of visuals, presentation and controls, it mostly succeeds without over-achieving in any department. Gameplay-wise, it feels very uneven in places when it’s not downright annoying in others. The Superstar mode doesn’t offer much by way of variety nor does it capitalize on the game’s zany premise. Competitive players looking for their next big grind will also be let down by the general design and feature set. As an arcade racer, Onrush is a neat distraction, one that lets you pummel opponents and boost to your heart’s content. However, there are so many other racers – from Burnout Paradise and Mario Kart to Gran Turismo Sport and Forza Horizon – that can offer so much more, whether you seek a great arcade racer or a serious racing sim.
This game was reviewed on Xbox One.
Intriguing presentation that creates an energetic atmosphere. Good visual performance, ranging from a stable framerate to strong effects. Vehicle control is mostly on point and smashing through the opposition can be fun. Certain modes and the core gameplay can be fun in a devil-may-care way. Decently designed tracks.
Advanced racing techniques are lacking, giving way to vehicle kits and abilities. The abilities themselves don't feel extremely compelling and the teamwork aspect is neither greatly apparent nor exceptional. Takedowns can feel inconsistent at times. Despite decent content in Superstar mode, there's not much variety to the events. Cosmetics are average as a whole.
An intriguing concept that should have gone much further, Onrush burns out in neon smoke, promoting a team aspect that's not exceptionally amazing. Decent gameplay abounds but dedicated racers and competitive players will be left wanting for a meatier experience.