Republished on Wednesday 28th November 2018: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of December's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
It may look a helluva lot like MotorStorm, but Onrush is a completely different beast. The first multiformat project from the developer formerly known as Evolution Studios, this high-thrills arcade racer shuns the racing lines of PlayStation 4 exclusive DriveClub in favour of explosive on-wheels action. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever played before – but can it stick its ambitious landing?
Where to even begin? Unlike virtually every arcade racer from the past 30 years, Codemasters’ latest doesn’t care whether you’re first or last – in fact, it wants you to be in the pack. Two teams of six cars duke it out across four modes, where the underlying key to victory is how much boost you’ve got in your tank. You can collect nitrous by driving dangerously – or by taking out “fodder” that fills the road.
Similarly to, say, Titanfall, computer-controlled racers pad out the tracks and are there to be smashed. Destroying this AI detritus will fill up your boost gauge, allowing you to go faster. Your objective in the game’s primary mode, Overdrive, is to maintain your boost for as long as possible; as long as you’ve got your thumb on the nitrous button, you’ll be earning points for your team.
Of course, adversaries aren’t going to stand for that, and are going to attempt to take you out of the race entirely. And therein lies the title’s unique gameplay loop: it keeps teams in packs, forcing you to balance defence with offence in order to come out as the winning team. Honestly, it takes a lot of getting used to, but a campaign is on hand to introduce you to the fundamentals.
And that is what the offline content is: training. It’s structured similarly to DriveClub, where supplementary challenges give you a little more to think about each round than simply winning the battle, but it’s a really good way to learn the fundamentals of each mode before hopping online. The artificial intelligence is solid, so there is fun to be had – and you can even play in co-op if you prefer.
But it’s online where the meat and potatoes of Onrush reside. Quality netcode means that you’ll get into a race in seconds, and the game uses bots to fill out vacant slots before cycling new challengers in. Honestly, the online is so seamless and swift that the release has the same kind of “one more go” factor as Rocket League – it can be hard to tear yourself away once you get a session started.
The comparisons to Psyonix’s soccer-football favourite don’t end there, as the quick chat is also on hand for those “OMG! OMG!” moments. And to be fair, the influences are wider reaching than even that: this may be a totally original title when taken as a whole, but it pulls in elements from all corners of the industry – including Overwatch, with each car having a special move that can be triggered once powered up.
The classes are straight out of MotorStorm, ranging from dinky dirt-bikes all the way through to four-wheeled monster trucks. Each vehicle has its own unique ability: some fare better in the air, while others can leave behind boost capsules for teammates to consume. The game’s perhaps a bit too chaotic to be truly team-based, but we can easily imagine competent clans comfortably outpacing newcomers.
That said, there are times when the release is far too random for its own good. There’ll be times where you’ll be taken out by opponents, and it won’t always be clear why exactly you came off worst. Similarly, the screen can get so busy that it’s genuinely difficult to see where you’re supposed to go. A complicated UI and dynamic weather system adds to the clutter – even though the latter is a feast for the eyes.
The 12 tracks are not conventional race courses at all, opting for extremely wide layouts to accommodate the game’s cluster of cars. You’re not going to do a whole lot of skilful driving in this game really; hairpin bends are few and far between, and most of the time you’ll merely be navigating ramps and smashing into opponents. It doesn’t really need an accelerate button to be honest.
The challenge comes from knowing your class and understanding the rules of each mode. Countdown sees you running through gates in order to keep your team alive, while Lockdown is a spin on the territory capture modes from first-person shooters. Switch is our personal favourite: it’s a twist on Call of Duty's Gun Game, where you work your way up the classes each time you crash.
All of the modes are equally entertaining, and we didn’t find ourselves particularly dreading any single one. Moreover, each of the tracks are augmented with different seasons and a day-night cycle, which gives the illusion of plenty of content – even if you will begin to notice the repetition after several hours play.
As such, the release’s longevity must be questioned. There are tons of cosmetic customisations to unlock via Overwatch-esque loot boxes, but there’s only so long that skins and palette swaps can remain exciting. Microtransactions are fortunately off the table, but beyond the four modes and 12 tracks, there isn’t really anything else to Onrush, and the package is subsequently slight.
But our bigger concern is how long this style of play will remain exciting. We’re a number of hours in and, while we’re continuing to have a blast in short bursts, we can feel our enthusiasm starting to wane. It’s an addictive game, undoubtedly, but its noisy presentation and chaotic gameplay style can be exhausting – and, we daresay, off-putting after a while.
Onrush is a chaotic arcade game that surprisingly comes together – even if there are question marks regarding its longevity. This brash vehicular experience draws inspiration from several different areas of the industry, but it reassembles them into something unusual and entertaining. A great online infrastructure means you can be in and out of the action in seconds, but the package could do with a little more meat on its bones to fully justify its price tag.