This is not a race. It is a high-speed stampede.
This is what we are told in Onrush’s narration during the tutorial, and the feeling of being in the middle of a hectic, crazy stampede persists throughout. Whilst you play the game driving around in a variety of cars and motorbikes, it still doesn’t feel like a racing game, but more like constant fight for survival in a continuous melee of action and danger.
Onrush, developed by racing veterans Codemasters, is a vehicular action game unlike anything I have played in a long time. Playing as a variety of drivers and vehicles, your task is to be constantly boosting as fast as you can, for as long as you can. Playing dangerously is the best way to acquire more boost energy. This means going up anything vaguely ramp-shaped, doing tricks and flips when you’re in the air, and doing your best to knock your opponents off the road by any means necessary.
To aid this, aside from the twelve racers on the map (six on each team), the game constantly spawns easily-killed “fodder” racers who can be taken down easily to get boost energy. There are no finish lines; instead of trying to get ahead, the different mission types involve boosting as long as possible, driving through checkpoints and a sort of “capture the flag” mode where racers have to stay in a constantly moving point zone.
The best part of the game is how it flows; you are rarely taken out of the action for long. Whenever you crash (which will likely be many, many times), you get to pick your next vehicle, and 5 seconds later you’re back in the game. When playing online, it connected me to games very quickly, and playing successive matches was just a press of a button away.
I don’t entirely profess to be the expert of racing games, but I did find the handling of the cars in Onrush to be a bit loose; turning can often be difficult, and cars fly into the air at the most minor of bumps. However, in Onrush, the chaotic feel to the game’s physics kind of work here; you’re not trying to get ahead of the other racers, so it doesn’t matter if they get in front of you. Furthermore, when you fall too far behind, the game just teleports you back with the rest of the characters to keep the game fun, a feature that I appreciated a lot.
There are a variety of vehicles, each with specific special passive abilities related to their boost and a unique “rush” mode that ranges from “give all teammates shields” to “fill up boost gauge of nearby teammates”.
The racers are a variety of characters of different genders and backgrounds who can be kitted out with different colour schemes and poses, but if you are driving a car, you almost never see the character, which makes customising them a bit pointless.
Furthermore, the characters exhibit no actual personality during races or ever speak or emote outside of the victory dance you give them, so I didn’t find much reason to care about which driver I picked to play as.
In fact, the game that Onrush reminded me a lot of was Overwatch, as it uses a lot of the games progression mechanics. For instance, there is a profile leveling system, which dispenses loot boxes (here called “gear boxes”) at each level up. Mercifully, also like Overwatch, the rewards from the boxes are entirely cosmetic upgrades, including goodies such as driver and vehicle palette swaps, tombstones, and victory dances.
Unlike Overwatch, however, Onrush contains some single player modes, including a tutorial and a custom game mode which can be played against online friends or bots. There is even a kind of campaign mode which offers structured challenges using specific vehicles to force the player to experiment with different car types. Whilst this is nice, I do kind of wish local multiplayer was also an option.
“…boxes never seem to drop loot for vehicles that I actually use, but I suppose that is their random nature .”
The boxes never seem to drop loot for characters or vehicles that I actually use, but I suppose that is the nature of random loot boxes. Specific items can be bought with credits which you unlock by completing challenges, which cuts down on the randomness of the loot box system.
In addition, I couldn’t find any microtransactions or ways of artificially adding more in-game currency or loot boxes, which is a good move.
I really must praise the sound design. The game’s soundtrack is a fun mix of popular rock and techno songs which are really nice to listen to. Whenever you engage your boost power, the soundtrack is overtaken with a massive heavy metal scream, which really gets your blood pumping. In addition, knocking out the fodder racers is accompanied by a highly satisfying “THWACK” sound.
The visuals are also very nice to look at, and the game comes with an in-built photo mode in the pause menu for players to mess around with to get the most impressive shots.
If I had a major negative issue with the game overall, it would probably be content, or the lack thereof. Despite the drip feed of cosmetic unlocks, and the promise of ranked matches down the road, after only a few hours of play I felt like I had experienced all that the game had to offer.
Whilst the game modes are varied, there are only four of them, and there are only so many times one can do them before it gets repetitive. In addition, whilst the 8 different vehicles do have different stats and abilities, the differences between them generally weren’t significant enough to make me noticeably adjust how I played. Although the emphasis on ramming and landing on enemies to take them down sets the game apart from item-based racing games such as Mario Kart or Wipeout, it also means that challenges are approached in very similar ways.
Under the hood...
Onrush is truly a rush, Boosting straight ahead, knocking out fodder, going up a ramp and taking out an unsuspecting opponent on the way down never stops being a truly kickass sensation. While the game’s loose physics may lead you to crash into walls and bits of scenery more often than you would like, when it all comes together and you are causing carnage, Onrush is a sight to behold. However, I feel it is best enjoyed in short bursts with friends.