I was gutted when Evolution Studios closed.Whilst I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t crazy about DriveClub (though those weather effects were insane), I was a big fan of their work on the Motorstorm series. I was actually eagerly anticipating the next release on the PlayStation 4, thus it seemed like it wasn’t meant to be.
Thankfully, Codemasters jumped in to help save the studio which has resulted in the release of ONRUSH – a frantic, action-packed racer that feels like Motorstorm and looks a bit like Motorstorm, but actually has its own unique approach to driving that is a little bit unconventional. It also just so happens to be bloody brilliant and one of the most addictive racers I’ve played in years.
Now the one thing that needs mentioning straight away is that ONRUSH doesn’t play like your typical racer – you’re not all competing to get to the finish line first, but instead completing specific objectives across the game’s four different modes. Another interesting aspect of the game is that you’re always going to be working as team of six, with both teams competing to earn the most points.
There’s an emphasis on driving with style too, with boost only being earned in-game when you’re more creative with your driving. This might mean wiping out the countless AI drivers scattered across each track (these aren’t part of the race, but are just there to be demolished), hitting every big jump you find, or by pulling off the occasional barrel roll in the air. Whatever approach you decide to take, you’re not going to find success in the game if you don’t take a few risks. You’ll also be able to hit ‘Rush’ mode once you’ve used a certain amount of boost too, which doesn’t only make you incredibly fast but also makes it easier to wipe out any opponents in your path.
The bulk of your time in ONRUSH is best spent online competing against other players in one of four game modes: Overdrive, Countdown, Switch, and Lockdown.
In Overdrive, you earn points by boostingacross the track. You’ve got to maintain your boost for as long as possible, which means you’ve got to wipe out as many vehicles as you can, hit all the jumps you find, and just try to drive with flair. It’s a fun little mode that demands both speed and style from the player, with everyone competing to try and hit every opportunity to earn boost they can find.
Countdown sees both teams looking to slow down a dropping timer by driving through gates. Whoever hits the gate first gets a bigger time bonus for their team, with the gates growing in size every time a driver races through them. This was probably my favourite game mode to play, especially since it was so satisfying to be the first racer to hit one of the gates.
Switch gives you a set amount of lives, with each life being represented by a different type of vehicle working from smallest to largest. Everyone starts out on a motorbike, but as they slowly get wiped out they end up working their way to the bigger and more powerful vehicles. It’s an intriguing game mode that adds a more battling nature to ONRUSH, which in turn takes real advantage of the sheer destruction that each race offers.
Lockdown is probably my second favourite mode in the game. An ever-moving area of the track will become highlighted, and whichever team has the most cars stay in that area for the longest time wins a point. It’s such a simple concept (and one that first-person shooters have been doing for years), but its implementation in a racing game is just so clever and fun that it’s hard not to get hooked into it.
What I liked the most about each game mode was that they made you play in a completely different way. No two mode feels the same, with some emphasising being the fastest racer, some the most creative, and some the most destructive – they essentially take what makes the game so great, and force you to take advantage of it. It’s good game design by Codemasters and is one of the things that makes ONRUSH so much fun to play.
You can spice up your approach mid-game too: there were times when I focused on scoring as many points as I could, whilst other times I prioritised wiping out opponents to stop them from scoring instead. It caters for all playstyles, with the flexibility of the game’s setup allowing you to essentially do what you want (except reach a finish line).
In a similar vein to class-bases shooters, your choice of vehicle will change up how you approach races too. There are eight different vehicle types to choose from which all do something a little different: some focus on speed, some focus on handling, some focus on smashing your opponents apart, whilst others focus on helping out teammates with some additional boost. There’s some real creativity on show with how they work, and each vehicle does something a little different that might suit your playstyle. They’re all fun to play around with, so it’s worth spending a bit of them with them all to see what works best for you.
Admittedly though, sometimes the game is just too frantic to really coordinate as a team and use each vehicle’s skills to your advantage. ONRUSH desperately wants to have a team-based component where you’re working together, but it’s difficult to coordinate when you’re speeding across tracks and trying to smash everyone around you. Don’t get me wrong, there’ll be moments when you can work with a teammate to smash an opponent or trap them to crash into the environment (and believe me, it’s glorious when it happens) but actually communicating with each other to coordinate attacks like this is close to impossible most of the time.
It’s in the online mode that you’re going to have most of your fun in ONRUSH, though there is a single player component in place for those who prefer playing alone. The ‘Superstar’ campaign sees you working through a variety of events across the different game modes, but rather than facing off against real-life players it’s against the AI. It’s a decent enough campaign: it’s not overly fleshed out nor is it particularly complicated, but it does a good job of offering players the opportunity to improve their skills against less brutal opposition.
Whilst I generally loved playing ONRUSH, there were a few minor issues that cropped up. One only rears its head whilst playing offline, with the game switching to a slow-motion camera angle whenever you wipe out another driver – sure, it looks cool, but it’s pretty jarring when you go back into the action and are thrown off your driving line thanks to the sudden change of view. It caused more than a few unwelcome crashes on my behalf…
There’s also the fact that everything is so damn chaotic that it’s a little difficult to keep on top of everything that’s going on around you. Now this might not be technically considered a flaw (after all, it adds to the unpredictability of a race) but the amount of times I crashed out because an opponent landed on me during a jump or because I didn’t know a teammate was by the side of me was absurd. Again, I have to emphasise that it’s the nature of the beast with ONRUSH focusing on its action being chaotic, but I found I was often left in some situations where I’d simply have no chance of survival.
Despite these minor issues, there’s simply no doubting that ONRUSH is a great game to play. I’ve put in a ton of hours already and haven’t even started to tire of its frantic racing formula – sure, you’ll start to feel a small sense of familiarity as you blast your way across tracks, but the action-packed nature of the game combined with the unpredictability of other drivers ensures that you’re always going to be having a hell of a good time. Admittedly, there isn’t a real progression system in place that motivates you to keep playing (except for the loot boxes which unlock additional cosmetic items), but when the game itself is so much fun to play it doesn’t really matter.
I like my racers to feel arcade-like, frantic, fast and full of destruction, and thankfully ONRUSH ticks all of those boxes. Best of all, it also just so happens to be a hell of a lot of fun to play.
It genuinely does something different with the racing genre, whilst the focus on team-play and earning points as opposed to simply winning races forces you to play in a more unconventional (but mighty satisfying) way. I just had a blast with the game and can see myself hitting ONRUSH’s brutal racing tracks for more online showdowns for months to come.
Publisher: Deep Silver
Release Date: Out Now
Platform(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox On