Do you love racing games? Wait, let me elaborate. Do you love racing games where you’re moving at breakneck speeds, so fast that the only things on screen that you can make out are your own car, the one or two cars ahead of you, and everything else a blur, and tinkering with new parts to add a few extra jigawatts to your flux capacitor? Me neither. I tend to steer clear of these sorts of games whenever possible, but I can be convinced to break my rules for one important thing – can I smash stuff? It’s the reason I reviewed Flatout 4 (well, one of ‘em, the other being a shot of nostalgia straight to the main vein), and it’s the reason I chose to take OnRush for a spin.
Developer Codemasters has been in the racing game for over three decades now, with a resume that includes the Colin McRae, TOCA, F1, and Dirt series. These are the kind of guys that get up every morning and have a cup of petrol with a bowl of nuts and bolts, floating in engine grease. They know what they’re doing, and they understand their audience, so let’s have a look at what they’re doing with Onrush, a zany arcade racer with vehicular combat.
This isn’t a factory-issue motorsport sim one where you’re constantly engaged in a struggle for a position on a leaderboard or grid. Nuh-uh, Codemasters took all those rules, and dumped them in the bin. There are no start lines, no finish lines, and no need to give a left lug nut about your track times. In fact, should you start falling a bit behind, the game scoops you up, and deposits you neatly back in the middle of the pack, so even if you blow harder than quad-pipe exhaust, you’re still going to see action, constantly. Oh, what action I hear you yelling from the sidelines? Plenty.
The big thing to take home is that every race is a team event – it’s never just you against the world. In multiplayer you’ll have real people team mates, but in the campaign these will be made up from a roster of AI drivers. There will be an orange and blue team, with the orange team always being the enemy team (this was my experience during online multiplayer too, but I didn’t play many matches so I am not 100% sure if it’s the case 100% of the time), and then there are the “fodder” vehicles – NPC creeps, essentially – which are black for the most part. Nudging these fodder cars will destroy them in short order, adding to your boost meter. Regular enemy vehicles are significantly harder to take out, but the behaviour is encouraged as they provide a substantial amount of boost for nudging them into trees or over cliffs. Any boost you burn off contributes to filling your Rush meter, an ultimate ability of sorts that makes you go really fast, and makes it easier to take out opponents.
So with no start or finish line, and your position in the pack being about as vital as promo babes strutting the grid before a race, what, you may ask, is the point of the race? That depends on the type of race you’re in. Overdrive, for example, keeps a constant tally of the amount of boost that you and your team burn, everyone contributing to filling a meter, with the winner being the team that fills theirs first. Countdown has you aggressively nudging team mates and opponents alike aside while you try to pass through gates in this slalom-style mode, each gate adding one second to your timer, with the winning team being the one doesn’t run out of time. Lockdown is a bit like king of the hill, but where someone cleverly decided to strap some wheels and a turbo to the hill. You capture it by having predominantly your own team in the zone for about five seconds, with six captures winning you the match. The last type is Switch, where, each time you crash, you choose from two available options of vehicles and respawn back into the race. The game is lost by the team that runs out of switches first.
The environments you race in are pretty good too, with the game offering up 12 different tracks, augmented by seasons and day/night cycles. The game features a vivid neon post-apocalyptic aesthetic, and runs beautifully without dropping any frames, even when things get rather busy on screen. The tracks are really wide too, to accommodate all the traffic in the form of you, your team, the opposing team, and a number of fodder vehicles. Over and above all this, the racing is frantic and gut-wrenchingly hilarious with its ludicrous jumps and bullet-timed crashes. You get to carry out these automotive murder sessions using one of many vehicles, each one with its own unique perks and Rush bonuses. It’s like Overwatch but with vehicles, because if a particular car or bike just isn’t doing the trick, you can simply swap out with another mid race. There are also dozens, if not hundreds of cosmetic items you can unlock for your cars, bikes, and drivers using either the in game currency you earn from completing objectives or from the loot crate you get every time you level up – it’s up to you, but you can’t buy any of it with real cash money, which this gamer thinks is fantastic.
Onrush is definitely a lot of fun to play for a while and in terms of skill has a low entry bar, but it does become kind of repetitive. Couple this with respawn times that are just much longer than they need to be, and most players will probably get bored in about ten hours or so. And for a game that has a triple-A price attached to it, I would expect it to keep my attention for longer than it has.