Onrush shouldn’t work, and for a lot of people, I suspect it won’t. An arcade racing game but without the actual racing, Onrush replaces the jostle for first place with an adrenaline-pumping fight for survival. Vehicles duck and weave between one another at a blistering pace, slamming their rivals into the surrounding scenery across open tracks with multiple routes. It’s exhilarating when you’re stuck in the center of the action, desperately trying to cling on as your rivals attempt to take you down. However, despite the chaotic thrills that it routinely provides, Onrush is let down by a limited number of modes and dull courses that fail to make the most of its fun concept.
There is no first, second, or third place in Onrush. Developer Codemasters has opted to do away with a traditional racing mode entirely, instead focusing on the “stampede.” The stampede is how Onrush refers to the pack of vehicles you compete alongside and against, with each class benefiting from staying within this herd. There is rarely any benefit to storming too far ahead of the competition, and you’ll be flung straight back into the action if you loiter behind. Onrush is all about staying in the thick of it.
Onrush Review: Rushing Ahead
To keep up with the pack you’re equipped with a boost meter. Your boost is replenished in a number of ways, from performing jumps and tricks to taking down the AI-controlled “fodder” vehicles racing with you. Each vehicle also has its own way of earning Rush, which can be used to enter Rush mode, Onrush‘s ultimate ability. The benefits of Rush mode vary between vehicles, with some able to drop barricades behind them to impede their rivals’ progress, while others can shoot out a destructive wave that takes out racers behind them. Much like the MotorStorm series — which was created by Evolution Studios, who are now owned by Codemasters — Onrush nails its sense of speed and really makes you feel as though you’re hurtling through its mountainous tracks at over 100 MPH. Unfortunately, unlike MotorStorm, these tracks do not lend themselves well to the chaos.
Onrush is at its best when its vehicular stampede is crammed tightly into narrow spaces, with racers dodging oncoming obstacles while simultaneously trying to take out their opponents. This is when it’s most like Burnout 3, which forced you to be aware of every object within your peripheral vision at all times, and had you dodging your surroundings just as much as other players. Onrush‘s tracks feel barren by comparison, with you routinely speeding through empty spaces that you can happily boost your way through without having to worry about accidentally crashing into an oncoming wall.
It feels as though some tracks were brought to life with much more enthusiasm than others. Whereas one track will see you lazily drifting around a sparse expanse, another will have you pelting your way across snow-covered train lines between abandoned carriages, with its light generators shutting off completely during the final stretch and only your headlights illuminating your surroundings. When you consider that this is the same team responsible for MotorStorm Apocalypse and its dynamic, destructible courses, the lack of ingenuity on display throughout Onrush‘s stages is hugely disappointing.
Onrush Review: Not a Looker
It also doesn’t help that it doesn’t really look like the part. There are some dynamic weather effects thrown in here and it’s certainly serviceable, but compared to Motorstorm Apocalypse and its crumbling buildings, torrential rain splashing up against the screen, and action movie explosions, Onrush feels very muted by comparison. Its color palette is a selection of browns, greens, and grays, and while you’ll get to zoom through a golf course or smash through a billboard every now and again, the majority of its tracks feel uninspired.
Its modes are a mixed bag, too. There are 4 to choose from in total, with Overdrive being the default. Overdrive sees both teams earning points by boosting, winning rounds by reaching a score of 15,000. The problem with this mode is that it isn’t difficult to boost indefinitely, with you rarely having to let go of the nitrous button on each track. If Onrush boasted more tracks with tight corners and narrow roads, Overdrive would become vastly more exciting, but as it stands it’s difficult to ascertain exactly how you’re winning or losing. As a result, it doesn’t feel particularly competitive.
This is a problem shared by its woeful Countdown mode, which tasks drivers with slaloming between a series of gates in order to add time to their team’s clock. If a team misses enough gates their timer will drop to zero and they’ll lose the round. It’s the closest mode that Onrush has to traditional racing, with players required to get out in front of the competition to earn more points. However, moving the objective away from trying to take out rival vehicles moves away from what makes Onrush appealing, and it’s definitely the weakest game type of the bunch.
Onrush Review: Switching it Up
Thankfully, Switch and the exhilarating Lockdown almost make up for Overdrive and Countdown’s failings. Switch plays out like Call of Duty‘s Gun Game, with players starting out on motorcycles before switching to a sturdier car every time they’re taken down. After being wrecked three times you’re out, though you can still spawn back in to take down your rivals and help out your teammates that are still participating. Lockdown is like King of the Hill, with players required you to stay within a moving circle for 5 seconds. Whichever team has the most vehicles in the circle after the countdown has concluded will win the round, and it moving the stampede to one designated area makes for Onrush‘s most thrilling moments.
Though there is a single-player mode where you can compete in events offline, Codemasters has understandably focused more on its multiplayer offering. There’s a loose story to its ‘Superstar’ campaign told through short cutscenes, detailing how Onrush — which is a legitimate sport in the game’s world — came to be. It’s not very exciting, though it does have the benefit of slow-motion takedowns, which are absent in its multiplayer component.
Multiplayer allows you to dive in for a quick session, create a custom match, or participate in ranked matches which were unavailable at the time of this review. Rewards for progression are cosmetic only, and there are just eight vehicles to choose from that make up the entirety of their own class. It would have been nice for each class to have featured more vehicles, though Onrush is definitely aimed at those looking for an arcade racer rather than car nuts. While there isn’t a vast array of cars and bikes to choose from, each vehicle feels different enough to handle that there’s still enough variety. Spending time with a particular class and learning how to make the most of it provides a compelling reason to return to the game, and while there isn’t necessarily a lot packed into Onrush, those impressed with its high-speed action could happily sink a number of hours into getting to grips with each of its vehicles.
Unfortunately, the cosmetic items you unlock aren’t the best. While you can make your vehicles look nicer with new paint jobs, the character models for each racer are laughably poor, and upgrading them is akin to putting a tuxedo on a pig. Their faces remain motionless in each post-game, Overwatch-esque victory screen, meaning that the celebrations you can unlock for them look incredibly awkward. These cosmetic items are locked behind loot boxes, though Onrush appears to be devoid of microtransactions, with it rewarding you with these “gear crates” when you level up. Though plenty of players are firmly content with cosmetic-only progression systems, Codemasters could have really done away with the racers altogether given how low-quality they look.
Onrush Review: Final Verdict
Onrush isn’t the MotorStorm Apocalypse spiritual successor I had been hoping for, and though there’s a lot of fun to be had in its Lockdown and Switch modes, there isn’t enough here to justify its steep $60 price tag. This is a light package that never reaches the heights of Evolution Studio’s previous games, but for those seeking an arcade racer offering quick thrills, it does the trick. It remains to be seen whether or not it will resonate with a wide audience, though with The Crew 2 releasing later this month, it’s facing an uphill battle.