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Hands-On Preview: ONRUSH

OverMotorRocketBurnoutLeagueStormWatch? Um, Rossko explains in our Hands-On impressions of OnRush;  OnRush is going to surprise you. At an underground lair in the heart of Hackney in London, the first thing that other press members said as I asked them what […]

OverMotorRocketBurnoutLeagueStormWatch? Um, Rossko explains in our Hands-On impressions of OnRush; 

OnRush is going to surprise you. At an underground lair in the heart of Hackney in London, the first thing that other press members said as I asked them what they thought of the game was ‘it’s surprising’ or ‘I didn’t expect it to be this’. These are sentiments that I shared. I went to this event with a clear idea in my head of what I was expecting from OnRush, a kind of bonkers arcade racer that feels like it should be played in a cabinet rather than on a sofa with some mates nearby egging you on. From the trailers it seemed it would fill the gap in the racing genre that the lack of a new Burnout game had done in this generation – no, Paradise Remastered doesn’t count -. My impression was that I’d be competing in races against the likes of OPM and Eurogamer and smashing their times to bits because of reasons that only exist in my own imagination.

What OnRush actually is? It’s batshit crazy team-based vehicular warfare that doesn’t give a second thought to no damn checkered flag.

So how best to explain the concept of OnRush? Yes, you’re driving, either cars, trucks, motorbikes, quads and much more. You’re never going slower than 100mph (and if you are then you’ve really messed up somewhere) with automatic rolling starts in every match, you get points and boost for annihilating your opposition and the more boost you use the more you fill up a whole other ‘Rush’ meter, allowing you to go much, much faster and cause some serious damage to those that are foolish enough to be lining up in front of you like bowling pins ready to be relegated to the gutter. It’s essentially team deathmatch without the guns but with your speed and your vehicle as your weaponry. OnRush took my expectations and more or less did to them what I was told to do in the game to the other team. OnRush disguises itself as a racer but in reality, it’s anything but.

Speaking the the games director Paul Rustchynsky – whose previous work includes the terrific Driveclub and MotorStorm, was subsequently picked up by those heroes at Codemasters after Sony closed down Evolution, it was clear that doing something different was an important factor in moving ahead with OnRush.

‘It was about trying to stand out’, said Paul, who works with a team that has over a decade of experience working together, ‘our team have been working on OnRush for nearly two years at this point and it’s been a real labour of love. We like to think it’s inspired by the likes of Rocket League and Burnout but unique enough to differentiate it’.

Game Director Paul Rustchynsky (right) presenting OnRush to the press underground in London.

And credit to Paul’s team at Codemasters, they’ve nailed it. From the beginning of the day to the end OnRush subverted notions of what I believed the game was going to be. As I sat down to play my first round after a short presentation which showed off the game running on an Xbox One X – of which this game is optimised for along with PS4 Pro, both of which were playable at the event – I didn’t leave my seat for nearly two hours. I jumped into the campaign to get a feeling for the game and after a brilliantly straightforward tutorial which sounds like it’s being narrated by Jackie Brown – ‘I see you’re using a lot of boost..that’s fiiiine by me’ – you’re in. I started by selecting my vehicle – oh which I went for a big ass truck because why the hell wouldn’t you – and I was then thrown into a team of AI and the race began.

As mentioned at the top, every race gets a rolling start so you’re constantly at a steady speed and almost immediately I was getting Motorstorm vibes. Not surprising, you would assume, but as my team rolled out – along with the ‘fodder’, plain black AI who are challenging with you that you can take out quite easily for a quick boost increase – the handling was recognisable and familiar, and infinitely better. The game rewards you for going as fast as you possibly can and handling your vehicle in the process. You’ll get boost for air, and for doing tricks on motorbikes. You’ll be rewarded the more takedowns you can rack up for your team. OnRush is constantly giving, enabling you to stay in the ‘stampede’ for maximum destruction. If you fall behind, the game simply picks you up and drops you back into the heart of the action, once again with a rolling start. If you get taken out or find yourself hugging a tree with your truck, a rolling start will get you immediately back on the road. OnRush wants you to continue competing and doesn’t punish you for lagging behind.

For me OnRush has more in common with Overwatch than the likes of Forza Horizon for which I saw people comparing it to when the early trailers landed. OnRush is highly competitive and more importantly, strategic and team based. I’m looking forward to playing with the FNGRGNS guys when the game launches, with all of us in our headsets, choosing which vehicles we’re each going to use to deciding which of the opposing team we’re going to take out, yelling at each other to keep our boost gauge full and deciding when it would be best to hit that all important ‘Rush’ mode button. I found watching OnRush being played as exhilarating as playing it. As I walked around the event and seeing peoples grins when they took people out or when their trucks literally falling from the sky and landing directly on the head of a motorcyclist, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard at an event like this before. It was so funny to watch how enjoyable the game can be and most definitely will be when played with friends. There’s every chance it could become a rather popular eSport should it get in the right hands of those competitive players.

Another huge tick in the games favour are the visuals. Now granted, the game was running on PS4 Pro’s and Xbox One X systems at the event, though I’ve had it assured to me from Paul Rustchynsky himself that the game still looks solid on the base versions. The colours pop off the screen and everything looks sharp and crisp, with nary a framedrop anywhere on either console. I did notice the odd trees and bushes popping up whilst tearing it around but nothing you wouldn’t expect to see in a beta mode. During the on-stage presentation Paul did assure us we were spending the day playing a beta build and despite the odd appearing tree everything else looks fantastic. There’s a hell of a lot going on before your eyes at any moment, with up to 24 different vehicles taking each other on at any one time and it’s very important to be surrounded to give yourself the best chance of securing some points for your team, so the game needs to be running at a solid enough pace to keep up with the relentless speed that OnRush requires.

As expected, the One X and the Pro both knocked it out of the park and I didn’t notice a single hint of slowdown. Quite remarkable really, when you consider just how much is concurrently happening on screen. The lighting in particular was terrific. I finished one battle then jumped back in and did it again just to marvel at the visuals, with the snow-based tracks being the highlight of them all. It felt at times I was racing through Horizon Zero Dawn’s Frozen Wilds, and even if you’re going too fast to really appreciate what’s going on around you, you’ll notice just how much is happening simultaneously when you’re trying to take out a member of the opposing team whilst three other members of said team are behind you, to your left and above you respectively. It’s quite mesmerising and seems to utilise the strengths of the two beefed up 4K systems, something they were obviously keen to point out during the event.

OnRush is really, really good fun. It’s chaotic and ridiculous, bewildering and blisteringly exciting. As my time with the game continued I permanently had a grin on my face to the point that I think people were beginning to look at me funny. I’m not sure I blinked throughout the day as I won tons of matches and lost several others. The matches are simply too much fun to be disappointed when you lose, it’s more ‘ah, well. We go again!’. I couldn’t put it down, even when the sliders came out for the lunch. I decided to leave them be(!) and simply crack on discovering more about this game than I was expecting to be on show.

The games release still feels like a way off – June 5th, to be precise on Xbox One and PS4 – but there’s plenty to be excited for. I’m excited to get this in the hands of my mates and see what kind of carnage we can cause. There’s a hell of a lot to love about OnRush I can only hope it’s going to find the correct audience to ensure it’s a huge success for Codemasters and the former Evolution team, who are exceptionally talented.

OnRush feels like the culmination of their combined talents. Their greatest hits. The realism of Driveclub and the madness of Motorstorm having a car crash and being rebuilt using the best parts of each of them with a sprinkling of Rocket League, Burnout and even Overwatch to create something that upon release, should be on your radar without hesitation.

Ack. I can’t wait to play it again.

Some bullet point highlights worth mentioning.

  • The soundtrack is brilliant, I’m going to have to secure a copy upon release.
  • There’s a hysterical sound that emits from the game whenever you turn on Rush mode. It reminds me of the opening to ‘Immigrant Song’.
  • The team at the event provided free Red Bull. As it stands I’m pretty sure this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the game.
  • The menus and UI are bright and cheerful but stacked with info, I wasn’t sure where my eye was meant to be at certain moments.
  • I saw one of my game journo heroes at the event but didn’t have the balls to say hello. I just stared awkwardly.
  • I asked Game Director Paul if there would be a Switch version down the line. He said ‘it has not been considered’, so don’t hold your breath.
  • There’s going to be a ton of content coming to OnRush over the next year. Their live service sounds stacked and impressive.
  • There’s some amazing pedigree behind OnRush and it shows. This is developed by a team who absolutely love their work and were easy to talk to.

OnRush is coming to PS4 and Xbox One on June 5th. It’s coming to PC at a later date.

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