Playing Onrush reminds me of my childhood. I guess that’s stating the obvious a bit if you’ve been keeping up with our extensive coverage of the game. Whenever I play Onrush I’m reminded of when I was a kid, playing Hang-On, playing Road Rash, V-Rally, Daytona USA, OutRun, Blur and Split/Second. The arcade racer was a mighty genre back in its heyday, and my only wish was that they were a little more combative. I wanted to run the cars off the road that overtook me, I wanted to take them out to ensure I was the only car left on the road to ensure victory. That was the dream. Ergo, very few games scratched that particular itch for the longest time. Burnout had its moments but everything I loved about that series felt stretched out across every iteration, rather than in a single package. It felt like carnage and speed – from the outside this insanely fun game idea – was never working out quite how I always wanted it to.
And then Onrush was revealed. And then I played it, extensively. And now I don’t ever want to play another racing game ever again. This is will always and forever be as good as it gets. Until Onrush 2, I guess.
Still, let’s deal with the first game for now. The first thing we need to get out of the way, as we’ve explained a fair amount, Onrush ain’t no racer. There is no checkered flag. No first, second or third place. It’s team-based vehicular warfare, played out across a series of brilliantly designed levels to a soundtrack so bass-heavy and heart pumping you’ll get a noise complaint from next door (yeah, actually happened). If you want to combine the very best parts of Overwatch (team-work, unparalleled competitive gameplay) and Burnout (break-neck speed, quality collision physics) then you’ll get somewhere to understanding just how utterly bonkers Onrush truly is and how it’s an essential purchase if you’re a fan of either of those games. If you’re a fan of both it’s a no-brainer.
Onrush looks utterly stunning. I was only saying to Sean the other day that I’m almost certain they’ve upped the visuals from the beta build, as everything jumped off my 4K screen. Running at a sweet as candy 60fps with no slowdown whatsoever, Onrush could be one of the best technical achievements so far this generation, particularly in this genre. I can’t think of many games that run as well as Onrush whilst looking this gobsmackingly gorgeous. All of the little moments in terms of the presentation make it so. The dust clouds rising off the ground, the minute details you’ll see on each vehicle (some you won’t ever see unless you jump into the games exquisite photo mode). The use of colour across the entire game makes it all feel so welcoming. There’s literally nothing drab about the presentation of Onrush, it feels like you’re walking into a theme park and you’re riding the same amazing rollercoaster all day with people waiting in line shooting paintballs at you.
Playing Onrush feels like a genuine evolution (heh). There’s simply nothing like Onrush available right now and that’s what makes the fact the game even exists at all even more remarkable. It’s full on action, relentless to the extreme to the point that if you blink you’re going to go flying into a tree you didn’t see a split-second before. You’re always on it, there’s no holding back the more you power through each track. Filling up your all important Rush meter is the aim of the game, and once you let it loose you’re going to unleash the fury of its power upon your opponents as you tear through each track like a hot knife through butter with little consideration for whatever the h*ck is surrounding you.
Getting lost in the stampede like you’re freakin’ Simba is a real highlight, as you’re surrounded by your teammates and the enemy wanting nothing more than to turn you into dust while your allies just need you to stay on your wheels in order to rack up the points you’ll need to gain victory. If you’re too slow, you’ll simply be thrown straight back into the mix with a touch of a button, too far ahead and you’re going to be left alone not contributing. If you do find yourself out of the pack, the game throws in black bots which can be easily crushed and destroyed for some extra boost or adding to your points and XP. Being part of the mix is the entire point of the Onrush experience and the game doesn’t let you slack off. If you’re not a team player then you aren’t going to get anywhere. It’s a bizarre way to play a racing game, and one that does take time to get used to, but once everything clicks, you’re hooked. It’s absolutely electrifying.
To get yourself prepped for the online madness that awaits you (the games absolute highlight), you’ve got a terrific single-player campaign to power through with various objectives you’ll need to complete in order to ‘finish’ a track/level. There’s a nice mix of various modes that you’ll need to master before taking the fight online, and they’re all fun for different reasons. There’s Overdrive which is all about persistent boosting and ensuring the more you boost and takedown your opponents the more points you’ll score for your team. At first you’ll be playing this mode and wondering just how the hell you’re racking up points, I know I was. Never fear, it’s all in the boosting. Then there’s Switch which feels more like an FPS mode as you start off with a bike and switch to beefier cars as you progress through as you take down your opponents who all have three lives hovering above their head.
Lockdown is a racing equivalent of Capture the Flag which is the most fun you’ll ever have without taking your clothes off and jumping into an inflatable donut in a swimming pool as you chase a section of the track that’s moving with the stampede. Finally there’s Countdown, which tasks you with tearing it through checkpoints in order to stop your teams clock from hitting zero. This is the mode that requires more focus and teamwork than Overdrive, when playing Countdown I’m not too fussed about takedowns, instead it’s all about them checkpoints. I don’t remember losing a round of this, seeing as I’m such a great team player. (Note, I’m rather good at Onrush if I do say so myself, but I suck at Overwatch and CoD, so I’m allowed to brag about it. Right?).
Throughout the game you’ll be earning hefty amounts of XP and you’ll find yourself levelling up pretty quickly. The more you do the more crates you’ll unlock which are full of different cosmetics such as colours for your vehicles, clothes for your avatar and tombstone variants, which will lay where you’ve been taken out on the track and can be collected by yourself or others. The more you collect from other players the more XP you’ll grab so in the madness of it all make sure you keep an eye out. You’ll notice if you head to the Customise section ot the menu there’s a mountain of different stuff to unlock, and you’ll find yourself doing it without even trying the more you play the game. My tombstone is currently an 8-bit bass guitar and it’s freakin’ rad.
Amidst the chaos of Onrush the depth of what you can unlock is impressive, with extra perks that can help you in your matches. Each vehicle has different abilities so it’s worth having a nose at them all to see which will suit your play style better. Some vehicles can spit out boost for other teammates, other gates to slow down your opponents and even the ability to takedown opponents when you’re in Rush mode with the flares from your vehicle (handy, indeed). Every vehicle is different and feels unique. In my experience the bikes are most useful in modes like Countdown and Lockdown as they don’t take up too much space and you can weave your way in and out of the chaos, whereas the beefier vehicles are naturally handy when wanting to takedown the ‘Orange ones’.
It’s probably worth at this point going into moments of Onrush that didn’t make me want to jump up and down like a child and while they’re small, they’re probably worth mentioning. You can get taken out pretty easily. I’m talking even if you just graze the wall the game will count that as a knockout, even though you could quite easily get your vehicle straightened and back in the stampede. If your car ends up slightly on its side that’s also a knockout, and you know you can just easily tilt your analogue stick left or right to get your car back on all four wheels but the game simply won’t let you, and that can be infuriating when you’re in that ‘Onrush zone’ and just want to keep powering through. The ‘Wreckcams’ (essentially Killcams) are needlessly long and don’t really add much to the proceedings, especially when you want to just get back into the action. A little ‘skip’ button would be handy in a future update perhaps. You don’t see one every single time you’re knocked out, but it does leave you out of the match for longer than I would like. Yup, that’s about it.
Who would have thought a game such as Onrush would ever happen? It’s an arcade racer, but it’s absolutely not a racer. It’s a game you can imagine playing in arcades, with each of you and your mates taking a seat and grabbing a wheel and duking it out against a team on the other side of the cabinets. I’ve noticed around the interweb that it’s being compared to the likes of Fuel and Pure, and I do find that odd. It’s really nothing like them at all, it’s a thoroughly unique take on a genre that we didn’t even know we needed. It’s almost becoming cliche but it has more in common with Overwatch than Burnout, and yet feels like the perfect storm of everything you loved about both of them. Throw in a healthy dose of the Lion King and you’ve got my favourite genre mash-up (right? Cus of the stampede? Simba? Hyenas? Mufasa? Ugh. Never mind).
Onrush is an excellent reimagining of the driving genre. It’s Evolution Studios greatest hits smashed together with the ultimate competitive traits of the very best modern multiplayer games. It stands alongside its peers as a reason to invest in premium online services, laughs in the face of those who would dare pigeonhole it and demands your attention.
Onrush isn’t trying to be anything other than an outrageously brilliant videogame and that’s exactly what it is. I love it. I absolutely bloody love it.
Onrush is available on now on PS4 (reviewed on PS4 Pro) and Xbox One. It’s due on PC later in the year.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.