Onrush: review

  • Format: PS4 (version reviewed), Xbone, PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Deep Silver
  • Developer: Codemasters
  • Players: 1 (offline), 2-12 (online)
  • Site: http://onrushgame.com/
  • Game disc provided by the distributor

We’re all familiar with the concept of the Hero Shooter, right? A bright and colourful online FPS, where each character has fixed abilities and weapons including an Ultimate to charge? Well, Onrush heralds the arrival of the Hero Racer. Only it doesn’t. Because it’s not a racer.

Onrush is often compared, in part, to Burnout. It’s an understandable comparison – it’s fast, there are cars, you’re encouraged to smash into opponents, and the handling laughs in the face of realism – but a much more apt comparison would be Overwatch. Each vehicle has unique advantages and disadvantages but, apart from the fact that you’re a bit more vulnerable on a bike, these differences have nothing to do with traditional considerations such as acceleration, top speed, or durability.

You very quickly find that your vehicle choice is dictated by your playstyle, and the next game mode, in almost equal measure. As the marketing has been keen to point out from the beginning, there’s never a finish line to cross. Instead, you’ll be working as a team toward a joint objective very much like an FPS. One mode literally sees the two teams compete to capture an ever-moving point on the track; head full speed to catch up to it (avoiding being trashed by an opponent on the way), then match its speed while inside the zone, fending off any rivals who find their way in.

The game doesn’t quite look this sharp, but this is representative of the craziness.

Another mode sees you chaining boost and Rush (your Ultimate ability) together for as long as possible, the multiplier going up the longer your chain. Yet another has the teams passing through as many gates as possible to add a few seconds to their constantly decreasing timers. So, which vehicle will you go for this time? Will it pay to charge your boost or Rush by staying close to enemies, or by performing tricks on a bike in mid-air? Which Ultimate would be most useful for you, once you have access to it? The one that blinds opponents behind you? Maybe the one that drains boost from nearby rivals, or the one that grants teammates temporary shields, or the one that turns you into a deadly bulldozer travelling at breakneck speeds.

One of Onrush’s greatest strengths is its accessibility. There’s a compulsory, fairly brief tutorial at the beginning of the game – but it’s more or less unnecessary. It’s possible to go into any game mode blind, and understand at least 80% of what’s going on and how to do it within seconds. Gameplay is very simple, yet allows for tactics and a risk-and-reward mentality. Split-second reactions have a part to play, certainly, as you take opportunistic swipes at opponents (and try to avoid them when they do the same to you), and do your best to avoid embarrassing crashes into the scenery. Yet victory comes from putting a little thought into your actions.

Say it’s a battle to keep your timer from expiring before the enemy team’s, and you’re just a few seconds from the next gate – but your vehicle is only just clinging on to health, and there’s an enemy on your tail. You could make it through that gate; but your opponent, doing the same while simultaneously targeting you, will likely smash you to pieces as soon as you do. Is it really worth that minor addition to the team clock when balanced against the wait to respawn, during which you can offer nothing to your team at all? Similarly, if you’re tasked with chaining boost, it’s best to not start using it until you have a decent amount and you’re coming up to a part of track offering Fodder (weak AI vehicles only there to be destroyed) and jumps that will allow you to constantly refill the meter.

Activating Rush temporarily gives you a huge burst of speed, as well as triggering your vehicle’s special ability.

It’s the sort of game you can easily dive in and out of, playing just one or two rounds at a time. It’s an ultimately hollow experience, but in a good way – like a hollow chocolate bunny. It’s tasty, it looks good, and you’re always happy to go back for more.

There’s an offline career mode which, while fun, offers little challenge. Online is the beating heart of this game. Some may therefore be disappointed that there’s at time of writing no way to choose which mode you play – modes and tracks are chosen automatically. Ranked play is not currently active, so perhaps this is something that will arrive alongside that. The truth is though that the way things currently stand works very well, and slots in nicely to the unpredictable nature of play.

This unpredictability comes from the fact that, with no finish line, there is no first place so far as position on the track is concerned. It’s also an excellent excuse to ensure that you’re always in the middle of the action. If for whatever reason you start to lag too far behind ‘the pack’, the game will scoop you up and drop you into the middle of the chaos within a few short moments. Staring at an empty track because you’re so far ahead of or behind everybody else will simply never happen here. Each member of the team is important, and your actions and decisions matter. Every round of every game.

Onrush is fast, frantic, and fun. It’s bubblegum entertainment, enjoyable without having any enormous depth. There’s always a place for games like that, however, and this does what it sets out to do extremely well.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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