The gaming world has been notably lacking an abundance of arcade racers recently. Racing simulations have their place in the driving scene, and some occasionally manage to fit in a jump or two, but they are no substitute for the unbridled adrenaline caused by the vehicular carnage and complete disregard for physics of true arcade racers. The PlayStation 3 held this subgenre high with the system’s Motorstorm games, and many of its developers are back to rev the same engine with Onrush, a game that feels like a genuine spiritual successor. There are some crucial elements of Onrush that set it apart, but it does Motorstorm fans proud, with only a few speed bumps along the way.
Players will feel Motorstorm’s influences right out of the gate, in everything from the beautiful-yet-rugged courses stretching across natural vistas, to the vehicle selection comprises various bikes, buggies, rally cars, and SUVs. Controlling each vehicle kicks back a satisfying sense of weight that doesn’t take away from the thrill of bounding off ramps, which is a gameplay core Motorstorm fans will remember all-too-fondly. Adding to the similarities, boosting is integral to maintaining a competitive edge, but instead of the infinite boost of Motorstorm, Onrush has players hit jumps, smash AI-controlled “fodder” vehicles, and perform other reckless actions to gain boost. This method makes boost gain more of a challenge, but it gives those better at managing it a leg up.
In spite of all these similarities, the most significant area in which Onrush differs from Motorstorm is what matters most. No longer are we here to race, as there is no finish line in Onrush. Instead of seeing who can pass the proverbial checkered flag first, Onrush’s driving experience is made up of four different competitive modes, each pitting two teams of drivers against each other. Four team-based modes make up the high-speed contests of Onrush: Countdown, which has teams driving through gates to add time to their clock; Overdrive, which gives points to whichever team boosted the most in the allotted time; Lockout, which has both teams trying to capture a zone that is speeding along the track; and Switch, wherein the losing team is the first to crash too many times.
Being set on what are essentially race tracks, lends some novelty to modes that have you speeding alongside other drivers without bothering what place you’re in. The modes aren’t overburdened with complexity, and they can get old after you’ve run them on an endless rotation, but it is important to commend something completely unexpected. Combining the team-based strategy of tactical shooters with the competitive precision of racing games isn’t something many have tried, and it was a worthy risk for a genre that tends stuck in the ruts of convention.
The primary means of tackling these modes is in the game’s Superstar experience, although there is a custom race option for more flexibility. Superstar is made up of six different chapters, each containing several events with unique vehicle restrictions and match challenges. These challenges reward Stars, which are needed to unlock new chapters and events, so the repetition of the modes is quelled somewhat by the demand for completing unique objectives.
Mastering the vehicles required by certain events takes more than getting a handle on their speed and weight. There are eight vehicles in total, two for each of the four categories mentioned above. Each vehicle features three distinct perks, one of which is always saved for the Rush ability. Rushing is essentially an ultimate ability that competitors build up by boosting. Activating it grants a temporary speed boost and increased take-down potential. Each vehicle has different auxiliary effects of its Rush, whether it be blinding enemies directly behind or supplying nearby allies with boost, and the additional two perks give each ride even more personality. The perks are a simple but intriguing way to give vehicles roles. Players are encouraged to tactically choose the set of wheels that would best suit each challenge, based on benefits beyond basic traits like speed and weight.
Central to the perk builds of many vehicles are perks that help players take down enemies, which is integral to coming out victorious. Smashing into enemies and taking them out forces them to respawn and gives the offender’s team an interim numbers advantage, or even a better score in the case of Switch mode. Epic takedowns lead to some of the game’s most memorable moments, as well as some of its most frustrating ones. For the most part, takedowns are the result of weight, speed, and angle of contact as they should be, but they can occasionally be much less consistent. For example, how does landing squarely on the hood of another car leave them to drive away with nary a scratch. Takedowns seem to work properly more often than not, but their issues become increasingly obvious the more frequently you attempt them.
Even when they’re not getting away from (what should be) a clear takedown scot-free, there is something a little off about the game’s AI-controlled drivers. All of Onrush’s modes are team-oriented, requiring offline players to rely—at least partially—on the AI. In the later game with more difficult matches, players may begin to notice a curious pattern with the AI of both teams, in that they appear designed to keep the matches close in score. I tested this out a few times by avoiding playing the objective, and the scores stayed fairly even every time, suggesting the game may script teams to lose or gain points to keep the matches excitingly close. This is completely anecdotal, to be fair, but it was still a strange to feel like my presence was trivial
To avoid this potential silliness, players can take their skills online in a Quick Play option of randomized modes, with Ranked Play “coming soon.” Aside from the satisfaction that comes from beating a fellow gamer, it feels better to blame real people for a loss than try to determine whether or not the game’s AI is giving you the runaround.
Both online and single-player matches reward in-game currency that can be used to buy customization items, like new car models and character outfits, although they can also be won in gear crates rewarded for ranking up. The car models on offer are freaking sweet-looking with tons of variety, but it is unfortunate that the options are all preset full-body designs. It seems like a missed opportunity for a game like this, not letting players trick out each individual piece of their ride.
Onrush has a loose bolt here and there, but it doesn’t let those minor flaws bog down its good time. The game is a little more in-your-face than the Motorstorm games were, from the blaring music to the excessively vibrant particle effects, but for better or worse, all this ‘tude gives Onrush its own personality. Whatever setbacks there are, they are far from deal breakers, and its innovations put this lower-profile title neck-and-neck with much bigger competitors.
|Publisher: Deep Silver • Developer: Codemasters • ESRB: E10+ • Release Date: 06.05.2018|
If you’ve been longing for a driving game with more destruction than you can keep up with, Onrush delivers. There are many things unique about this new arcade racer, the top being that the term “racer” is a misnomer.
|The Good||Unique modes that subvert expectations of what a driving game can offer.|
|The Bad||AI-controlled teammates and opponents that may very well be designed to patronize you.|
|The Ugly||Your vehicle’s careening metal husk when that was TOTALLY YOUR TAKEDOWN!|
|Onrush is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PlayStation 4. Review code was provided by Codemasters for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|