One criticism of the current video game landscape is that the arcade racing genre has vanished into dust. Where once it was as popular as they come, today it is more true-to-life simulators that dominate. A lot of these titles are very good, but there does seem to be a tendency for them to blur into one. This is why Onrush is such a treat.
Developed by Codemasters, who have pedigree, Onrush throws the idea of reality right out the window in order to ensure entertainment is front and centre. Mostly revolving around the idea of two teams racing against one other, there’s also objectives that need to be completed if you’re going to have any type of success. These range from smashing through checkpoints (so you don’t die), taking down your rivals (ala Burnout), being told to overly rely on your boost and a King Of The Hill-type mode where you have to occupy zones. It’s over the top and ridiculous, but that’s why it works. You’re not meant to take any aspect of this seriously.
Onrush harks back to olden days when flying off the edge of a cliff and flipping around like a maniac is more important than how well you can take a hairpin turn. Doing the former will also result in you filling up your in-game meter faster so you’re actively encouraged to take part in that madness. There are even special abilities on hand – such as being able to steal your opponent’s boost – allowing you to cause havoc from the moment a race starts until everyone else is lying in bits.
Onrush takes advantage of such a sentiment, too, when it comes to balancing out every race. While a large portion of gamers are keen to bemoan the likes of rubber banding, here it doesn’t matter and, if anything, benefits from including it. This isn’t about precision driving; it’s about being a bit nuts, so seeing someone magically appear back in the action after falling behind isn’t an issue at all. More cars equals more carnage, and that sums this up perfectly. If anything, it should be the tagline on the box.
All 12 tracks manage to keep that vibe going because you can take these different ideas and apply them to a completely new environment. If you’ve been waiting for a racing game that doesn’t really want to be a racing game, this is, at the very least, worth a look.
As ever, though, that doesn’t mean everything is rosey. Although the handling model is satisfying and ignores the idea of braking almost entirely, a few of the mentioned modes don’t necessarily translate to a consistently fun experience. It’s imperative to have a big group to get the most out of it – without one it’s near impossible to increase your boost when appropriate – and when that’s not the case adrenaline is lowered.
This is also a risk when playing online. Servers can be a lottery at the best of times, but if you enter a lobby where AI-controlled cars are filling in it doesn’t half hurt proceedings.
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Should such things matter there is also a way to customise your own game with unlockable cosmetics. There’s the opportunity to change your driver or muck around with your vehicle, the downside coming due to the fact all this revolves around loot boxes. No item you get from these will give you an in-game advantage, and ultimately you can ignore them entirely and not be affected at all. However, if you see an enemy whizz past you in a bright pink car, some kind of money has probably changed hands.
It’s a moot point if that doesn’t concern you as Onrush ticks most visual, gameplay and mechanic boxes.
A very welcome arrival to a sphere of gaming that has been dominated by the likes of Forza and Gran Turismo recently, Onrush has a lot of potential to develop into something special if it can find its audience. It may threaten to lose its way here and there, but the possibilities are obvious. Even in its current state it’s more than likely to show you a very good time indeed.