OnRush is probably not what you expect from a racing game. Actually calling it a racing game almost seems like a misnomer in itself. Yes, you’re in a car, yes you’re on a track, but there’s no finish line, no laps, no position… no race. If you were to describe OnRush in a nutshell it would be “A competitive, online combat game… but with cars”. But even then that would conjure up something more akin to Mad Max, perhaps – something far distanced from the neon coated comic book madness that is OnRush.
Developed at racing game stalwarts, Codemasters, by a new team made up of ex Evolution developers, OnRush has quite the pedigree going for it and it shows. A visually stunning game with shifting weather and time of day effects, echoing Evolutions PS4 exclusive DriveClub, OnRush owes quite the debt to multiplayer hero shooters like Overwatch. Players set up their physical avatar for the game, chosen from a motley and diverse cast of characters, choose a “gravestone” (more on that later) and jump into a game.
There are two distinct ways to play – offline and online. The single player offline mode is surprisingly comprehensive, taking influence from arcade racers of yore. Players take part in a series of events on specific courses where they will be required to use specific types of vehicle. Each event takes the form of one of the games four modes and drops you onto a team with AI players. Online jumps you into a lobby where you’re teamed up with real players across the world and go head to head to earn experience and credits.
When you’re in the game, though, it quickly becomes apparent just how far removed OnRush is from your average arcade racer. As well as the blue and orange player teams, each course is populated by black “ghost” vehicles. Shunting these and performing various stunts and daring moves will charge a boost meter. You can use this at any point to give yourself a burst of speed which is critical to one of your main goals – taking our the rival team. In Burnout style, a boost assisted shunt will destabilise opponents and send them slamming into walls, but OnRush also does cool things with vertical movements. Hit a jump and you’ve got a number of options – boost in the air to shorten your drop; if an opponent is below you as you do this, you’ll zone in on them and deliver a crushing vertical attack. Leave yourself in the air and you’ll glide to the ground in a more controlled fashion – great for avoiding opponents. Hit the ground and go straight into a boost for increased speed. Using the different elevations on the tracks is key to success. As you boost, though, you also fill up a Rush gauge (nothing to do with the Canadian Prog band, though) which you can deploy when full to activate your vehicles special ability which can either be used to annihilate the opposition or help your teammates.
The events themselves are challenge based with specific goals for your team to achieve. Overdrive is a point chase event where your team gains points every time they boost or use their Rush ability with the first team to reach the target score taking the victory. Countdown gives each team a timer that goes down every second but can be extended by driving through gates that crop up around the course, while Lockdown has the teams chasing moving zones. If enough team members can stay inside a zone for long enough, they can score a point with the first to 8 points winning. Finally, Switch sees each team member starting in a motorcycle class vehicle with three lives. Crash or get taken out and you have to switch to a vehicle in the next class up – first team whose members lose all their lives is out. While Switch is probably the toughest of the modes to get your head around, it’s actually a great opportunity to dig deep into OnRush’s greatest strength – the vehicles!
The bikes, buggies, cars and 4x4s are the real stars of OnRush. There are eight of them all together (comprising two of each type) and each of them has a different feel and ability set to complement different playstyles. The Outlaw, for example is a somewhat disruptive vehicle – a motorbike that can send out shockwaves with ground slams and drain the Rush meters of opponents, while the Dynamo allows you to drop boost pickups for your team and supply them with top ups on their Rush meter. The Charger,, on the other hand, is more of a brute, with moves focussed on raw power. While you’ll likely develop a favourite among these vehicles, learning how they all work is essential to ensure your team is evenly balanced. If you crash out you’ll get a chance to switch up your vehicle, so it’s best to use this to your advantage to change the tide of the game.
Probably one of the best parts of OnRush is the (for the moment) lack of any microtransactions. All unlocks in the game are purely cosmetic and can be acquired in two different ways. Completing events earns you credits which you can use to buy items outright. These range from skins for your vehicles and avatars, to designs for gravestones which are dropped when you crash out (other racers can pick these up to add to their boost meter) and emotes to show off when you win. These cost varying amounts but each has a rarity associated with it. This rarity takes effect in the loot crates you earn for levelling up – opening crates will award you with three random items from the shop. It’s fairly easy to get a sense of progress as you unlock and buy different items and earning credit is made easy with daily challenges to complete. On top of this, three items from the shop also see a daily discount, so it all feels like a fair system which keeps you in the fashion game with your characters and vehicles.
While OnRush is a generally very solid game, there are one or two issues I had with it. The main one is the flow of the different events, in particular the ease with which you can get behind the pack. Despite having the ability to boost, if I found myself falling too far behind I never really found myself being able to outpace the vehicles in front of me which was particularly frustrating in rounds of Countdown and Lockdown, where keeping with the pack is fairly essential. There’s also the issue of the steep learning curve. It’s not initially particularly well explained how the combat works and I found myself hitting the wrong part of opponent cars and either crashing out myself or simply not really doing any damage. This coupled with some (albeit rare) iffy collision detection which saw me crashing out on corners of the scenery could get pretty frustrating. I also had a session where online connectivity was not only spotty but somewhat glitchy, with never ending games and stuck loading screens!
Despite any issues, though, OnRush is a stellar and fun game that is genuinely a thrill to play. It’s fast paced, easy to get into that “one more game” routine and has gameplay and aesthetics that I don’t think you’ll find anywhere else. As with any online game, however, there will always be the question of longevity. With only four game types and, at the time of writing, no ranked mode available there is a danger of OnRush becoming stale if Codemasters don’t feed it with new content. This could be in the form of new events, new characters, vehicles and tracks or even new skins for the existing crew – perhaps even time limited cosmetics tied to community events. At the moment this seems uncertain, but if you’re alright with the launch price, OnRush certainly packs in enough fun for your money as is.
An incredibly solid and thrilling multiplayer racing/combat hybrid which brings some fresh ideas to the table, it’s easy to overlook OnRush’s more frustrating elements. Highly recommended.