Onrush is a lot of things and we’ll explore what they are in time. However, what Onrush is not, is a racing game. Controversial, perhaps, given you control a vehicle of your choice, careering around tracks at breakneck speeds with all manner of other vehicles running faster and slower around you. The thing is that you could be in anything — the method of movement is peripheral to the actual aim of the game, which in general terms is to help your team beat the other team by fair or nefarious means in whatever game mode you're playing. In essence we have a team-based shooter in vehicular form, spread across a single-player campaign, random online match ups and soon, ranked online play. Onrush is the name of the game and it was created, according to lore, by a bunch of racers who didn’t want to be a part of the machine. In reality Onrush is made by the same team who we have to thank for Driveclub and Motorstorm, and what they’ve given us is the Fast and the Furious characters taking on Fury Road, and all of it wrapped up as Overwatch on wheels.
One thing Onrush most definitely is, is chaotic. Every part of every game is frantic, furious and total chaos. You will be in your buggy, modified sports car, hummvee-alike or bike, and you’ll be haring around a looping track alongside your teammates, the opposition — let’s say you’re on team orange and you’re up against team blue — and fodder. As you race around nothing much happens. But if you perform any kind of manoeuvre, say a jump, barrel roll or combination of the two, you earn boost. Boosting allows you to get to the head of the pack. In addition to race moves you can collect boost by taking down fodder or your opponents. The onscreen action is manic with tens of vehicles passing through delightful environments like woods, dams or industrial-type zones, and after a little while it just gets busier. Initially all games will be totally over the top with you just racing, boosting, taking down and being taken down, along with a little bit of trying to do what you’re meant to be doing. After a while, though, things start to make a little more sense and whilst the action will always be chaotic, you will gain the ability to see the wood for the trees and become good at it all.
There are four game modes, regardless of whether you are playing online or otherwise. These are Overdrive — boost to gain points for your team; Countdown — aim for the gates to extend your team’s timer; Lockdown — capture the zone and Switch — you have three lives and each life is in a different vehicle class. The aim here is to survive. Whatever the game mode you’ll find the onscreen action is pretty similar. Many vehicles moving at pace, trying to beat each other to the goodies whilst not tanking out. Overdrive and Countdown were my favorites, with Switch in particular taking away from what you’ve learnt about each vehicle class over time, doubly annoying if you have a preference and then end up in something else. In an online lobby the modes will change around and in the single-player campaign each mode is littered liberally amongst the others.
There are eight vehicle classes in the game and although at first there seems little difference, given time the nuances, pros and cons will unveil themselves. The reason everything feels the same to begin with is down to the handling and physics. Everything is a little weighty and always understeers. We don’t have the superb handling of Driveclub, or the twitch-racing movements of Burnout or Need for Speed. It’s not in the handling of the vehicles (although you will notice in time this does vary too) that we see the differences play out, really. Each class has its own unique rush speciality, ability and trait. For instance, the Titan will drop blockades when rushing (leaving coloured walls which slow opponents down), can shield friendlies from enemy hits and earns rush from taking down opponents. Each vehicle class therefore really does have benefits to some and problems for others, entirely dependent on your personal preference and skills. I liked to use the Titan as I was happier taking people out and benefitting from it, whereas others will want to go for something else.
Whatever you’re doing you’ll want to build the rush meter. Separate from your boost bar, this builds up by boosting and once it hits 100% is there to use with a press of the Triangle button. It’s this game’s special thing — hit Rush and you basically go on-rails as fast as possible and through anything in your way. It’s very limited but overpowered and if you use it at the right moment, can be devastating for your opponents. The problem is it really does last for too little time and you’ll fill it too few a number of times per match (each game mode will have a best of X setup in each match). It’s awesome but you don’t get to use it that often, alas.
As you progress your single-player career or play online you amass experience points and each time you level up you’re awarded a gear crate. Essentially a free loot box, in it you will find three items such as outfits, decals for your ride or avatar moves which have a certain level of rarity to them. These can be equipped or otherwise, enabling a wide variety of customisation to how you and our rides are kitted out, although there is no impact on the game itself. There is one XP progression across the whole game. You’ll also find there are daily objectives and in-race targets which if met or achieved will provide you with other ways to customise your experience. Things keep coming at you but unless you are big-time into making things look different, after a while it all gets very samey.
Technically we have a 60fps beast on all but the Xbox One (for now — the team are working to hit that magical mark), with the option to go 4K on the PS4 Pro and One X. It all looks extremely colourful, the audio is vibrant and busy and matching with other players online is all done quickly. Loading between matches is comparably fast too, so there’s not much time wasted hanging around doing nothing. It all means you get straight back into the action and you will want to. The game is very moreish and despite not being a racer, has a feeling of insane pace, largely because it is fast and it’s chaotic. Your mind will be going all over the place looking at where you have to go, what you have to do, where you can get more boost, how you can take down someone and when you can rush. It’s safe to say that if you can get into Onrush, which would take most people all of five minutes as the intro tutorial plays out, you’ll find a place you want to stay until you’ve maxed that XP out, and hopefully by then ranked online play will have arrived. It’s the driving game where you could be wearing a jetpack as much as driving in a car; the racing game where you don’t race other people and the car game which belies its genre and riffs on all the shooter mechanics.
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