Onrush is a mental game. Upon starting up the recent open beta I was immediately in control of some form of buggy-type vehicle going around an infinite track and during this I was taken through the basics of the game by a calming voice talking to me at all times, thankfully — if not I’d have had no idea what was going on for quite some time.
In a race the intent is to drive fast and reckless in search of points which when added to your team’s score win the round, and ultimately the match. In each race there are two teams and what’s called fodder — basically cars and bikes with no affiliation which are there to be smashed, building your boost meter (one of multiple ways to do this). All vehicles of some kind (seemingly any vehicle class is able to enter any race, as long as that machine has been unlocked) racing around a never-ending loop fast with lots of air and crashing into opponents to take them down. A note on the aforementioned loop — these things are clearly not perfect loops but nor have I any way of detailing exactly what each map’s shape was.
Boost is added for each jump you make, car you destroy and more. Boost makes you go faster. Go fast and long enough and you get to Rush. Rush is fast and a full on light show and it perhaps makes you stronger and better on the way around, too. I’m not sure of that bit yet. You see, at its heart Onrush is just utter chaos and that means things are not full of clean lines and clear objectives. Nor does it matter, just drive and have a shedload of bloody good fun.
Onrush is that for sure. After each race I wanted more and getting out of the game to write this for you, dear readers, was hard. I want to go back and get more XP to unlock more beta-exclusive rewards for when the game proper drops in a few week’s time. Hell, I just want to go and play some more for any and every reason you can think of.
How can you not have fun with this? Onrush comes from driving game royalty, with the bulk of the team who were at Driveclub and Motorstorm’s Evolution studio before it was closed by Sony moving to Codemasters to create this joyous spectacle of brash, bold fun with online arenas and challenges akin to all the top shooters, and more, around. So the driving is solid, real and full of what you’d expect — different cars and bikes, drafting and jumps and rolls which feel right. Handling is loose in your hands. Every car can get around anything you want it to with a push on the left analogue stick and perhaps a tap on the L2 button for braking, but it’s hardly needed. The focus here is not to get the tight lines and the best times, merely to stay in the middle of the action and support your team in winning at all costs.
The main focus of the beta was to test the online servers so the only true game mode available was online racing. At launch there will be a full single-player campaign but if online is this fast and full of frolics, that might well be the focus of people’s early attention. On starting up this game mode you were in a lobby which moved briskly from match to match with little downtime or waiting for others in-between. You simply pick your car and get ready. Matches were typically best of three rounds, with the first team to hit the target score winning the round. You collect points by driving fast, getting takedowns — of which there are many types. My personal early favourite being the ‘Crushed!’ takedown where you land on top of another player’s vehicle after getting some air. At the end of a match winners of various metrics are paraded in front of everyone where your avatar will do a funky little jig if it was MVP, or highest point scorer or similar. It’s all frenetic and glorious fun — even for older folk who perhaps baulk at this type of presentation normally. It’s over quickly and you soon see what medals you won for all kinds of things you did, and most importantly you then get to see your XP meter climb.
There are various cars and bikes to choose from, each with their own unique benefits, or otherwise. Even in a short space of time early on I’d determined that one car was better for me over another. In that particular case I felt it moved a bit more easily, seemed to have more chance of gaining boost and crucially, didn’t see me get taken down as often or as easily. Perhaps at that stage it was merely me getting better at the game as later on the choice of car when reading the advantage of each didn’t seem obvious when thinking how to utilise in a race. Given time though this would surely play itself out and we’ll know if the roster has an impact or is largely down to aesthetics and little else meaningfully.
With this beta my appetite for the full release has only grown. A desire to get going in the single-player game as opposed to just repeating the same few maps online is the main want, but as long as there are good reasons to build your XP online — for example serious unlocks as you get higher and higher — then both modes will get seriously hammered. Also I really want to get more maps and more of the day and night variation. At night the whole thing becomes even more manic, especially where trees are involved, and I’m hoping for some choice around when and where you have a race when we see the full swathe of options in front of us.
In summary then, Onrush is pure joy with no time to even stop and think about what might not be so good, at least at this early stage. A full game needs to change things up and keep giving you more if it wants you to stay until the end, or the post-game online world perhaps. Early signs are wholly encouraging though with the game coming across as some kind of genetically engineered beast of a game with its DNA taken from Criterion’s Burnout, Bizarre Creation’s Blur and Evolution’s own Motorstorm.