Onrush (PlayStation 4) Review

By Tomas Barry 08.06.2018

Review for Onrush on PlayStation 4

Sometimes, if there's been a longstanding hole in the market and something emerges that could potentially fill it, it can be disheartening when that project ends up subverting your expectations. The first glimpses of Onrush channelled the spirit of two very beloved arcade series, in Burnout and SSX. Initially, it looked like a hybrid, combing the destruction-centric core of the former, with a heavy emphasis on tricks and big air, derived from the latter. It turns out, however, that Onrush is much more than that, which very much works in its favour. It borrows elements from some completely unrelated genres, resulting in something refreshing and distinct. It's created by a new Codemasters studio, comprising former Evolution Studios employees, the team who made Driveclub and the MotorStorm series, and is published by Deep Silver. Available now on PS4 and Xbox One, how does this unique mix of arcade ingredients fare?

Some arcade racers have tried to take the baton, carrying on from Burnout and other arcade-experiences from the early 2000s. There was Blur, back in 2010, an effort by Bizarre Creations to combine its realistic arcade racing series, Project Gotham Racing, with the wackiness of Mario Kart, which pretty much buried the team. That same year also saw the release of Split/Second, which was a more compelling project but, ultimately, still fell short of the mark. The most successful of the bunch was Evolution Studios' very own MotorStorm series, but the last instalment of that was back in 2012. Perhaps it was the muted reception for some of these titles that contributed towards a subsequent lack of this type of experience. However, Onrush certainly seems to have benefited from keeping a wide berth. It's clear that the developer has thought very carefully about how to re-modernise the best aspects of these arcade racers. How, then, does Onrush work, and what makes it so intuitively familiar, yet also so fresh?

Well, for a start, to say it's a racer isn't particularly accurate. In Onrush, position is totally irrelevant and there are no starting and finishing lines. It's a team-based affair, with a central emphasis on taking out the competition, accruing points, and staying amongst the stampede. That makes for a swelling mass of drivers, consisting of two teams, and AI bots, who are putty rangers present for easy takedown points. If, for any reason, the player falls away from the action, they are re-spawned amongst the pack. Likewise, wrecking out is totally meaningless, carrying no penalty whatsoever. It takes a little time to adjust to this different emphasis and sense of flow, but once acclimatised, it's a really refreshing change of pace. People with very rigid expectations of what they should get out of an arcade racer may be disappointed with the setup. This was proven from the open beta that conjured up some divisive opinions. However, the more open-minded, looking for something silky-smooth and always entertaining, will find this to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Screenshot for Onrush on PlayStation 4

Onrush centres on four main game types. Overdrive sees the player boosting to score points for their own team, by stringing together takedowns and tricks. It's the most straightforward mode available, and although fun enough, it's probably the weakest offering of the bunch. Friends might introduce new players to the world of Onrush through this, so that they can get a feel for the arcade handling, but the real meat is elsewhere. Countdown is a checkpoint-based race against time, where passing through gates adds precious seconds to your team's counter, keeping you in the game whilst the opposing team hopefully croaks. While it's a simple premise, it gets quite tense, since gates constantly contract and expand. There's a tactical edge to it, as deciding whether to be safe and concentrate on hitting your marks, or to disrupt the opposition's flow while your team has the upper-hand, is a game of risk vs. reward, and often a tough call.

The best modes are borrowed and adapted from first-person-shooters. Yes, you heard that right. Switch mode is like the gun game in Call of Duty: Black Ops. Drivers start off on a motorbike and work their way through the vehicle-chain as they are totalled. While it does seem a little strange to be rewarded with a better vehicle upon your demise, rather than when you get a takedown, it creates an interesting dynamic, bearing in mind the team-based emphasis. It's a tense affair, whether you are one of the last bikes defying death, or doling out carnage in a more brutish vehicle-type, like the Enforcer. It's great that the player's role evolves over time, in varying ways depending on how the round is going, and it's also one of few modes where self-preservation sometimes takes priority.

Last, but certainly not least, is Lockdown, akin to King of the Hill, only the zone is always moving with the stampede. There's a fantastic layer of strategy to this game type, since the strengths and weaknesses of each vehicle type really reveal themselves. Bikes are very nimble, and can weave quite adeptly through approaching hazards, like trees and debris, whilst staying within the circle. Larger vehicles are at a disadvantage in that respect, but can police the zone's perimeter and shunt away invading opponents with greater ease. Lockdown can be approached with a variety of different strategies, and that's what makes it such an exhilarating and addictive experience. Although it requires the most acclimatising, this is the best mode to show friends, as it illustrates the different core focus in a very intriguing way.

Screenshot for Onrush on PlayStation 4

Lockdown and Switch also do the best job of highlighting the vehicles' different and unique attributes. Each one has a specific way to earn more rush, which is a hyperactive form of boost, and these traits range from performing tricks to seeking out near-misses and driving close to team-mates. Every motor also has an enhanced benefit of its own to using rush. The Outlaw simultaneously drains boost from opponents, whilst the Titan also drops blockades to slow them down. Vehicles also all have a special ability. The Dynamo drops boost pick-ups for team-mates when boosting itself, while the Charger is more adept at in-air takedowns. There are eight vehicle classes in total, and it's these attributes that provide them with plenty of character, whilst also incentivising experimentation with all of them. On top of the element of livery and parts (aesthetic-only) customisation, things are nicely fleshed out and well balanced in this department.

Onrush features twelve tracks, ranging from lush green mountain tops and Arizona-style red-rock canyons, to seaside sand dunes and warehouses in the foothills. Although not every single area is instantly distinguishable from the others, there's no denying that they all look gorgeous. This is only enhanced by a season-and-weather system, which quite significantly affects the look and feel of each location. These courses are very sprawling, with lots of verticality and multiple routes available. Although they are not open-world, they are very reminiscent of the maps from Smuggler's Run - and, thus, this title channels yet another famous arcade series from times gone by. Onrush, in a graphical sense, is a real treat. Not only do the tracks and vehicles look amazing, but the lighting and finer details are excellent. In addition, the drivers are guided in the right direction in a very subtle, yet purposeful way, via bright elements. There are also sparks-a-plenty when performing takedowns, with bits and pieces flying every which way.

Screenshot for Onrush on PlayStation 4

The title also performs rather well in the audio department. It features a high-octane soundtrack, which is a pleasing mix of rock, indie, electronic, and drum 'n' bass. These genres blend together rather pleasingly, and while it's not as memorable as the soundtrack of something like Burnout Paradise, it does complement the action on-screen perfectly. Layers of the sound also add and subtract during certain tense moments, such as when players grab air-time or are nearing death. This works in the vein of the SSX titles, although, unfortunately, it's not quite as well-synced. With that said, it's difficult to produce such a varied playlist that consistently fits the action on-screen - so it deserves a lot of praise for that. Overall, in terms of audio and visual qualities, Onrush is a polished and intensely visceral experience. It runs at a smooth 60 frames per second, even on baseline PS4 hardware. Even better, it has the option to prioritise either fps or resolution. This is a fantastic freedom, although the former is recommended for the smoothest experience.

Online multiplayer performs admirably. The team dynamic really suits an online environment, and the more strategic modes in Switch and Lockdown really come into their own here. They feel even more lively and chaotic. Players will appreciate the AI cannon-fodder for boosting points that much more, since they don't come quite as easily from elsewhere in a more competitive environment. It's just a shame that some elements of the single-player experience couldn't be integrated into the online experience, such as the kill-cam, which is borrowed from Call of Duty, as well - and triggers a very satisfying slow-motion replay of takedowns. It's nice to show off your personalised gear in an online environment, although, obviously, gamers could all do without the loot-crates. It's part and parcel of 'modernising,' supposedly... At least they are not thrust upon the player as forcefully as they are in other titles. There is absolutely no need to purchase them.

Screenshot for Onrush on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Onrush is the product of some seriously creative lateral thinking. It feels like something Codemasters cooked up whilst down at the pub, that when it put into practice, found worked better than ever imagined. It takes some of the best attributes of Burnout, SSX, and MotorStorm, but turns the experience on its head with fresh ideas, and some gameplay mechanics borrowed from the world of first-person shooters. It's a gorgeous and intense arcade racer, which is both a throwback and something totally original. There are a few kinks. With one misstep, one or two tracks will throw you away from the action all too easily, and side-swipe takedowns aren't as easy as they should be in certain vehicles. The trick system, too, could be more elaborate. However, overall, Onrush is just a fantastic change of pace. It excels in scratching an itch that you never knew existed. Extremely good fun!

Developer

Codemasters

Publisher

Koch Media

Genre

Driving

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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