Onrush bursts onto the scene with an attitude and swagger that hasn’t really been seen since, well, the last Motorstorm. It’s no real surprise when you consider it’s the same studio making it, and it’s apparent from the belting soundtrack to the grungy art style and the frenetic, car-wrecking action.
This game’s all about the ‘Stampede’, the big group of two dozen constantly scrapping vehicles going hell for leather through the environment. Within that there are two teams of six racers trying to take each other out, while the rest are AI fodder to be smashed up to feed your boost meter.
It comes with four intriguing game modes at launch. Overdrive’s simple mantra is to “boost to win”, scoring points by building up and using boost from pulling off jumps, crashing into fodder, taking out opponents and using your Rush. Countdown is a relatively simple team-based arcade-style race through gates, while Lockdown has you racing to capture and control a moving zone, a la King of the Hill. Switch gives every racer three lives, in effect, forcing you to change to a different class of vehicle and trying to take out those with remaining switches on the other team; it’s somewhere between Gun Game, Team Deathmatch, and Elimination in a shooter.
They all offer something a bit different, which is only amplified when playing with the eight different vehicle classes. Some like the Interceptor are about out and out takedowns, while others are geared towards pure speed or supporting your nearby teammates. Each vehicle has its own unique Rush ability, somewhat akin to the “Ultimates” found in MOBAs and hero shooters like Overwatch. Aside from granting a massive speed boost, they can be used to rack up takedowns in quick succession, often helping to the turn the tables or extend your team’s lead.
You’re meant to try and play this as a team game, and these classes do compliment and counteract one another quite well. It’s easy to play as a team of individuals, but if you do work together, taking the chance to have one person acting as a sweeper in Lockdown or coordinating and saving Rush between rounds, it’s easy to see how it could lend itself to more competitive play.
The kicker is that Onrush eschews having straight up races. There’s no traditional race to the finish line, there’s no mode where it’s just you against everyone else on track, this is unconventional car-based team games through and through. If you want a pure arcade racer, this is not the game for you, but if you can come at the game from a different perspective, looking at it as a blend of Destruction Derby, Call of Duty and Speed – the first one on the bus, not the one on the cruise liner – then great.
It can take a little while for all of this to come together in your mind – at least, it did for me despite seeing the game’s potential – and certainly there’s some learning to do with each of the vehicles and game modes. With teaching you the game and how it works an absolute must, there’s a lot resting on the shoulders of the game’s tutorial and introductory videos.
Each mode and vehicle has a relatively brief intro to try and get across the main concept to you, but it’s fairly minimalist and could have done more to deal with contact, bikes and spatial awareness in particular. Spatial awareness is still one of the biggest problems I have in the game, when you want to be in the middle of the stampede but will find it a struggle to know what’s behind you. How to position yourself and making the most of your chances is one of the most difficult things to learn in this game.
Then there’s the vehicular combat. As in the real world, there’s little room for error when hurtling at full throttle across all kinds of terrain and smashing into things. Collisions with terrain are fairly forgiving, and you can often just sort of glance by things if you’re not too fast or not crashing head on, but that makes those times where the game doesn’t forgive you feel inexplicable. Crashing into another vehicle gives you very little leeway, though. If you misjudge a sideswipe and the corner of their car hits a few inches behind the front of your car’s corner, then it’s game over for you instead.
If you want to warm up to this before heading online, you do have the Superstar campaign, playable in single player or co-op. It throws you from one match to another, pushing you to use certain vehicles, giving you increasingly tricky challenges to complete, from smashing a dozen fodder to landing an air takedown and shunting three opponents. It also acts as a showcase for the game engine, which Evo have done a great job of optimising to run at 60fps, even on base PS4. You sacrifice resolution for it, dropping to 1080p on PS4 Pro, but it’s impressive when you consider just how fast the game moves, the number of vehicles in play, that each of the circuits has changeable time and seasonal weather. The comprehensive photo mode is wonderfully flexible, if lacking the ability to rewind time to find the exact moment you want to capture.
Multiplayer is what this game has been built for, with the matches ramping up in intensity, the hits and takedowns coming thicker and faster. There’s an Overwatch vibe to how it feeds into regular loot boxes and cosmetics, but without any microtransactions in sight. There’s tons of different vehicle models, skins for the characters, unlockable bike tricks and dances for the end of match summary. There’s not much that really leaps out at me as something I had to have, but alongside the objective-led Crashtags, they’re a simple reward for continued play.
There’s a little bit of everything in Onrush, from racers to shooters, from destruction derbies to sports games. If you were expecting a sequel to MotorStorm, Onrush won’t be for you, but give it a chance and its clever blend of different genres can draw you into its unrelenting vehicular action.
Version tested: PlayStation 4 – Also available on Xbox One