As a huge fan of the MotorStorm series, I was pretty miffed when Sony and Evolution Studios shifted their focus away from high octane offroad antics to the slightly more sterile and mature DriveClub. I warmed to it eventually, though still felt a longing for a return to the PS3 era racers. MotorStorm 4 seemed incredibly unlikely and when Evolution was shuttered in 2016, there was no longer a reason to keep that dream alive.
Now, let’s be perfectly clear: there’s an inherent, unavoidable overlap with Evo’s flagship franchise yet, at the same time, Onrush is an entirely different beast. After playing a solid several hours of the studio’s latest game, I can safely say it trumps any theoretical MotorStorm sequel I may have had sketched out in my mind.
Onrush gives the finger to genre conventions in favour of something new and refreshing, but with a hint of familiarity. Instead of simply moving the finish line, Evo has removed it altogether, cooking up a series of team-focused, objective-based game modes, some of which feel as though they’ve been stripped from your favourite online shooters.
Whether boosting for points in Overdrive, hitting gates in Countdown, eliminating opponents in Switch, or defending territory in Lockdown, the action never strays too far from the Stampede: a convoy of player and AI vehicles constantly scrapping. When a racer gets shut down, goes out of bounds, or falls too far behind, they’re simply tossed back into the madness.
In most racing games victory hinges not just on skill but a meticulous knowledge of each track, memorising every corner and tracing the shortest, most efficient route from start to finish. Onrush, on the other hand, completely tears up the rulebook. Learning the layout of each map will give you an advantage, sure, but only a small one. Wins are born from instinctive skill, teamwork, and employing the unique abilities of each vehicle class. As touched on in our review, those who find themselves trading paint with Onrush’s elite will need to think about team compositions and counters, on where you are in relation to your competitors, instead of simply watching the road ahead.
As someone who gorges themself on Overwatch, Rainbow Six Siege, Paladins, and other so-called “Hero Shooters”, it’s crazy to see just how well the Evo team has adapted many of its ideas for a racing game. When scrolling through the vehicle selection screen, I almost think of them as characters, making a choice based on what my team might need in that given moment. If this were Gran Turismo, Need For Speed, or Forza, I’d be opting for the fastest car in my garage with the highest stats, never really thinking (or caring) about the decision I make.
That said, I’m no petrolhead. I’m not a fan of real-world racing, either. Those who are may have a tough time breaking into Onrush, spotting the front cover and assuming its another flashy off-road racer and not some experimental multiplayer mash-up. Then again, there’s a chance that those who often shun the genre may give Onrush a spin on account of how radically different it is compared to other racers.
This is a huge gamble for Codemasters to be taking, but I honestly hope that Onrush finds the fanbase it deserves. While nuanced, it’s surprisingly accessible, not to mention incredibly moreish. If Evolution Studios can supplement its newest creation with a trickle of fresh content, from live events, to vehicles, tracks, and modes, then it’s hard to imagine dropping Onrush from my regular playlist, even as I look towards the busy backend of 2018.