Games Review: Onrush (PS4, 2018): Who said arcade racers were dead?

Onrush immediately throws itself onto you as a weird, quirky and sometimes downright crazy experience. However, it’s an experience which I haven’t come across in a while, and to my surprise, it’s some of the most fun I’ve had in a racing title in recent memory. Developers Evolution Studios of Driveclub and Motorstorm fame have created the foundation for Onrush, as it blends an insanely colourful visual pallet with an inventive and downright addictive gameplay loop.

Onrush immediately pumps the brakes and unapologetically throws all the conventional racing gameplay mechanics out the window. There’s no finish line, no lap indicator and pole position doesn’t exist; well, in a traditional sense. But how does this make for a good ‘racing’ game I hear you ask? Well have no fear because Onrush aims to revamp the racing genre, while pulling from experiences from the Burnout and Motorstorm franchises while pushing the boundaries even further. The aim of the game is to take to the track with the intention to destroy as many opponents as possible, with the game enforcing a heavy amount of teamwork related duties on you in the process. There’s no doubt that Onrush is a multiplayer-centric experience, even with the addition of a single player mode that replaces real players with AI controlled racers.

While the experience mainly revolves around blazing through 12 unique racetracks and demolishing your opponents, with four modes to choose from. Onrush does a good job at shaking up the formula while remaining similar enough to sustain that sweet gameplay loop. There’s Overdrive, in which you use your boost abilities to rack up points for your team within a time limit, Countdown, in which you drive through gates to keep your team within a time limit, Lockdown, in which you must occupy a continuously moving zone on the track, and Switch, a mode which forces you to change vehicles every time you crash.

Throughout all these modes however, you’ll be speeding across 12 varied racetracks in a bid to wreck as many vehicles while you can, while driving very, very fast. And yes, that is as fun as it sounds. Onrush’s driving mechanics are intentionally unrealistic, as weight or handling never really differs from vehicle to vehicle. Amongst all the chaos, completing jumps and destroying enemy vehicles provides you with boost. A huge plus is that these feats are never too far apart meaning there is always a way to rack up the boost meter and keep things at a blazing pace. Amongst racers assigned to a team (blue or orange) Onrush throws even more vehicles into the mix, called fodder. Aptly named, these greyed out vehicles are easily dismantled at the slightest bump, which sounds good on paper, but thanks to the consistent pace of each race, never gets old.

While the variety is spread out amongst various modes, you’ll be glad to know the vehicle selection follows suit. Choosing from an array of both cars and bikes, Onrush assigns specific abilities to each vehicle, which seems daunting initially, but soon becomes a strategic advantage, as each race and mode will call for a particular vehicle. While boosting keeps things fast, using boost will build what is referred to as a rush meter. When this meter is full, players can engage their ‘rush ability’ which is basically a cool term for what you would consider your ultimate move. Be it increased damage in order to blaze through a ton of enemies at once, or a bike that leaves behind a destructive trail of fire. While each vehicle’s rush move is different, there’s no doubt that as your vehicle launches forward at ludicrous speed and the music intensifies, this is boost on steroids.

Thankfully, it should also be noted that Onrush’s performance is as good as its gameplay. Playing on the PS4 Pro, the ability to choose between 2160p checkerboard 30fps and 1080p 60fps is a welcome touch, and one that I hope more games utilise in the future. While this is not an option on the regular consoles, the game looks great nonetheless, throwing you some awesome colours and creative vehicle designs in the process.

While loot crates and daily rewards are included in Onrush, you can rest easy knowing that they’re largely inoffensive and can only be purchased via in game currency. What seems like an inevitable move is made somewhat bearable as these items are largely cosmetic. Decked out with decent soundtrack of rock and electro pop songs to keep the adrenaline high, I found it a touch odd that every time you wreck, the vehicle selection screen has its own music, which cuts into the mid-race tracks. Sure, it’s only around five to seven seconds before you’re right back into the action, but I always found myself noticing the sudden shift in songs, only to be bounced back into the action with the previous track. It never felt natural to me, as I couldn’t shake the feeling that the current song should just play on as I’m choosing my new vehicle in order to keep things consistent.

After spending a ton of time with Onrush, I cannot deny the amount of fun I have had, and am still having with it. While things can seem a touch repetitive and basic on the surface, the moment to moment gameplay is simply too good to go uncredited, leaving me with that on-more-race feeling time and time again. While this may not appeal to all racing fans, the decision to remove the finish line all while implementing team work seems to satisfy a craving within the racing genre I never knew I needed. Onrush is simply a raging fireball of colour, adrenaline and speed, and that’s totally fine by me.

Score: 8.5 out of 10
Highlights: Genius premise, fantastic moment to moment gameplay, unique visuals
Lowlights: Odd sound design, slightly repetitive structure
Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Deep Silver
Available: Now
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC

Review conducted on PlayStation 4 with retail code provided by the publisher.