As a huge fan of the Motorstorm and Burnout games, I jumped at the opportunity to try out Codemasters' Onrush.
Onrush is a racing game that could be described as a mix of the dirt road racer Motorstorm with its variety of vehicles from bikes to dune buggies and Burnout with its classic takedown system that rewards you for smashing your opponents to pieces. It takes the madness of both titles and revs it up to create an extra layer of chaos, making anyone watching you play wonder just what the heck is going on.
You always compete in Onrush as part of a team. In other words, you're not racing your opponents to the finish line. You work with your team to take down the opposing team in many different ways, making use of the smaller fodder vehicles that pop up on the track by smashing them to receive boost. Your boost can then be used to slam into opponents and if you use it for long enough while keeping the takedowns and tricks coming in order to maintain boost, you go into rush mode where you drive a blazing trail through the track and smash everything in your wake while sometimes leaving boost pick-ups for your team or gate obstacles for opponents behind you.
Resisting the urge to get to the front of the pack in order to win is difficult and I often found myself doing this only to be told to hang back or catch up because I was too far from the action. Onrush actually picks you up and puts you right in the middle of it if you stray too far. I must say, Onrush seems like a perfect game to have a basic race mode but it doesn't and that's a little disappointing.
However, the modes that it does have are varied with all of them being equally fun to play. In Countdown, you have to keep passing through gates that appear on the map. Switch mode has you starting out with a bike and swapping for the next level of vehicle each time you crash. Your goal is to force each player on the opposing team to work through all of their vehicles until they run out before you do. In Lockdown mode, you're chasing a zone that appears on the track and you have to have the majority of vehicles within the zone from your team for five seconds before you can claim victory over that zone. Overdrive mode is the simplest as you collect points by boosting and rushing. Finally, Tournaments are comprised of a consecutive series of three tracks that feature a variety of modes.
The story mode of Onrush contains six chapters, each with multiple missions to complete. Besides the goal of actually winning that mission with your team, there are also additional challenges that award you with in-game currency which can be used to purchase some customization aspects such as character and vehicle skins, gamertags, bike tricks, and the gravestone that appears in the location where you last crashed. When you complete any race in Onrush, you're also presented with a screen that shows which player was the MVP and which players did the best job at taking out vehicles or achieving other tasks. On top of this, you get medals awarded for completing smaller challenges such as staying on the bike or surviving for a long time in Switch mode. Finally, you'll sometimes also unlock a crate that gives you three random items to add to your customization collection.
There are twelve tracks to race on which is a little less than I'd like but the fact that they have such stunning detail and some are very unique-looking helps to make up for that. In one track, you're crashing through the streets of a beach city and in another; you're driving through a biodome. If the tracks weren't enough to switch it up for you, you can also play them in four different seasons and in seven different times of day. Playing in the winter has snow pelting the screen and in the dark, the neon colours of the players going into rush mode while below a black sky with an aurora borealis is stunning to look at. However, there's just too much going on sometimes. Picture the snow pelting the screen at night as the moon reflects off every surface and you go into rush mode with your vehicle emitting a blue light and everything around it darkens. Needless to say, I've crashed quite a few times during moments like these.
Up to eight classes of vehicles can be selected depending on the event you're playing. They range from The Blade (a small bike that leaves a destructive trail behind it when it goes into rush mode) to The Interceptor (a larger vehicle that earns rush from performing near misses and fills its rush meter on every takedown) to The Titan (a monstrous vehicle that shields your teammates as you drive by them and drops a trail of blockades when in rush mode). I really like how Switch mode has you play as multiple vehicle types in one race because it does a great job of forcing you to experience the different positive and negative aspects of each vehicle as you learn to use them to your advantage depending on where you are in the race.
Overall, I found the AI to be on par with how well I was driving. If I felt like I was having a particularly good race, they would be there to stay in the zone or earn points along with me. If I was dropping behind a lot or crashing, my team would inevitably fail the race. However, there were at least a couple of times where I felt like I wasn't doing very well but my team got me over the hurdle. Maybe that's okay (as long as it's not a common occurrence) because as I said, the actions of the team seemed to mimic mine most of the time.
On the other hand, playing online is tough! The online gameplay is basically the same as offline where you play a selected track and mode from the long list of available options. Anyway, players are keen to destroy anyone who gets in their path and as expected, they won't be forgiving at all. The chaos reaches an even higher level when you have a lot of players all in one area vying for the prize.
Given that Onrush is clearly influenced by the likes of Motorstorm and Burnout, I can't help but wish it also implemented interaction with the environments themselves or at least had the tracks change as you lap around. Being able to hit a button at the right time to cause a skyscraper to fall onto an opponent is exhilarating in other games and I feel like it would have fit perfectly into Onrush's gameplay. The action is intense without this so it's not for lack of entertainment; it just seems like an obvious addition that was missed out.
One thing that bugged me when playing Onrush was the music. I know everyone has their own taste but I've spent many hours playing and I seem to only hear the same few tracks play over and over. Looking at the tracklisting in the credits, I counted 59 tracks so I'm not sure where they are featured but I would have loved to hear more of a mix of styles during races. Listening to the same generic club song over and over made me shut off the sound more than once. There are some cool tunes but not enough.
If you've been craving a crazy destruction-filled action-packed racer then Onrush is a must-buy. It's intense and features a variety of play styles all set in an attractive world that won't forgive you for blinking.
- + Awesome graphics with a variety of settings, vehicles, and characters
- + All 4 race modes are a blast to play
- + Well-crafted and varied vehicle mechanics
- - Action can get too hectic to the point where you can't see what's happening
- - Soundtrack isn't for everyone
- - Lacks stage interaction and basic races