There is a classic saying that states “When one door closes another one opens”. UK based Evolution studios know this only too well, as a few years back they were owned by Sony and were responsible for the Motorstorm series and Driveclub on the PS4, but when Sony closed the studio down in 2016 the talented team all faced an uncertain future. However, just one month later, the team joined Codemasters in order for the two racing game developers to pool their “shared DNA, passion and talents”. Codemasters has also allowed the previous employees of Evolution Studios to retain their own unique style in the short, two year development cycle of their new project.
That move created the team now known as Codemasters Evo, and that trust and faith given to that development team has created the amazing ONRUSH in that two year cycle. Yes, I am getting that verdict out there at the start of this review. ONRUSH is a really great game. Their stablemates at Codemasters created the fantastic racing simulator that is F1 2017, and ONRUSH is probably the polar opposite of that game with it’s obvious arcade styling, but made with the same passion and love to create a world class driving game.
ONRUSH is a racing game with a twist, and the in-game narrator points it out very early on. Theres not one chequered flag to be found on any of the courses. Theres no tracks, pit-lanes or spectators. Instead what you have are four distinctive game modes, eight vehicles, a ton of AI controlled fodder vehicles and as much mayhem and fun that you could wish for.
There is a single player campaign, which acts as a tutorial for the different game modes and vehicles. Multiplayer is handled at the moment by Quick Play, which gets you into a match as quickly as possible and then continues on by cycling through a random playlist of game modes and tracks, so you never feel too far away from some action. There is a menu option for ranked matches, which will become active a few weeks after launch. Whichever mode you jump into you’ll find the basic gameplay is quite similar. Your car earns boost by taking out the fodder vehicles, jumping or doing tricks. Boost is then spent in order fill your Rush meter. Get this Rush meter full and you can activate your vehicle’s special power.
Taking down the opposition also helps fill your Rush meter, and obviously when the opponents are out of the game they are not earning their team any points. This is where ONRUSH differs from other racing games and takes a huge dollop of inspiration from shooters. To win in any of the game modes will require a certain amount of team co-operation. For example, the Dynamo vehicle earns Rush by driving near teammates, and when the Rush meter is full and activated it gives extra boost to those nearby teammates, whereas the Titan gives a shield to nearby teammates, so you can see how working together will be beneficial.
The four game modes are uniquely different as well. Overdrive is the most basic and requires you to purely earn and spend your boost which earns your team points. Switch makes you start off on a motorbike but then requires you to switch vehicles after each crash or takedown with the loser being the team that runs out of switches. Countdown is a race through gates against a decreasing clock. Hitting the gates will add precious seconds to your teams time, keeping you in the game, with the loser running out of time, and finally (my favourite) Lockdown, which really shows off the shooter inspiration by implementing a moving “Capture the Flag” area. Each of these modes require differing tactics and I am sure that I have just scratched the surface of working out just what tactics to use. Winning teams and players who earn the MVP status will be rewarded with XP and Gear Crates but it doesn’t really feel like you are playing for rewards or progression, but instead just for the fun of it.
There is a huge amount of customisation possible with the vehicles and characters. Levelling up in ONRUSH will earn you a Gear Crate, and these are opened in the most apt and fun way possible, earning you skins, celebrations and motorcycle tricks. Before the Internet gets mad I will point out that these crates can’t be purchased with real money and the items you win are purely cosmetic. ONRUSH has an over the top punk/rock styling, with a equally insane pounding soundtrack, and playing with headphones turned up loud feels the way to go, especially when you add in the amazing sound effects of the cars smashing to the ground and crashing into each other. The tracks are all well designed and individual with my particular favourite consisting of a huge circular dam that you race through, an experience I don’t think I have ever witnessed in a racing game. On the Xbox One X ONRUSH runs at a solid 60fps or at 4K, with the option to switch between the two, which I believe to also be the case with the PS4 Pro. I have also tested the game on the Xbox One S, which runs at 30fps and is still a very satisfactory experience. I have not seen any frame rate drop at all on any console, so it appears to be a very solid performer.
ONRUSH is not a subtle racing experience. It’s mad, insane, energetic and exhausting all at the same time. A real assault on the senses. And I mean that in a really good way. There’s never a break in the action, with the racing continuing between match rounds, so you are never taken out of the world. I do have a few niggles, but these are very minor. The respawn time feels too long, as it shows a killcam, and then a five second delay before you re-enter the race. Driving in the snow, whilst looking amazing, is a harrowing experience just like real life, and is too difficult to see where you are going. The biggest problem I can see, especially on release, are the number of game modes as four doesn’t quite feel enough. However, Codemasters Evo have confirmed that there are plans to support ONRUSH with new game modes and online events on a ongoing basis, details of which will be released over the next few weeks, but they need time to ensure that the player base is acclimatised to the game and that it is as balanced as can be before they add new features.
ONRUSH takes clear inspiration from Motorstorm and Burnout Paradise, however where it improves on those is in it’s track design. Burnout Paradise was too fast for its setting, and I spent an awful amount of time crashing. ONRUSH takes that speed and places it in wide open tracks and adds a huge amount of verticality, making it much more enjoyable. If you do crash and find yourself at the back of the pack the game will transport you back into the action almost immediately so you’re never too far from the chaos.
Hey, guess what? I love ONRUSH, and I can’t remember having this much fun in a driving game ever. Its Bold, Brash, Chaotic, Loud, Colourful and FUN and I cannot wait to see how the game is supported going forward!