There are a lot of racing games out there – and I mean a lot.
From Forza to Gran Turismo and everything in between, there is a wide range of games available that involve zooming around a track, racing and sometimes destroying other cars that get in your way; Onrush is a game that falls into that ‘in between’ category.
On paper, it sounds like a romp; an arcade-style combat driving game with no finish lines and a focus on wrecking your opponents rather than passing them, in practice… Onrush is pretty much just that.
The idea of a racing game without a race element is a simple yet effective one, and there’s a focus on light and fun gameplay rather than complex story-based sequences. Onrush has four different race modes; Overdrive, which focuses on building up and using as much boost as possible, Switch which forces you to change vehicle each time you spawn back into the race, Lockdown which sees the player chasing down moving zones in a king of the hill style mode and Countdown which puts an emphasis on driving as quick as possible; all game modes include trying to wreck your opponents at the same time, of course.
These four game modes inhabit Onrush’s career mode of sorts, which sees you complete many different matches across different tracks and locations as well as tackling challenges, which mix up each race (with race being an extremely loose use of the word here).
As well as the 1-player mode, the game comes with a custom game ability that allows you to play coop on team-based matches as well as ‘quick play’ and ‘ranked’ online modes if getting beaten by the game’s AI just isn’t good enough for you and you fancy making your defeats a little more personal.
The multiple game modes do help mix up the gameplay if you’re playing more than a couple of matches but the basic (and constant) goal of ‘smashing up cars’ and the fairly limited driving controls do make Onrush a repetitive play. It could be argued that this is usually what you might expect from a game that focuses on arcade-style gameplay, but with a price tag matching any other newly released game, Onrush will probably make you question if the bang is really worth the buck.
As well as the drive-smash-repeat nature of the game, matches can often feel like they have been going on for too long, due in part, to the team-based style of play that inhabits every race (there’s that word again) which allows time for all the other racers (AI or real) to get their smash on too, but can just leave you wondering just when you’ll be allowed to stop.
Now the repetitive gameplay can certainly reduce the fun you are having playing this game after a while, however the customisable vehicles and characters do add another level of enjoyment, as along with changing the colours and designs of your 8 assigned death machines (two bikes and six cars) you can also switch up your character’s appearance, the tricks they do while driving and even their victory dance, although – pre-warning about the dances – they’re pretty awful.
Along with the options to make your cars and character look good it is important to point out that the game itself has some pleasing visuals. While Onrush lacks the graphics quality of a game with a bigger budget, the bright colours and vibrant feel do suit the action-packed matches and help bring them to life. This is also helped by the inventive courses you find yourself racing on and the ability to change the weather, season and time of day via the custom game mode; fancy whizzing across a beach in the height of summer or a golf course in the pouring rain in the middle of the night? No problem at all.
With your character riding in their customised car on your personalised track, when you start hitting those top speeds and demolishing your opponents the game does start to feel pretty enjoyable, and this is where Onrush is at its best, it’s a pity that there is only so many times this feeling can be captured in one session and that the game takes such a short amount of time to become tiresome; it definitely benefits from short bursts of play rather than the prolonged grind-fests some gamers may be used to.
Racing hard and fast is key to virtually every driving game out there and whereas it does take it to the next level, Onrush is not the first game to include combative destruction as part of its gameplay. Although it has the edge on graphics, Onrush doesn’t match the power-up based combat races of 2010’s Blur or even the all-terrain action of 2008’s Pure, a game released a decade earlier. Onrush could have taken a little more from games like this, other than their catchy one-word titles.
Overall, Onrush is a game that ticks some boxes but doesn’t even draw a squiggle in others. It feels like the game that your little brother would want to play; fun and exciting for just under an hour, but quickly becomes stale if you don’t put the controller down soon after that. Despite enjoyable customisation and four different game modes to choose from, it seems like if you payed full price for Onrush, there are games on which your money would have been better spent.
Coop and online play do help keep the game from being completely one-dimensional, as games like this are often more enjoyable with a few pals and a couple of beers, but despite the amount of alcohol you consume, it still won’t be long before you’re wondering if your Nintendo Wii still works so you can bust out Mario Kart and really get to some destructive racing.