You can create new and exciting experiences when you combine things. Cheese and onion, chocolate and orange, sea salt and caramel, are all pairings that might seem strange at first but somehow work really well together. It’s not just food though, combinations can be made in all sorts of areas to create something new. Who would have thought that combining heavy metal with J-pop would work but Babymetal has sold thousands of albums and are huge on the festival scene. How about adding the undead to one of the most famous novels of all time, well Pride and Prejudice and Zombies proves that it was a good idea. The team at Codemasters seem to have taken this approach to their latest car-based opus, ONRUSH.
You may notice that I use the term ‘car-based’ rather than ‘racing,’ and that’s because although this is a title where you drive fast cars and motorbikes, it’s not really a racing game. For example, there’s never a start/finish line. There are several types of events, each with very different objectives. In fact, a lot of these objectives have far more in common with team-based multiplayer shooters than they do racing games. There’s Lockdown that is basically King of the Hill, at 100mph. Switch is kind of like Call of Duty’s Gun Game where instead of changing weapon every time you kill someone, you change vehicle each time you die. Overdrive is similar to Conquest mode in the Battlefield series except that instead of capturing points to win tickets for your team you just have to use boost. In fact, the only game mode that focuses more on racing is Countdown where you have to race through gates to add time to your team’s ever-ticking clock.
All of these modes reward not just precise driving skills but aggressive car-based combat with your opponents. In fact, there’s a strong hint of Burnout in the way that you take out other cars by pushing them into walls or trying to t-bone them. It also feels a lot like Criterion’s classic in the way that you get a different stylised camera view when you take down an opponent and even in the way that it feels like you get drawn into a wall when an enemy swipes you. You can also activate RUSH powers that are charged through boosting. Each vehicle has a different RUSH power. These can range from a Tron-style light wall behind your bike to stealing boost from your opponents, or a bulldozer effect that wipes out anyone you crash into, and even one that drops walls of light behind your vehicle. This is an important factor in helping to decide which vehicle you should use.
There are eight different vehicles in ONRUSH. This may not sound like many, but there are loads of visual customisation options that have a massive effect on their appearance. These eight vehicles are split into four pairs with different weight factors. The lightest being the two motorbikes and the heaviest being somewhere between an SUV and a tank. With the way ONRUSH is set up, these vehicles have to be perfectly balanced to make the game work and thankfully the team at Codemasters have nailed this. The bikes might not stand much of a chance when being sideswiped by the heavier vehicles yet they are considerably more maneuverable and a lot easier to fit between narrow gaps. The balancing of the rush powers also adds a nice strategic element to gameplay without any one being superior to another.
There are 12 tracks featured in the game, each with multiple routes through them and their own unique style. With a limited number of areas, I thought that I would get bored pretty quickly but the way the game plays means that it is never the case. You’re so busy focusing on your objective and where the opposition is that you really don’t pay as much attention to the scenery. It’s also not like a race-circuit where you take the fastest line possible which results in everyone queuing up in a long line. They have big open areas giving you space to battle with other vehicles as well as chasing down AI cars and bikes to gain boost. You do learn which part of the tracks require more respect and attention, but you still have to keep a focus on your surroundings and the opposition.
All of this action means that there is always a lot happening on-screen. As well as the other vehicles there’s a veritable cornucopia of particle and lighting effects. Cars tumble and spin as they are knocked out. Debris goes flying as you plough through wooden huts and junk left on the circuit. The game’s engine handles all of this with no slowdown noticeable at any point. I tried it on both my Xbox One X and my One S and didn’t have any issues on either system. If you own a One X, you’ll find settings in the options menu to prioritise either framerate or resolution. With the action-packed nature of ONRUSH I would strongly recommend the framerate option, though the resolution option does still offer improvements.
The campaign is a fair size, around 100 events, but will see you making multiple attempts at some events to achieve all of the objectives. You also earn XP every time you race. Levelling up grants you new gear crates that unlock different customisation options for your character, vehicle, and tombstones. Of course, what is going to keep most people coming back to the game is the multiplayer side of things. You have two options: Quickplay and Ranked. Quickplay will get you straight into the action and swaps game mode and track every time. Ranked multiplayer had not been opened up ahead of launch. I have to say that the game had some lag on the occasions that I played but again this might be fixed when it is officially released.
I have had an absolute ‘blast’ (pun intended) playing ONRUSH. It’s so refreshing to play something that subverts one of my favourite gaming genres. It may not really be a racing game, but it certainly uses a lot of those same skills and gaming reflexes. There’s a reasonable amount of content, but it could do with maybe one or two more modes and perhaps a third option in each weight category. What is here, though, is perfectly balanced and a whole lot of fun. No two races are ever the same, and the tracks don’t get boring thanks to the tremendous amount of action that is always occurring. If you are a fan of games like Burnout, Flatout, or Twisted Metal, this is a game you have to check out. I would go further than that though and say if you have any interest in the racing genre or any type of competitive multiplayer game this is worth some of your time. Personally, I love it and am looking forward to spending many more hours bringing the pain to the orange team!