In the (not that old) days on PlayStation, there was an off-road racer with a pretty passionate following called MotorStorm. The last MotorStorm game to release came in 2012, with Sony eventually shutting down the studio that made it, Evolution Studios, in 2016.
Codemasters then hired the out-of-work staff, and now, in 2018 comes ONRUSH. It's unfair to say this is the modern MotorStorm because ONRUSH has its own identity.
But the credentials of the team behind it aren't in any doubt. ONRUSH isn't just a new IP, it's taking a fresh approach to the genre.
Not your daddy's racing game
The trouble with racing games is that there's an element of predictability about them. The very nature of racing leads to a finite circuit with a winner either the first to get there or the fastest at doing it. ONRUSH isn't like normal racing games. There are no laps, there are no start lines, no checkered flags. You're rewarded for driving like an utter lunatic. The more you take out your opponents, the better your chances of winning.
ONRUSH throws out the racing rulebook and is all the better for it.
The various race types in ONRUSH have different ways of winning. In Overdrive, you and your team race to hit a points target before your opponent. In Lockdown, you have to take control of a zone and reach the winning number of controls before your opponents. Countdown is like vehicular slalom, where you race between gates to keep topping up your timer, with the first hitting zero the loser. All of the circuits are chaotic, destructible in places and full of ludicrous jumps.
There's a decent selection of different race types and lengths in ONRUSH, all requiring a different approach to winning. But what's refreshing is that in the single-player mode, you can progress with full honors without winning the race. Each new section of the career mode, known as Superstars, is unlocked by gaining a certain number of stars. You gain stars for completing in-race challenges, some of which are to win, some of which are to cause carnage.
This lack of traditional racing mechanics makes ONRUSH exciting to play in an entirely new way. It's fast pace and constant action are paired with fairly short races, and they're great for getting in a quick session. It's easy to pick up but challenging to master.
ONRUSH is super-smooth on the Xbox One X I reviewed it on (it's also One X Enhanced), with no tearing. Any noticeable drops in frame rate would kill a game this fast, so props to Codemasters for getting the performance spot on.
Team play and tactics
Where ONRUSH is most similar to the old MotorStorm games is that you're rewarded for being ruthless. Here, takedowns are part of the normal process, hurting your opponent's chances while simultaneously boosting yours. But it's also part of a pretty clever tactical play, one that makes ONRUSH a solid title to play in a group of friends. I didn't have a chance to test out online multiplayer, but there were reports of performance issues. The latest patch should take care of that.
Which vehicles make up your team will affect how well you're able to meet the objectives of each race type. The different two and four-wheeled options have different special abilities. In some cases in single-player you'll be told which vehicle to use, but even then, how you use it makes the difference.
It can look hectic and random, but a solid strategy can always come out on top.
In Switch, for example, a lot of the onus is on staying alive while taking down opponents. Everyone starts on bikes and moves to progressively stronger vehicles, which are harder to take down. So, as a team, you have options. One player on a bike could do everything possible to stay out of trouble and keep their lives intact, letting others go off and get aggressive.
You also get a Rush meter, a special ability that when charged you can unleash. But using it at the wrong time can be costly.
Usually, in a racing game, your only real thought is going as fast as possible and passing opponents. In ONRUSH, there's a whole tactical game that comes into play, as it might if you were squadding up in a first-person shooter (FPS). Ranked play isn't available during the review period, but it's easy to see that the clever players will do well.
Promising but not perfection
While ONRUSH gameplay is generally very slick and well executed, there are aspects of it that could be better balanced.
Takedowns are an integral part of gameplay, but they can be wildly unpredictable. On occasions, you'll find yourself smashing the daylights out of an opponent with absolutely no luck, but you'll be taken out yourself having been tapped slightly. Sometimes it feels a little too random when you're knocked out of the game, and how.
The Lockdown game mode also feels too unforgiving. You're supposed to chase a zone and capture it, but if you get taken out or you fall behind for any reason, it's almost impossible to catch up since all the vehicles travel as fast as each other. If your team falls behind, it's highly unlikely you'll avoid getting trounced.
Make a cup of tea while you're respawning, because it takes that long.
None of this is helped by a five-second respawn time which, in a game like this, feels like ages.
Some of the challenges feel a little artificially difficult. No one wants an easy game, but there are some challenges that require multiple instances of a very specific set of events. Sometimes the races just aren't long enough to have any chance of achieving them.
On the flip side, the Achievements in the Xbox One version of the game are very accessible, and none feel out of reach to anyone just playing through the game normally. There are also in-game rewards in the form of gear crates full of cosmetics and credits, which, for now, don't seem to cost real money.
The bottom line on ONRUSH for Xbox One
With the history of the team making ONRUSH, many have been holding high hopes for this off-road racer. And for the most part, those people will be happy. ONRUSH is a riot of chaos and carnage with strategy running through its core.
It's a game that doesn't take itself too seriously and yes, the "story" is ridiculous, but every time I play this game I'm smiling.
- Absurdly fun.
- Xbox One X enhanced.
- A fresh outlook on a racing game.
- Some randomness in achieving takedowns.
- Some of the gameplay needs better balancing.
- Respawn times take forever.
There are things that could be improved, like the excruciating respawn times, as well as some things that feel too difficult just for the sake of it. Pre-release is also never a time to get a proper feel for online multiplayer, so hopefully it doesn't fall apart there.
None of this takes away from the enjoyment of playing ONRUSH as a single player. I hope it remains supported with additional content because it's a game I'd love to keep playing.
ONRUSH is available now for Xbox One for around $60. The game is also available for PC and PlayStation 4.
This review was conducted entirely on the Xbox One X with a copy provided by the publisher for purposes of review.
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