You do a lot of driving and cause much mayhem in Onrush, but this isn’t a typical entry in the vehicular combat genre. Taking cues from the popular shooter Overwatch, developer Codemasters has created a team-based game where players choose from one of eight vehicles, each with their own abilities, and work together to achieve specific objectives. Although few aspects of Onrush will be new to players, the game is electrifying in how it goes out of its way to ensure that you’re constantly in the middle of nail-biting action.
Onrush introduces its vehicles, courses, and objective types in a single-player mode that doubles as a tutorial for online multiplayer matches. Despite the didactic purpose of this campaign, it’s a fun way to get your feet wet given that the rules are explained to players by a narrator prone to whip-smart humor, such as “If the opportunity arises, push these fools [other vehicles] out of the way.” And some of the goals offered up during this mode will certainly keep beginners engaged, as when you’re asked to perform a number of midair barrel rolls or go a certain amount of time without crashing a motorcycle (the easiest vehicle for rival drivers to knock over).
Onrush gets its drug-alluding name from a resource called Rush, which unlocks the super moves of the various wheeled contenders. The Rush meter is primarily filled by using a turbo boost, and boosting—as in the Burnout series—can be done after you perform a variety of tricks, including but not limited to launching a vehicle into the air via ramps, causing other drivers to crash, and narrowly avoiding solid objects. The abundance of boost-producing activities means that the most successful players will come to feel like addicts: always looking for any opportunity, big or small, to gain speed.
The vehicles themselves are a highlight of the game. While they all feed off Rush, they can attain extra quantities of the resource through certain actions, and their passive abilities and super moves enable different team approaches. Take the huge truck, Titan. It provides a damage-reducing shield to nearby teammates, and with its super move, it leaves a trail of energy blocks that slow down opponents upon impact. If you play as the car Dynamo, you directly accumulate Rush by driving next to allies, and your super move grants boost bonuses to friends. If these two automobiles are paired, Titan can protect Dynamo as the latter produces extra Rush while being near Titan, and Dynamo’s super move will help Titan achieve its super move. This sort of symbiosis, which recalls the tactics from Overwatch, lends a strategic dimension to Onrush that vehicular combat games typically don’t have.
Provocatively, completing laps on Onrush’s courses achieves nothing, despite the fact that the game couldn’t function without said laps. Roughly speaking, there’s a sizable radius that all vehicles must be within as they make laps and attempt to fulfill the game’s actual objectives, such as fitting through a series of gates or capturing a circular zone by having more of your team’s vehicles within it. The radius is where vehicles are expected to vie for supremacy. If players lag behind this area for too long—which can happen if, say, you fail to boost your speed enough—the game will, under most circumstances, automatically pick up your vehicle and plop it into the radius.
Similarly, if you crash, you will be thrust back into the action within seconds. This aspect effectively maintains tension, and you rarely feel left out, so to speak. But sometimes the game puts you in compromised positions when it returns you to the radius. When you come back onto a track facing not too far from a cliff or a tree, or if you respawn in a spot only for an airborne vehicle to immediately land on top of you (thus crushing you), Onrush can seem unfair and be more than a little frustrating. The upshot, though, is that without this potential liability, the game wouldn’t set itself apart enough from other games. Because of its willingness to craft its own identity despite its numerous influences, Onrush is an admirable ode to vehicular chaos.