Review: Onrush is a thrilling arcade racer that can only hit one note

Disclaimer: Review copy provided by publisher

Platforms: Xbox One and PlayStation 4 (reviewed)

Publishers: Deep Silver

Developers: Codemasters

MSRP: $59.99


Despite shifting their focus from multiple genres ranging from shooters and action/adventure games to hardcore racing simulators, developer Codemasters has seemingly found themselves sucked back into more thrillseeking adventures in the form of their new game Onrush.

Onrush is probably one of the most untraditional racing games of this generation. You’re thrown behind the wheel of a variety of different vehicles ranging from semi-basic dirtbikes to absolute behemoths on four wheels with the goal of causing as much carnage as possible. In Onrush, you’re not really racing to get first place across a finish line and you’re not working as a lone wolf. You’re part of a team, trying to prevent the other team from completing whatever objective is given to both of you.

You’ll be tossed into fairly large “tracks” which range from snowy mountains, desert wastelands, and more, ultimately being tasked with leaving as much scrap metal behind as you possibly can. The best way of describing the game to someone is to tell them to just imagine the stampede scene from The Lion King with ridiculously fast cars that are just trying to hit each other as hard as possible. It’s an absolute vehicular onslaught of loud noises, large pieces of metal being hurled through the air, and music but frankly, that’s all it is.

An action-packed racer with a lack of depth:

Onrush is a game that will make you go “Oh my god this is so over the top and fun, I love this!” within its tutorial but quickly make you realize that there’s not much depth beyond what they show you in the tutorial. It’s a one trick pony which loves slow-motion car crashes, flashy colors, and other things the likes of Michael Bay would cry tears of joy when playing. This is essentially Mad Max: Fury Road – The Video Game if you cut the story out.

That’s by no means an insult, it does all of what it wants to do really well but the problem is what it wants to do isn’t enough to keep me wanting to play more for long periods of time. Yes, it’s super satisfying to land your car on top of someone else’s to essentially create a vehicular Goomba stomp or strategically maneuver someone into an oncoming hazard on the track but it gets old. You can only get so much enjoyment out of knocking cars into rocks and trees or jumping off ramps on the same handful of tracks.

You won’t find much difference between the solo and online content, it mostly feels identical. Players obviously behave a bit more erratic and unpredictable but the AI is competent and authentic enough that I was often unable to tell what was player controlled and not. There’s no story in Onrush so you’ll mostly be playing the same game online and offline, the only difference being you might have some other players riding alongside you.

Onrush also offers some customization features to help make it feel like you’re progressing and making yourself feel more distinct but truthfully, nothing I unlocked felt very worthwhile. There was the occasional cool vehicle skin but given most vehicles in the game are proper cars/trucks, you can’t see your character so it doesn’t really matter what they’re wearing. There was no point where I saw something in the menus and went “I have to work towards having that!” The customization falls flat and ultimately feels one-dimensional due to the lack of interesting options.

Onrush shines when showcasing all of its visual beauty:

Where the game really shines is in its technical aspects, Onrush was created in two years and it almost feels like the concept spawned from a tech demo. It has gorgeous visuals with beautiful lighting, lovely colors in the environment to contrast the sheer brutality going on in the gameplay, and much more. Ironically enough, it feels like the best part of Onrush is its photo mode.

The moments where you can actually stop the ensuing violence to frame a picture that will capture the visceral nature of Onrush were the highlights for me. There are extensive photo editing tools that allow you to change angles, filters, and much more, I didn’t expect to toy around with it as much as I did but there was something incredibly cathartic about getting a perfect image to capture the epic moments unfolding whether that be a storm of cars flying through the air or everyone flying down a mountain at breakneck speeds as cars tumble over into each other and transform into metal meteors that hit even more cars.

Codemasters also made sure the carmageddon racer runs very smoothly with options for 30 FPS and 60 FPS depending on the hardware you’re playing on and I never experienced any ugly textures or slow FPS chugs, Codemasters manages to keep its adrenaline pumping action flowing without any errors to kill the momentum.

The Verdict

Onrush delivers a sense of thrilling arcade action in a way no other game is doing but the awe-inspiring moments of epic proportions quickly become old as they happen so rapidly. There’s enjoyment to be had here but not enough to make Onrush feel like something of substance at its asking price. Had there been more depth and value, this game could’ve been something really refreshing but it shows all of its cards right away. Technically speaking, the game is something quite wonderful and makes for impressive screenshots but that can only carry a game like Onrush so far.