I’m Convinced Onrush Will be the Next Big Arcade Racer

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As a racing game fan, I loved Evolution Studios’ MotorStorm series.

I also love Burnout, and so after having a couple of races on Codemasters’ upcoming title Onrush at EGX Rezzed this weekend I was overjoyed to find that it feels like an accomplished mix of the two while also forming a unique identity of its own.

I shouldn’t have been so surprised really – it’s being developed by a team formed by Codemasters after it hired many members of Evolution Studios when Sony scuppered it – it was bound to have some MotorStorm DNA. But playing it reminded me just how much we’ve been missing a stellar arcade title in recent years, and Onrush seems set to fill the void and then some.

While Onrush is set to feature a single player campaign, it will more likely shine when played with friends. The races I undertook indicated that Onrush is both a co-operative and competitive racer, with me and five other players working as a team to overcome six competitors. Though winning wasn’t all about racing to the front of the pack and completing laps; it was about driving through checkpoints to add time to our team’s ever-depleting clock.

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Essentially it’s a battle for survival. A tug of war in which both teams strive to earn more time in order to outlast their competition. But there’s seemingly much more to Onrush‘s gameplay than simply two teams driving through checkpoints.

There are a wealth of vehicles types to choose from at the start of the race, for instance, each with their own benefits and weaknesses. Bikes are fast and nimble but easily pushed around by pretty much any other vehicle, while massive 4×4 monstrosities are slower but stronger. And each vehicle type, of which there really are many, has its own special ability, too. These are more than vehicles – they’re characters – and players will undoubtedly gravitate towards those they feel an affinity with.

On the track, handling is fantastic. The vehicles are suitably weighty yet they’re responsive, making negotiating tricky turns and avoiding pesky obstacles challenging yet fun. It also makes crashing into your opponents highly entertaining, providing your vehicle has enough heft to make an impact.

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In Onrush, shunts and slams are part and parcel of the experience – taking out your opponents is a good way to prevent them from driving through checkpoints after all. While players using bikes will probably want to take the routes that allow them to avoid conflict and stay ahead of the pack, those driving chunkier vehicles in the thick of the action are wise to side-swipe their opponents wherever possible in an attempt to momentarily take them out of the race. In these moments Onrush really feels like an off-road Burnout, especially when you factor in the traffic-like drones that are seemingly there for you to just check for fun.

It was the track that both of my races took part on that really reminded me of MotorStorm though. For the most part it was open, allowing players to breathe and have fun, but there were also choke points where chaos was more likely to ensue, multiple routes through certain sections, and insane jumps. There were elevations and descents, surfaces included sand, craggy rock and tarmac, and destructible objects such as fences were littered around. Basically, the track was awesome.

I’m sure there are plenty of Onrush‘s features that totally flew over my head during the two races that I completed (in which I was MVP both times, might I add). I worked out that when a meter filled up at the bottom of the screen I could press a button to initiate a handy boost of speed, for example, but I’m still unsure as to what benefit performing stunts has, or if there are other ways to earn time or deplete your opponents’ clock. Regardless, I walked away from Onrush quite confident that Codemasters is cooking up something rather special, and I now simply can’t wait to get my hands on it this June.