Before being unceremoniously shut down by Sony in 2016, Evolution Studios created one of the most interesting racers of, well, ever. Despite showing plenty of promise, Driveclub was a mess at launch. Carrying the hopes of Sony as what was supposed to be a major launch title on the PS4, Driveclub became something of a joke with the myriad of technical issues that continued to mar the game damaging the reputation of the undoubtedly hugely talented team at Evolution Studios. Rather than stick their head in the sand or simply sweep the game under the rug though, Evolution stuck with Driveclub, and against all odds, turned it into one of the finest (if not the finest) racer of the generation. Given the time needed (which was perhaps a little too long), Driveclub became nothing short of a racing masterpiece. Even now, 4 years after its initial release, I find myself going back on a semi regular basis to tick off one of its many challenging but consistently compelling events. It’s a game that, if judged upon its current state, proves unequivocally that Evolution Studios were one of the finest developers of racing games around……
……and still are.
With the vast majority of the team taken on by Codemasters, Evolution Studios (in all but name), have once again proven their mastery of the genre. After the relative realism of Driveclub, the team have moved to the other end of the racing spectrum to deliver one of the best arcade racers for quite some time. Given the dearth of arcade racers in recent years, that might sound like faint praise, but allow me to assure you, Onrush sits comfortably amongst the genre’s finest.
While it might look more than a little familiar to fans of the underrated MotorStorm series (another Evolution Studios classic), Onrush is actually closer in design to Overwatch in terms of its gameplay and structure. That might sound rather odd given its penchant for cars, trucks, motorbikes and ATVs, but this really is a hero shooter, only, y’know, with less guns and more wheels.
Unlike most (all?) racers, a traditional finish line in Onrush is nowhere to be seen. Instead, its puts all the emphasis on teamwork and point accumulation. It’s a brave, ambitious, hugely innovative, and above all else, incredibly welcome return to a genre that has been criminally underserved in recent years. By putting the emphasis on teamwork, Onrush, like the best hero shooters on the market, pits pros against novices with great success with each member of the team, regardless of skill level, feeling like an integral member of their racing team. Via clever use of rubber-banding and smart implementation of computer-controlled vehicles via the ‘stampede’ mechanic, you always feel involved in each and every encounter regardless of your skill level or current position. Of course, skilled players will invariably contribute more to the team, but even the most average of players can feel like they are making a genuine impact on the final result. The balancing could still do with a bit of work and the collisions are occasionally inconsistent, but these minor issues all feel like they can be ironed out via a quick-fire update. Even as it stands though, Onrush already stands as a hugely unique and relentlessly entertaining arcade racer.
Despite it’s undoubted brilliance, it could certainly be argued that Onrush is currently a tad short on content (especially given its rather hefty price point), but again, like Overwatch before it, what is here, is pretty much all gold. Beyond a solid if rather unspectacular single player mode that essentially trains you up for the online challenges to come, Onrush is made up of four primary game modes, and just about all of them are fantastic. The core , and arguably most enjoyable mode is, Overdrive. Taking place on a large open world map, this event tasks each team to rack up as many boosts as possible. This is done by smashing into opponents and doing tricks. It’s all relatively straightforward, but thanks to a solid selection of suitably varied vehicles and the large number of distinctive classes (each with their own set of unique abilities), each event feels wonderfully chaotic while somehow maintaining a solid sense of balance.
The other three events, while all relatively familiar in terms of structure, feel pleasantly new and exciting when applied to a racer; Countdown is a checkpoint race with a constantly ticking clock, Lockdown is essentially king of the hill and Switch gives you a set of lives and increasingly powerful vehicles. Again, nothing spectacular on paper, but when combined with Onrush’s fantastic arcade racing mechanics and its impressive collection of vehicles, combine to deliver something genuinely refreshing and exciting.
With its fantastic handling model, exhilarating action, gorgeous visuals and unique premise, Onrush proves a fine return to form for the arcade racer. The expensive price point, relative lack of content and criminal lack of marketing might well see it fall disappointingly under the radar, but for those willing to give it a go, an exceptionally distinctive and consistently thrilling racer awaits.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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