Onrush Beta Impressions

Not really a racing game
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If you’ve read some of my previous articles you’ll know I love a good beta or demo, I’m a big fan of demos. So when I saw it had gone live I was intrigued to try the beta for Onrush, the new action arcade racer from Codemasters. I’ve always enjoyed racing games, even if my interest in them has been waning a lot over the last few years. Knowing this is a racer developed by veterans of the genre however sealed the deal.

Shown on the Playstation stage at Paris Games Week last year (2017) Onrush kind of came out of nowhere. The format strays from the more recent racing games, like Dirt and the Formula 1 franchise, that Codemasters have developed. During the PGW trailer we saw a mixed vehicle racing game where bikes, buggies, cars and trucks sped through different environments hitting jumps and each other. The action looked more frantic than just another arcade racer and had hits akin to the vehicle crashes of Burnout. This was one of the stand out moments of the show for me and made me think again about a genre I had recently abandoned.

So, to the game itself. Onrush calls itself “a new breed of high-impact, adrenaline fulled off-road arcade racing” which, of course, sums up the game perfectly. Your main goal in Onrush isn’t to get to the end of a course but to achieve a score dependent upon the game mode your playing and a big emphasis is put on vehicle ‘combat’. Ramming into opponents, landing on opponents or pushing them off the road are all fundamental to increase your score and help your team to victory. Both wrecking opponents or AI vehicles and landing jumps add to your boost metre. This boost allows a little more speed and may help to wreck opponents even more. The shift from a course based racer to something a little more Destruction Derby is super fun. Slams feel hard when both giving and receiving. Getting the notification that you’ve wrecked an opponent is very satisfying and building up your metre to trigger your rush ability just adds to the often chaotic onslaught very few racing games provide.

Playing the beta we were given two game modes; Overdrive, where you have to boost to win and Countdown, in which you drive through gates to keep a timer built up. Both modes are fun but after a weekend of playing both began to feel a little repetitive especially when there were only a handful of vehicles to drive and courses to play them on. Whilst no race is the same what your trying to achieve never changes. If you decide in Countdown, for example, to just smash opponents and not hit the gates then your team will be missing out on that timer upkeep more than your opponents may lose. Onrush has a sense of teamwork and diversity in play styles but realistically you only have to do one thing in each game mode. This isn’t a bad thing. Simplicity is good especially when it’s pulling away from the old race from point A to B formula. I’m looking forward however to playing the other two modes Switch and Lockdown for more variety.

The different vehicles designed abilities almost take the roles usually found in a hero based game. None of the vehicles ever felt faster than one another but all have different abilities that look to cater towards different play styles. The variety in these abilities will definitely have players picking their favourites which may both help and hamper that Onrush wants you to work as a team. In Onrush you don’t place first, second or third but contribute to a team win so teamwork should be key. Whilst many of the abilities cater towards taking down your opponent some also buff teammates. I didn’t get to play as any of the vehicles that buff teammates, due to only four vehicles being available in the beta, but it’s an interesting way to try and change up the formula even more and promote that team play. I found myself playing the Interceptor class mostly which awards you for near misses and gives a more powerful initial boost. It fit my play style of getting up close with opponents and always being in the action. I often found myself following the Titan class which sets up a series of light walls to slow down opponents. I could then use my more powerful boost to send that opponent into a tree or out of bounds. It was unorganised team play but had that Titan not have been in the game and say all my teammates used a bike instead we wouldn’t have had this opportunity. There will definitely be a fun trial and error period when the game releases of people experimenting with vehicle pairings.

Driving is tight. Even as an offroad, jumpy jumpy, smashy smashy carnage simulator the vehicles feel responsive. Navigating through sharp turns, between clusters of trees or over ramps at high speed should feel dangerous. Onrush gets a good balance between that danger and having the ability to control the vehicle to avoid any damage even if you do get really close. The only element of driving I found difficult was trying to recover from a hit. Even if I had a huge amount of space around me sometimes when I was smashed in the side or hit just after landing and thrown back into the air the vehicle would bounce. I would try and turn away from the environment only to spin too much and crash the opposite way. Of course I wouldn’t even have the chance to right myself in a real situation but as an arcade racer and importantly a game I’d like this to be a little more forgiving. It didn’t happen often but was very frustrating to be taken out of the action from a little nudge and a loss of control.

I really enjoy the action, the feel of the driving and the game modes but I felt that there is a disparity, at times, to the games presentation. Whilst it’s pretty slick and easy to navigate my issue is with the pairing of the aesthetic, the soundtrack and the announcer. Whilst racing the soundtrack feels well placed. Fast paced, remixed and often electronic songs give a good background vibe to the on track carnage. It’s within the menus or whilst the game mode is loading that it feels a little jarring. There is no let up of this fast paced action and I’d like something a little more relaxed whilst navigating the menus or waiting for the action to start. The announcer also feels out of place. Before each game is launched a bassy, synth heavy voice announces the game mode. I feel like it would be better placed in something more Running Man-esq or post apocalyptic rather than with the brightly coloured often lush characters, cars and environments the aesthetic presents. It’s a small issue but one that bothered me every time I heard it. My preference would skew towards the female announcer featured elsewhere and in the games trailers. It’s more subtle, more sensual and wouldn’t have grated like the bass heavy synth voice that was used. Both voices are found in the video below which also showcases the different vehicles.

During the beta I had little connectivity issue but there was the odd occasion when it was a problem. Firstly on the Saturday morning of the beta weekend I could not access the game. This presented itself as a message on the front splash screen which said the game was full. This was persistent for a good couple of hours. Hopefully this won’t be an issue at launch and the amount of players accommodated is increased. Yes, I’m sure it’s one of the take-aways of the beta for Codemasters and what a beta is often used for but it will be a big issue if it isn’t addressed. Second and finally, more often than I would have liked opponents disappeared during a race. I’d meticulously hunt down an opponent using boost to get close to them for the opponent vehicle to suddenly disappear and be behind me. I do not know if this is lag on my part, the host servers or the connection of the opponent but its disappointing to miss that big hit when you’ve been building up to it because of a technical issue. Again this only happen two or three times over a weekend of play and is far from being show stopping.

Overall Onrush is super fun. It takes the standard racing formula, smashes it underneath a pile of vehicles and turns it into some really satisfying, that’s a joy to play. The 5th of June release isn’t far away but I didn’t want the beta to end.

More info on Onrush can be found at their website, http://onrushgame.com/index

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Gaming

Ben is like a fine wine, he spends far to much time in cellars. He deliberately developed a stutter and a slur and walks with a limp to conceal his raging alcohol problem. Once beat up a fish for looking at him funny. Ben hosts the Tanked up podcast, but we are pretty sure he isn't aware of that.
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