Codemasters have been producing top-notch racing games for years now. In the main these have been grounded affairs like their Dirt, Grid and Formula One franchises. Onrush throws all that realism out the window in favour of heart-in-mouth racing mixed with more than a little bit of destruction.
I had Onrush pegged as Codemasters' arcade racing game- over-the-top racing as we've seen before in the likes of F1 Race Stars and even, to a point, Dirt Showdown. Well, it's nothing like that.
To be honest, Onrush is hardly a racing game at all. Two teams bomb along a simplistic circuit full of ramps and obstacles, smashing into each other and some drone vehicles that get in the way.
It's a racing game for people that don't like racing games. The art style betrays its intended audience, being more akin to the cartoonly visuals of Fortnite and Overwatch than Codemasters' other racers.
Two team of six battle out across a number of (very similar) circuits in matches that take the best thing about EA's Burnout games, takedowns, and make them the number one game mechanic. Driving alongside the teams are a number of other vehicles that serve as fodder to be taken out for boost. It's dumb fun, to be sure, but not without its charm.
I can see Onrush dividing its audience. The old guard are going to find it very easy to dislike the game. The funky characters, dopey vehicle handling and generally over-the-top visuals are going to nark the hell out of some folks- folks like me.
Taking a step back, and pushing expectation to one side, Onrush is possibly the most sociable game Codemasters have ever knocked out. Think couch championships with the likes of Mario Kart, but turned all the way up to eleven.
Players choose from a number of different vehicles: bikes, trucks and buggies, each with their own attributes. Both players' avatars and vehicles can be customised. Gear crates, earnt by levelling up, unlock new outfits, tombstones and vehicle. The gear shop offers new tricks and celebrations for purchase with your winning credits.
At the moment you get three game options, the Superstar campaign which can be played with friends or solo, Quickplay online matches and Custom Game, which allows you to set up your own match on your own or co-op with friends. Ranked matches are apparently coming soon.
Superstar offers players a series of tournaments which unlock as more match points are gained. Each tournament has a number of difference matches of different types and different locations. This is the best way to get familiar with the game before venturing online.
Twelve circuits are available, which can be raced in different seasons and at different times of day. The circuits are pretty fast, full of ramps and obstructions. With the emphasis on speed, don't expect complex or technical circuits. They are wide and open. If you do become a straggler, the game will warp you back right back into the pack.
As I mentioned earlier, this isn't a racing game, further evidenced by the match types.
There are four difference match types. Lockdown is like a first-person-shooter's domination in that teams must capture a moving area travelling around the circuit by staying within it's boundary.
Countdown requires players to hit gates on the course in order to extend the team's clock. At the same time as carefully navigating the circuit, you need to be mindful of your opponents who will try to take you down, the five second delay on respawning reducing the amout of time you can get back for your team.
Overdrive is all about earning points for boost and rush (which a supercharged bit of speed you get as a reward for boosting). You need to take out the fodder vehicles, the opposing team vehicles, do jumps and trick to rack up points.
Switch has players starting on bikes until taken down where they have to switch to a new vehicle. The team that manages to switch the other out wins. As you can see, winning races does not come into it with any of the match types.
The game may be different from Codemasters' usual fayre, but it's still got all the polish, smooth online play and cracking visuals that you'd expect. Onrush isn't going to be for everyone. It's not about racing to cross the finish line it's about racing to win. If you can get over that, you'll have a lot of fun.