The Onrush beta has been open to those who pre-ordered the game for the last couple of days, but today sees Codemasters opening the beta to all. Just head to the PlayStation Store or Microsoft Store to get it downloaded and you can try out Codemasters Evo’s refreshingly new take on the arcade racer until Sunday.
However, it’s a game that’s sure to divide people, and that’s true of the few of us that have played the game for the last couple of days. This isn’t your daddy’s arcade racer, but an entirely new beast. It’s for that reason that, if you’re a fan of the genre and Evo’s previous work on Motorstorm, you really should try and find the time to play this weekend.
As opinionated a bunch as we are, here’s our varied thoughts on what the beta has to offer.
Onrush really has taken me by surprise and I’m feeling less salty at the dearth of great arcade racers on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The fact that it does away with the traditional racing format is a bold yet welcome move from a studio I’ve come to love since the first Motorstorm way back in 2007. There’s no gunning for first place or an overbearing need to memorise the layout of each track. Instead you and your band of friends or online randoms are given an objective to collectively work towards.
At first your instinct is to go full throttle and forget everyone else, though the more you play, the more you’ll tap into Onrush’s hidden tactical depth. For instance, in a match of Overdrive, you have to collectively earn points from bashing enemies and pulling stunts. If you have one team member who blitzes ahead of the pack at breakneck speed, you can assist them by switching to a bulkier vehicle class, obstructing those opponents looking to throw them off their streak. Or you could join them, hopping on a bike and watching your combined score meters soar.
The beta has a few rough edges with the AI fodder vehicles stuttering on screen. The way Onrush throws you into the heart of the pack each time you respawn also means there’s a chance you’ll get wrecked several times in a row without being able to do much about it. Still, I had loads of fun and can’t wait to see what more tracks and vehicles add to the experience.
Basically Onrush is being marketed like it’s a Burnout-style arcade racer, but as it stands it all feels far too run of the mill for me. The biggest issue for me personally is that while the idea of trashing your opponent’s vehicles is great, in reality everyone is always going full speed and so it rarely actually happens. Combined with the weird inconsistencies between getting wrecked or not – sometimes a tiny tap will trash you, other times you can crash headlong into someone and you’re both fine – and it can be difficult to feel like you’re winning.
The two game modes on show in the beta are meant to be different but are essentially just “race around quickly until the time runs out”. Overdrive has you earning points and building combos, while Countdown is the classic arcade checkpoint chase, but with everyone on your team needing to try and hit all the checkpoints.
The driving feels fun and the ideas on display are interesting, but unless they nail the combat and the tracks are more interesting it’s just not got enough to sink your time into.
The important thing to remember when playing Onrush is that you need to think differently about what you’re doing, even going so far as to not think of this as a racing game at all. You don’t want to be out in front, you want to be a part of the Stampede, right in the thick of the action, crashing into things, building up points and smashing into the AI fodder and your opponents alike. The thing is that, as Jason said above, it’s not an endless thrill ride. You might be boosting and going full throttle, but so is everyone else, and so those times you can catch and bash other players feel rare. And when you do smash into an opponent? It’s tricky to know what made a particular glancing blow succeed when others have failed.
There’s a lot more in common here with something like Overwatch where you build up to your ultimate ability and then look to unleash it at just the right time. Think of it like that, and it can lead to those awesome feeling moments that the game’s premise promises. Clutch plays like when I had managed to save my Interceptor’s Rush ability until I was following three opponents, before unleashing its more powerful boost, wiping all three of them out and adding thousands of points to my team’s score in one fell swoop. And there’s the different classes that work in concert with one another. The beta here only features four of the eight, and they’re predominantly offensive as opposed to support style vehicles.
It’s the need to adjust your mentality that has me a little worried for Onrush, because it doesn’t also do the fundamentals of circuit or point-to-point arcade racing. Will people give it the time to grow on them, learn the classes and play as a team?
Simply put, I think it’s a game that deserves to be given a chance, and I hope people do during this open beta window. Even then, it might be just that little bit too different for those that just want Motorstorm 4.
For more on Onrush, be sure to catch our previous hands on preview here.