It’s one of 2018’s best, so why did Code­mas­ters’ cult racer On­Rush only sell 1,000 copies at launch?

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START - Alex Nel­son Pub­lisheR Deep Sil­ver / De­vel­oper Code­mas­ters / For­mat Xbox One / re­lease date June 2018

The story of On­Rush is a sad al­le­gory for the on­go­ing in­jus­tice of the mod­ern games in­dus­try. A rac­ing game with a dif­fer­ence, Code­mas­ters’ lat­est ti­tle re­port­edly sold a pal­try 1,000 phys­i­cal copies at launch, and re­dun­dan­cies at the com­pany – in­clud­ing that of game di­rec­tor Paul Rustchyn­sky – fol­lowed less than two months af­ter re­lease.

But On­Rush is not an­other bynum­bers racer ham­pered by bugs and a lack of orig­i­nal ideas, it’s gen­uinely one of the best games of 2018. It’s a game that – while ini­tially an­ar­chic – clicks when you put some time into it, and quickly be­comes a driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence un­like any other.

So why did it fail to res­onate? It could be down to the premise. On­Rush is a rac­ing game in which there is no sin­gu­lar win­ner. In fact, there’s no tra­di­tional ‘fin­ish­ing line’ at all. In­stead, think of it as a com­pet­i­tive shooter on wheels – Call Of Duty with car­bu­ret­tors, or Over­watch with over­steer – two teams of driv­ers pit­ted against each other in a se­ries of ob­jec­tive-based match-ups. Switch – a riff on COD’s Gun Game in re­verse – gives driv­ers three lives, and crash­ing out of the stam­pede sees you up­graded to the next class of ve­hi­cle. Count­down has you slalom­ing through gates to de­lay a tick­ing timer, while Lock­down is King of the Hill with cat­alyt­i­cally con­verted pan­de­mo­nium.

It’s not like any driv­ing game you’ve played be­fore. ‘Fod­der’ cars are sent out along­side play­ers as take­down tar­gets to fill your boost me­ter, each car comes with a unique set of perks, and there’s even a ‘Play of the Game’ style stats break­down at the end of each match.

While that’s a revo­lu­tion­ary take on the rac­ing genre, to a lot of gamers, the idea of hav­ing no clear win­ner and in­stead hand­ing the glory to an en­tire team of com­peti­tors might be off-putting.

No rush

At first glance, On­Rush is chaotic to the point of con­fu­sion, as bro­ken chas­sis and flail­ing mo­tor­cy­cle rid­ers go rag­dolling across the map in a shower of nuts, bolts and par­ti­cle ef­fects. It can get a bit overwhelmi­ng. But stick with it and the nu­ances start to make them­selves known; you’ll soon be find­ing your­self vy­ing for that all im­por­tant ‘MVP’ crown once you’ve got the hang of it. There’s noth­ing quite as sat­is­fy­ing as On­Rush’s take­downs, some of the best seen in gam­ing since 2004’s Burnout 3: Take­down. Time a side-swipe just right, and you’ll wreck your op­po­nent, the cam­era swing­ing be­hind you to cap­ture the ki­netic chaos in glo­ri­ous slow mo­tion. Burn enough boost, and you’ll earn the On­Rush abil­ity, a white-knuckle ex­plo­sion of speed and mo­tion-blur that es­sen­tially grants you one-touch take­downs for a few mo­ments. It’s the aerial take­downs that prove most sat­is­fy­ing: a light tap of the boost but­ton al­lows you to hone in on ground-based op­po­nents, and crush­ing down on them feels great.

It’s solid in ev­ery way – even on the base Xbox One it looks in­cred­i­ble – and with Code­mas­ters de­liv­er­ing promised up­dates de­spite the lay­offs, post-launch sup­port has been strong. Per­haps the only ben­e­fit of the game’s fi­nan­cial short­com­ing is that it’ll be avail­able for peanuts at your lo­cal game store, but dis­counted price or not, On­Rush is worth your cash. A cult fan­base is con­firmed, but the good peo­ple of Code­mas­ters de­serve more recog­ni­tion for dar­ing to be dif­fer­ent. ■

“There’s noth­ing quite as sat­is­fy­ing as On­Rush’s take­downs, some of the best in gam­ing since Burnout 3”

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