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