Preview: Thoughts on the Onrush Beta
The arcade racer is a much loved, if sparsely populated, genre that hasn't hit the dizzying exploding heights set by Burnout since that series ended. Onrush is setting itself up to try and bring the genre back into the limelight and while it has some cool ideas, the beta so far feels a bit lacking in the chaotic action that could well be there in the full release.
The premise of the game is entirely about going fast and embracing the absurd by flying high from jumps and being in a perpetual state of boost throughout each match. In fact the Overdrive game mode is won by boosting as much as you can, this grants you points and points, as they say, mean prizes. You earn boost in different ways, the easiest of which are taking out the AI fodder cars and getting some air time off of the many bumps and jumps scattered throughout the two levels on display.
Countdown is the second mode which tasks your team with going through gates in order to get more time, the team who lasts longest wins, nice and simple. The gates are randomly placed so it is a matter of keeping an eye out rather than learning a specific route. In both modes you can take out opponents by ramming them off of the road, into trees and rocks or by landing ever so slightly on them after a jump.
While the game modes are geared towards specific somewhat pacifist goals you can still engage in combat to stop the other team scoring. While this is an exciting idea, in practice because everyone is boosting all the time, it is fairly rare that the chance to crush an enemy vehicle presents itself so it can be frustrating if that is what you want from this. In fact the game modes end up feeling a lot like a race where you don't really need to overtake anyone or try for first due to the team mechanics, you all end up moving more like a school of fish than a feeding frenzy of piranha.
The game feels polished but as it stands lacks something that is hard to quantify, it just lacks the excitement you would expect from this kind of game. It isn't that it's not fun, it just feels like it isn't living up to it's potential as it stands. Plus the takedowns when they happen are infuriatingly inconsistent, you can take a slight tap from above and get trashed, but ramming into the side of someone at full speed can just knock them of course with them driving on relatively unfazed. Of course this is a beta so it is best taken as an example of the game not as the end point, so take these comments with that in mind. Onrush could certainly turn out to be a wonderful arcade racer, it is fun to play as it stands, though the two game modes feel incredibly similar, hopefully combat gets more refined as the game goes as it feels like something that is sadly missing from many racing games these days.