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OnRush Hands-On Preview - Overwatch Inspired Racing?

Last Thursday we were invited to attend the first ever hands-on preview event for Codemasters upcoming title OnRush. Is it as fast and frantic as the trailer makes it out to be or is this just another racer destined for the scrapheap?

As mentioned above, OnRush is an upcoming racing title from Codemasters - A capable industry brand with a solid history in racing games. They've been around for as long as I can remember and you'll most likely know them for their Colin McRae Rally/DiRT series. With OnRush however, they wanted to do something a little different. Looking to other popular and highly successful multiplayer titles such as Burnout, Motorstorm and more surprisingly, Overwatch, the team at Codemasters wanted to break away from the traditional formula to create something fresh, new, exciting and never before done.

At the start of the event, we were lead to a seating area for a small presentation talking us through the many features of the game, as well as the inspiration behind it all. From here, we were guided to the many gaming stations set up within the venue and advised to sit through the single player tutorial before playing. The only issue with this for myself and several others was the fact there were no free single player stations available to us at that time and so we just jumped on wherever was free, which just so happened to be the team based multiplayer sessions.

Completely clueless this was any different to every other racer that had come before it, I chose my vehicle (which is more like a character class than anything else) and jumped straight in. At first glance it felt like a less realistic version of Motorstorm, only the handling was completely different and it didn't take me long to realise this was something very different entirely.

With boost and a revenge cam, it's clear to see the Burnout influence here and the tracks really do look like something ripped straight from the world of Motorstorm, yet winning in the conventional way really doesn't apply here. You see, this is more a team based game than anything else. Every vehicle class has its own unique ability and to a degree, vehicles would handle how you'd expect. Bikes are light and easy to move around, but have next to no chance of surviving a collision, while trucks are heavier and fairly poor at cornering, but are great at ploughing through pretty much anything they come across.

The strange thing here however is that all vehicles felt as though they had the same acceleration and top speed, so aside from differing class abilities, vehicle selection really just comes down to your own personal preference. Still, once you get a feel for each vehicle, you'll start favouring one or another and if you have any desire to win, you'll need to work as a team.

Aside from a single class more suited to lone wolf gamers, every other vehicle has an ability which helps your teammates out, either by increasing their boost/powering their vehicle up or having a negative impact on the opposing team. Examples of the latter include sending out a shockwave, making the opposition more vulnerable to damage and gaining a boost specifically designed to grant your vehicle the ability to plough straight through other racers, instantly wrecking them.

If you thought being wrecked would instantly put you out of the race however, you are sorely mistaken. In OnRush, the race just keeps on going. Any time you fall behind, the game engine will fast-forward you right back into the action. Any time you crash, you'll have a short amount of time to change vehicle/class before jumping straight back in again. This is good and bad. It's good because if you're not happy with what you're racing as, you can change your vehicle mid-race, but it's bad because with no start or finish line, you have to ask yourself why you're even racing to begin with.

In addition to this is the inclusion of reactive and adaptive music. The sounds and songs of OnRush will adapt to your every move, slowing down when you fall behind, speeding up when you're ahead of the pack and intensifying with heavy Dubstep and Bass while you're in the thick of things. It reacts to how you play and it does it well, as you can see from my recorded gameplay below.

Having not played the tutorial, the only mode I really understood was the checkpoint to checkpoint rush. In this, each racer has to pass through a checkpoint in as fast a time possible. If you miss a checkpoint (whether due to crashing, being shunted by another racer or simply just bad driving abilities), your whole team will suffer a time penalty. So, the objective here is to speed ahead as fast as possible, making sure to use your team-friendly class abilities to keep your side in the running, being careful not to miss a single checkpoint. Plus, wrecking other racers along the way and getting as much air as possible will keep generating boost, as you race against the enemy team in this fast and frantic battle of endurance.

Though my write-up is based almost entirely on my multiplayer experience, I did manage to jump on the single player mode a little later in the day and I'm happy to say there's a fair amount of customisation to be had here. From vehicle chassis's to paint jobs and unique liveries, there's enough here to have something unique to your own tastes and the same can be said for your rider. Though I didn't ask for clarification on this, it appears to be following the Overwatch trend in that you'll unlock more and more of these customisation options via loot boxes awarded to you at the end of every race (provided you're on the winning team).

For me, it's too early to tell whether OnRush will be the hit Codemasters are hoping for. I somewhat liked what I played, even going so far as to say I found some enjoyment in it, but I didn't love it. It's undeniably an interesting take on what we consider a racing game and I truly wish Codemasters all the best with it, but with loot boxes and MVP awards, this might just become Overwatch on wheels, instead of the truly unique experience they're going for.

OnRush is due for release June 5th on PS4 and Xbox One and will be available for purchase from all major retailers.

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