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OnRush review: a vehicular stampede

Motorstorm developer's new game isn't really a racing game

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OnRush is a racing game. Except it’s not, really. It doesn’t have laps, or a finish line and it’s categorically not about being in first position. Instead the objective is causing as much chaos as possible as part of a rolling tsunami of twisted metal. That small, smoking item you see disappearing over the horizon at Mach 3 is the rulebook.

The effect is sort of like if all the wildebeest in The Lion King had been stuffed with V8 engines. This is a proper vehicular stampede and OnRush never lets you stray too far from the pack in either direction, so you’re constantly in the thick of the action. It’s also entirely team based, so you’re aiming to build an overall score for your squad rather than chasing individual victories. The inspiration is actually online shooter games, rather than other driving games, making OnRush feel absolutely unique.

Unique it may be, but whether it’s successful or not is an entirely different matter. With huge, cartwheeling collisions happening every few seconds or so, OnRush’s biggest problem is that it’s your stereo stuck on the loudest volume. There’s no ebb and flow, no peaks and troughs, just constant up-to-eleven mayhem. Thrilling initially or in short bursts, but play more than a couple of rounds and you rapidly become desensitised to it.

It’s no coincidence that it’s the Switch game mode, which introduces the most structure to proceedings, that’s the most engaging. In Switch you’re tasked with taking out each member of the opposing team three times as they Switch into increasingly tough vehicles, a clear objective for your team to focus on. The rest of the modes are more attritional, with you slowly chipping away at victory, and offer fewer opportunities for moments of air-punching personal glory.

It’s a shame because there’s stuff to like here, a thumping soundtrack that responds dynamically to the on-screen action, some imaginative courses and such vibrant colours you’ll think the saturation setting on your telly has broken. Ultimately though, while OnRush is undeniably unlike anything else out there, it feels like it never really converts that potential into something that’s actually much fun to play. We can’t help but wonder if OnRush would have been better if it had been a racing game…

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