Arcade racers come in many guises. Motorstorm was a massive off-road brawler; Burnout was a slick, fast-paced takedown racer; Mario Kart is a cartoon battler; even Need For Speed offers nitro boosting and drifting. But what defines all of these games is an underlying theme of fun and excitement. What these particular arcade racers also have in common is that, for the most part, the player needs to be first past the post. The winner is crowned for finishing the race in pole position, not for what's happened on the track.
Onrush, the latest game from Codemasters, is a unique team-based racer in which speed, takedowns, and teamwork will earn you the win, not being ahead of the pack and first over the line. The studio has a good pedigree when it comes to racing games, and that's across both simulation and arcade racing. The F1 series, TOCA, Colin McRae Rally and the Dirt games, they all descend from the same stable, and Onrush is the latest addition to the roster.
Unlike more traditional arcade racers, Onrush features a unique stampede system to deliver the fun, where players are bundled together and forced battle it out while dodging, weaving, and jumping their way through the races. Drop too far behind and you'll be teleported back into the thick of it, get knocked out or taken down and, just like a first-person shooter, after a short respawn you will continue straight back into the action in just a few moments. However, players must be aware that while you're out of action you're not earning vital points for the team. It's not first across the line but the first to hit the objective.
Initially, the racing seems very reminiscent of Motorstorm, with huge sprawling off-road tracks filled with multiple routes, elevations, and jumps, however, it's the battling aspect that ensures Onrush stands alone in the genre. Complete jumps, takedowns, and dangerous driving to earn boost, then burn through your boost to fill up your rush meter and, when full, use it to unleash a furious charge of power and speed. Littered across the track are nondescript grey bikes and buggies - or fodder - and these can be taken down with ease and help to charge your boost as you race amongst the stampede of teammates and rivals.
Onrush offers an array of bikes, buggies, cars, and SUVs to race, each with its own set of abilities, some beneficial to your teammates and others more aggressive. One example is the bike that can leave a trail behind it that wrecks opponents who cross it, another is the car that can charge the boost of teammates. It's not always clear when you can activate these abilities - some are automatic, others need to be triggered at certain moments - but using these vehicles and their respective abilities cleverly is key to destroying your rivals. Having a range of tactical options on your team means that you can utilise the various abilities when you need them, and coordination is essential.
The game is split up into four main game modes. Superstar is the "story mode" as such. Here, over six chapters and playing with and against teams of AI drivers, you will learn how the Onrush tournament came about, the basics of battling, the classes of vehicles, their special abilities, the four different race modes and, of course, the tracks themselves. After you've honed your skills as an Onrush driver you can jump into the online multiplayer action. It's here that your skills will be truly tested, and more than ever working well as a team is the key to winning. Buddy up with friends online and be sure to maximise your abilities to create a competitive team. And if you don't help your comrades and fail to contribute enough then you'll soon see your team losing races.