Just a few months ago, EA gave us all a chance to have a second look at Burnout Paradise. Alas, a lot has changed in the decade since Criterion reached the apex of the arcade racing genre. What was once fresh now feels a bit clunky, and there's room for improvement. Enter Codemasters, specifically the team formed from the ashes of Evolution Studios. The developers of Motorstorm and Driveclub have a lot of experience behind the wheel, and they seem to have stumbled onto the next evolution of arcade racing. Or maybe, the next great iteration of car combat. Either way, the end result is Onrush, an experience that takes the racing out of the arcade racer.
Two teams of six drivers and a horde of fodder vehicles rampage across the track in "The Stampede". The tutorial makes it clear that finish lines and first place don't belong here. Instead, it's all about driving recklessly to earn boost and gain the upper hand. Get too far behind the pack? No problem, you'll just warp you ahead to keep everyone together. This way, you'll always be in the game and you'll never run out of targets to shove off a bridge.
The developers have crafted a group of game modes that keep the action centralized. Countdown has you driving through gates for points to keep your team alive. Lockdown tasks you with capturing a moving hill, and Switch gives you a limited number of vehicles to respawn into. The purest mode is Overdrive, which scores you for constant boosting as well as activating your game-changing Rush ability. All four gametypes highlight creative takedowns and fancy motoring, all at high octane speeds. There's rarely a dull moment.
Speaking of, not all of Onrush's arsenal of four-wheeled weapons are the same. Codemasters have introduced Overwatch-style character classes into the mix. There are eight vehicles, ranging from motorcycles to full-on combat jeeps. Each class possesses their own abilities, two passive buffs and a Rush ultimate on a cooldown. Despite the easy comparison, these loadouts remind me more of Quake Champions than Blizzard's shooter. Instead of changing how you play, these abilities merely nudge you towards certain playstyles. Everyone is still going to boost around the pack, but only the Blade can shake pursuers with a trail of literal burning rubber.
This mixture of character classes and objective modes makes Onrush into a unique experience, at least as far as driving is concerned. There's genuine strategy in picking the right class for each objective, and abilities don't get in the way of the pure driving fun. Learning how to harness your shockwave landings or rechargeable cyclone can really enhance your experience, but those just looking to rack up a stack of near-misses on the way to a takedown are still going to find a lot to love. The drifting is a bit realistic for my tastes, but everything else takes me right back to Paradise City.
Online or off, Onrush plays pretty similarly. The single-player campaign is lengthy, taking you through a host of scenarios that let you get familiar with every different car and track. Functionally, it's a tutorial for the online, but it's long enough that it's not a throwaway mode. Once you're ready to hit up the net, multiplayer is a pretty seamless experience. When you hit quick play, you're thrown into a match as it's happening, taking the place of a bot. Teams are always six on six, but the AI does a good job of keeping matches competitive. There's little downtime between rounds, and you're always earning more experience towards your next box.
Yes, Onrush does have cosmetic loot crates. At launch, there's no way to purchase them, and it's hard to see why someone would want to. Unsurprisingly, the car skins are the only real upgrade that's worth your time. The rest of the system is padded out by driver skins, decorative gravestones to mark your crash sites, and obnoxious dances for the post-game screen. There are also duplicates in play, and they award a currency that lets you pick out whatever you like for your collection. I guess this is all good for players who need a motivator, but I found that the gameplay kept me going just fine without the bells and whistles.
That's good too, because Onrush's presentation can be a bit overbearing. The entire game is saturated in a hodgepodge of tropes both modern and past their prime. The female announcer is very much channeling the voice that welcomes you to Burnout games, but the music behind her words is all wrong. The soundtrack goes from indie rock to dubstep to punk, all interspersed with little radio clips that sound like Michael Bay's Bumblebee. There's also a severe lack of variety in the tunes, with only a handful of tracks on loop endlessly. The music starts in the main menu and only stops when you turn it down in the settings and put on a podcast.
When you're out on the track and blasting your own theme song, Onrush is beautiful. This is one of the best examples of HDR on base PlayStation 4 I've seen. The added definition turns a heavy rainstorm from scenery into a gameplay hazard, and that's a thrill. The cars crunch in a satisfying manner, although they don't burst into quite as many pieces as I'd like. The effects of the various Rush abilities and explosions shine brightly, but I was always able to keep focus. The events of Onrush strike the right balance, producing a cacophony of chaos that adds to the fun.
There are some worrying things about the menus, specifically the mobile-style pop-ups that greet you on launch. When I had loot boxes to open or didn't own an item that was on sale, fullscreen advertisements would point me in their direction. Since the loot is already rather underwhelming, this is more an annoyance than a friendly reminder, and I don't see any reason why my play session should be delayed to promote cosmetic nonsense.
Of course, any complaints I have about loot or style are minor nitpicks. Gameplay is king, and Onrush knows exactly how to push my buttons. This is the arcade driving experience I've been waiting for, a magnum opus of carnage that moves the genre forward. The mixture of FPS-style heroes and objective gameplay really works, giving the game a solid foundation that is easily expanded upon. EA may have reminded the world of the joy of virtual demolition derbies, but it is Codemasters that paves the way forward. Long live the king of the road.
Our Onrush review was conducted on PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the developer. It is also available on Xbox One, with a PC version coming later this year.
After a decade of waiting, Burnout's heir apparent is here. With a mix of reckless driving, team-based objectives, and just a dash of neon superpowers, Onrush is an explosive cocktail that's not to be missed.
- Innovative Driving Mechanics
- Takedowns A Plenty
- Easy On The Eyes
- Thrilling Gameplay
- Unnecessary Loot System
- Overbearing Style
- Mobile-Style Pop-Up Menus