ONRUSH

Why Codemasters Evo's ONRUSH Deserved So Much More

Article By 
Alan Walsh
July 28, 2018
ONRUSH

Why Codemasters Evo's ONRUSH Deserved So Much More

Article By 
Alan Walsh
July 28, 2018

ONRUSH is one of my favourite new IPs of the current console generation. Its high-impact, fast-paced arcade action made for a refreshing take on the racing genre. Instead of licensed cars or the rules of motorsport to ground it down, ONRUSH focused on intense speed and takedowns by combining teamwork with adrenaline-fuelled gameplay. The result? A fun, exciting and specular arcade racer that was reminiscent of MotorStorm, but one that was also innovative – combining traditional off-road arcade racing with newly-established mechanics from modern-day first-person shooters like Overwatch and Titanfall.

Developed by the former Evolution Studios team, ONRUSH delivers the most unique take I’ve ever seen on the racing genre – and I love it. From the moment it was revealed at Paris Games Week in October 2017, I knew the Codemasters Evo team were onto something special. Led by DRIVECLUB and MotorStorm Game Director Paul Rustchynsky, I had a lot of confidence in ONRUSH. The team at Codemasters Evo is ridiculously talented, and I always considered Codemasters’ acquisition of the former Sony first-party studio to be the best decision it had made in years.

Codemasters Evo could’ve played it safe by leading development on a new DiRT game or even creating a successor to GRID or DRIVECLUB. However, they took a risk – and ONRUSH is the result of a talented, passionate team who clearly had the freedom to lead development on an all-new project. Fast forward to June 2017 and ONRUSH hit store shelves. It didn’t need to be delayed, nor did it have any noticeable bugs or issues. Instead, this was a polished and innovate game experience – a rare feat in the games industry of today. It delivered native 4K visuals and even featured a 60FPS mode. Considering all the intense action that happens on-screen at once, this was an impressive achievement. ONRUSH isn’t just a visual showcase, but it’s also buttery smooth.

It wasn’t just me who was impressed by ONRUSH though. Critics praised its unique take on the racing genre and its revival of arcade-focused gameplay. It scored 8s and 9s across the board, and I even reviewed it with a score of 9/10 myself, saying “ONRUSH is the result of a classic arcade racer fused with Overwatch and Titanfall. Its high-impact, adrenaline-fuelled off-roading action creates a spectacle of sensational speed, over-the-top style and pure riveting fun.”

Indeed, ONRUSH is a lot of fun. It’s addictive, it’s unique and it’s refreshing. Unfortunately, all this critical acclaim wasn’t enough to sell ONRUSH to the masses – and it’s a bloody darn shame. Earlier this week, the folks over at Eurogamer released a story that claims Codemasters Evo has been hit with a series of layoffs after ONRUSH failed to meet sales expectations, according to multiple sources who are close to the team. The studio’s chief director and the face of ONRUSH, Paul Rustchynsky, was also let go alongside other senior members of the development team.

The studio has been described as “decapitated” over these redundancies, with senior staff and lead creatives either laid off or required to re-interview for their positions. Eurogamer also claims that some junior staff have been affected by these layoffs. The staff which remains at the team is expected to work as a support studio for other Codemasters titles – presumably the F1 game franchise and DiRT series, as well as smaller, less risky projects. ONRUSH was likely a big investment for the company, and when it didn’t return expected profits, the overhead management team who focus on the financial side of Codemasters likely weren’t too pleased.

One source also told Eurogamer that ONRUSH sold just over 1,000 physical copies during its launch week. It debuted in the UK sales chart in thirty-fourth and never reappeared in the weeks following. It wasn’t long until retailers and digital storefronts began heavily discounting the team-based arcade racer. Free downloadable trials were also made available on Xbox One and PS4 as well. Additionally, ONRUSH launched on June 5th, 2018, which was just before E3 2018. It wasn’t the best launch window to say the least, especially when you consider how E3 coverage and pre-expo reveals dominate media coverage in June.

A spokesperson on behalf of Codemasters told Eurogamer this week that “It is normal course of business for game teams to evolve as projects launch and move into service, and as other new projects start. As such, it isn't appropriate to comment on day to day movement of staff changes.” It did state that ONRUSH’s schedule of post-launch content has not been affected by the layoffs, which includes an all-new ranked competitive multiplayer experience.

So, what did go wrong for ONRUSH? Codemasters Evo delivered a brilliant product, and whilst it didn’t resonate with everyone, there is certainly a market out there for classic, fun arcade racing – and that’s exactly what ONRUSH delivered. However, there were warning signs before launch. The marketing felt minimal to non-existent, despite the official social media support being nothing short of excellent. It kept the community updated with everything related to the new Codemasters IP. However, outside of social media, there was little fanfare – even with its open beta that was available to everyone. Media attention was mostly kept to previews and reviews, whilst only a handful of popular YouTube influencers and Twitch streamers checked out the game.

ONRUSH also had some form of marketing exclusivity deal with Sony. It was announced at Sony’s Paris Games Week show last year, and the beta also debuted first on PlayStation 4. However, I feel it would have benefitted the team more if they had chosen to partner with Microsoft and launched ONRUSH into Xbox Game Pass day-in-date. People download titles on Xbox Game Pass because it doesn’t cost them anything to try these games, and because of the monthly subscription service, it means various indie and AAA titles are having more exposure and downloads than ever before.

For some developers, Xbox Game Pass has a been lifesaver to establishing a thriving and active game community, and I genuinely believe ONRUSH could’ve been quite successful if it had launched on the Netflix-life game service. Additionally, Microsoft always promotes new titles on the service, especially those which launch onto Xbox Game Pass on their release date. Considering ONRUSH didn’t have a mass marketing campaign around it, this could’ve introduced so many new people to the title. DiRT Rally and DiRT 4 have been already made available on the service, as well as F1 2015, so Codemasters haven’t shied away from the idea of Xbox Game Pass – so ONRUSH could certainly be added to the subscription service in the future.

ONRUSH is also a real graphical showpiece on Microsoft’s Xbox One X console, and I feel having worked with the company to highlight this would’ve also made the game appeal to a larger audience thanks to its incredible technical accomplishments. I think with ONRUSH, a lot of people presumed it was a general arcade racer or they didn’t understand its concept. It might feature arcade racing mechanics, but it certainly isn’t a traditional racing game. There’s no lap counter, no finish line, and no prize for being in first-place. It’s all about working with your team and leading them to success by pulling off insane stunts, taking down opponents and following the objective.

However, some felt ONRUSH was too expensive for what it delivered. Whilst I felt it had a fair asking price considering its AAA quality, I do agree that a lower initial price tag could’ve also benefitted the game. Combined with Xbox Game Pass and additional marketing efforts, this could’ve allowed ONRUSH to truly flourish and reach a much wider audience. Again, it’s a shame that ONRUSH didn’t receive the mass appeal or attention that it deserved. It’s one of the few titles I genuinely found myself competitive in when playing online, and I know others who have felt the same way. There were even some talks of ONRUSH potentially expanding into esports in the future.

ONRUSH has all the mechanics you’d need for a 6v6 team-based esports racer, and in truth, I’d find it a lot more appealing to watch and compete in than the likes of Rocket League – which is also a unique team-based game that combines football and cars. I respect the acclaim that Psyonix’s game achieved, but you do have to keep it mind that nearly all its attention comes from the fact that it launched as a free download on Sony’s PlayStation Plus service for PS4 – which exposed itself to millions of players at launch. If ONRUSH had achieved that same level of exposure, I likely wouldn’t be writing this article today.

Despite the news of layoffs, the ONRUSH story doesn’t end here. Codemasters has stated that it has “a big update” coming to the high-impact arcade racer at the beginning of August, which includes a highly-requested feature – most likely the ranked competitive mode I spoke about earlier, since that was previously promised to be included in the first big post-launch update for the game. ONRUSH also has “a whole lot more to come, too,” the team revealed on social media this past week, and we’ll naturally be covering all of that as we learn more details in the future. There’s also supposed to be a PC version coming as well, but few details have been revealed about this.

If you managed to get this far in the article, then I highly recommend you check out ONRUSH. Even if it’s to just download the one-hour free trial on Xbox One or to check out the articles, videos and livestreams available online. There’s a lot of ONRUSH coverage on the internet if you look for it and at the end of the day, if you’re craving an old-school arcade MotorStorm-like racer, then you’re probably going to love ONRUSH as I did.

After revisiting it this week and playing through more of the campaign events, I can certainly say that ONRUSH has a unique charm to it that no other racing game has and once you start playing it, you’re probably going to become addicted. Its daring takedowns, team manoeuvres and wild stunts make this one of the most innovative, stylish and unique racers out there. ONRUSH might not be a game for everyone, but when paired with the right audience, it’s a fantastic experience – and one that deserved far, far more than low sales figures or layoffs.

Unfortunately, the games business is difficult. This industry delivers some of the most incredible experiences out there, but it can also be cruel and heartless. I hope those affected by the layoffs are quick to get back on their feet. The Codemasters Evo team is undeniably talented and delivered a fantastic experience with ONRUSH. Whilst this is another damper for new IP and innovative, risky game experiences, I can only hope there’s still room in the games industry for unique projects like ONRUSH. Games that don’t follow in the footsteps of tradition, trends or microtransaction-driven mechanics, but instead offer bold, ambitious and unique gameplay that can only be described as pure innovation.

Alan Walsh

Alan is the co-founder and co-owner of FullThrottle Media. As someone who enjoys spending all his free time playing video games, he keeps the website updated with new and relevant content, including news stories, reviews and opinion pieces for the games he likes writing about the most. He also tweets too much, probably.