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
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
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
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 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.