Back when fashion was especially terrible, there was a gaming system from Sega called the Mega Drive (or Genesis for those over the pond). One of its launch games, Super Hang On, was a relatively simplistic racer with 2D-trying-to-be-3D visuals and bike customisation.
It was, quite honestly, as hard as nails to the point where I'm sure nobody ever completed it. Not even the developer. In fact, many of us probably used the glitch, which involved breaking your bike so you would be rewarded with a modest sum of compensation. Rinse and repeat until you could get a bike that was half-decent. Then lose anyway.
We bring up the past because there is something nostalgic about Onrush, developed by Codemasters, which is more of a nod to the likes of Twisted Metal, Road Rash and Burnout than Gran Turismo. There is no chequered flag or simulator-esque physics system, nor does the racing line apply. Instead, you just smash into everyone and hope your car comes off better. Sometimes it will.
In short, Onrush is accessible, mindless fun that you can tuck into when you have a spare half an hour. But like Super Hang On and other games from that time, it also takes no prisoner and mastery requires more than just getting good at crashing.
Onrush review: Explosive beginnings
On the surface, Onrush is as shallow as a Saharan puddle. Though there are various challenges to tuck into, almost all involve using your vehicle as a battering ram. And avoiding everyone else, all of whom have the same idea.
But the variations on the basic theme add surprising levels of depth. Yes, you have your straight-up smash stuff for the most points mode, which is as satisfying as it sounds. But there are also times when you are tasked with getting your car through green checkpoints, each time adding a few seconds to your ever-declining counter.
It is here Onrush is most frantic and involving, because not only does it work in your favour to destroy other racers, removing them from the race until they respawn five or so seconds later, it encourages you to be fast so you are at the front of the pack. But you also need to know when to pick your fights and play defensively or risk being removed from the action yourself.
Going fast is best done with the two motorbikes on offer, as they pack some serious agility and straight-line speed. But the downside is a greater chance of being knocked off.
On the flip-side, having the extra protection offered by the gigantic Titan off-roader means plenty of 'takedown' potential, but your speed suffers, you become an easier target to hit and squeezing between trees when you 'accidentally' take a detour becomes nigh-on impossible.
Another mode operates much like capture the zone. When there are more of your team's vehicles in the fast-moving green zone, it goes blue. Hold it for the required time and you score a point. Fail to keep the other team away and your zone turns orange, before a point is awarded against you.
Though the crashing and smashing is ever-present no matter what you play, these subtle gameplay twists and the subsequent change of tactics needed to come out on top keep Onrush from getting dull as quickly.
Onrush review: A Tale of Destruction
Variety is also maintained by forcing you to use different vehicles. It is rare you can choose between everything on offer, which has the knock-on effect of encouraging you to try out and learn each different play style.
Where Onrush loses some points, however, is the lack of modes. You simply jump into the game and work your way through multiple themed events, with everything unlocked from the go in terms of vehicles. Or you can play ranked games (soon) or make your own custom ones.
There is nothing that exciting to work towards beyond completion and improving your skills, except for custom gear for the drivers and custom paintjobs for the vehicles.
It is lucky, then, Onrush still throws up the odd surprise such as the night challenges. With each game turning from late evening to darkness, not only does it give the eyes something new to feast on, it adds a new level of intensity.
Though the game's cartoony characters are largely forgettable, the 3D visuals are a sight for sore eyes. Even on the lowlier Xbox One, every explosion, every slow motion video of a car disintegrating and every collision looks incredible. It's Burnout: Takedown on steroids.
Each environment, ranging from forests to disused roads, entices you into the Onrush world, too. The track layouts, which you loop endlessly until you finish each game, prove immensely entertaining and, even with a lot of practice, can still catch you out.
Not that jumping hundreds of feet in the air off a ramp or narrowly avoiding a cliff edge should get boring easily, but the level designers have done enough to stave off tedium.
Plus it helps to learn each location because it can give you the competitive edge. For instance, spending more time trying to get airbone means utilising one of the motorbike's shock wave attack, which happens each time you land.
Onrush review: Hitting the longevity wall
There is a point where Onrush will lose its appeal, make no mistake. But right now that seems like a way off, especially when you consider the 'Ranked Matches' are coming soon and that there is serious drunken multiplayer potential to be had.
Acquiring the victory celebration animations, clothing and other unlockables, acquired randomly within 'gear crates' that are rewarded for increasing your rank, also proves somewhat addictive. And, for now, there is no need to spend actual money on anything.
Onrush review: So worth the money?
At its best, Onrush is the kind of simplistic, base-level fun so often missing from games these days, particularly those of the racing variety. It never fails to get the blood racing and its ability to de-stress you is nothing short of impressive.
Whether you will be playing it months down the line is up for debate and we have a fear it may be difficult to occupy the 12-player online matches if it fails to sell in meaningful numbers.
But then we are no longer in the days of blowing dust off cartridges and being unable to save a game, 16-bit style. More content, more game modes and other stuff will be added to keep Onrush interesting.
And in the unlikely chance that isn't the case, we would still recommend giving Onrush a blast – if only for being brave enough to break away from the norm.
Onrush is on sale now from your typical video game purveyor. Feel free to check out what other publications thought in our handy review round-up.