+Quite a few vehicles to choose from as players unlock them
+Use of mud-based physics are insanely well done
-Camera angles are a constant pain to deal with
-Lacks a mini-map or GPS to help guide players
-Minor frame rate hitches when near water sources
If you aren’t familiar with Spintires: MudRunner like I was, you may come into the game rather blind, wondering if it’s a high-octane racing game, or if it was simply a title where you’d get to drive around, getting stuck in the mud from time-to-time. Trust me, I did, and I held my breath as I waited for my chance to hit a button for the nitrous boost.
At first, I was confused when I got my hands on a truck, one where I would load up a few logs, drive around in the mud, and almost cringe the moment I noticed I was caught in a rut. After all, I was hauling a large load of wood; in a truck; in the mud. So yes, I got stuck, and yes I got frustrated as the tutorials pulled me through the games mechanics little by little.
To put it simply: you drive a truck across various landscapes, to pick up loads of logs, take them to different lumber mills, and even haul freight that the company sees fit for you. The only problem here? I was ready to walk out on my job, tell the foreman to go screw himself, and turn my keys in for the day. After all, who the Hell builds their logging camps and forgets to have roads paved or at least covered in gravel? Not a problem to you? Then you can have my job.
The road definitely less traveled.
Now that you have suited up, taken my old keys, and even gotten comfortable in your new truck in the middle of nowhere, it’s time to get you started. Spintires is a complicated task. First you have muddy roads, rivers, hills, tress, swamps, and even simple puddles you will have to deal with. What do all of these have in common? They make mud. Large, large, large pathways of mud.
Guess what this means for you? You get traverse this muddy landscape, picking up the lumber that the local mill is waiting on, only turn around, and once more traverse the terrain you just crossed. The downside here? You’ll be going through more mud, you will run low on fuel, and you will even have to figure out the easiest way to get to your drop off location. While this sounds easy enough, you can damage your truck, you can run out of gas, and you can even find yourself being heavily punished with one false move.
If this sounds like a quick task, it’s anything except for quick. Spent an hour getting that lumber? Well that tree ahead may just be your worst nightmare and end your day by damaging your truck past the point of being able to be driven. While this doesn’t sound much, it actually is, and it can be rather problematic for those wanting to continue on their drive.
Sadly, while this sounds like a bunch of complaints, it’s actually not, this is actually part of the games obstacles that are placed before you. But how do we get to the point of where I decided to hand my keys after a solid weeks of this game at 5 hours a day? Lets take a look.
Like driving in the mud? You’re in the right spot.
If this sounds like something you may be interested in and made it this far, then it’s actually great that you continued on. While the games tutorial is somewhat limited, it does give you the knowledge you need to know as far as the basics are concerned. You’ll get general knowledge of the games basic control schemes and advise you through a series of nine more challenging tasks, all of which are needed in order for you to make your way through your career as a MudRunner.
All of these tutorials, could be considered tests on their own. One teaches you how to start your engine, come out of being parked, releasing the emergency break, and even beginning to crawl through the mud. It even taught me how to use cranes, how to pick up some logs, and even load them into my truck before taking off in order to deliver them to a lumber mill. Unfortunately, because this is hard to learn, don’t be frustrated if you have to play through each of the tutorials a time or two.
While the information the tutorials have seems like a lot to take in, these are all in place to help you to prepare for the main game, which means you will need to learn the games colossal map, and become familiar where your pick-ups and deliveries are located. If you feel that speed should be of essence, you may want to slow down a bit, it’s not.
However, do find a steady pace, one that works for you, especially because you can roll your truck, you can get stuck in the mud, and you can actually see the game turning against you at any time. Even during my time with the game, I admittedly have rolled a couple of trucks, I’ve managed to even get stuck in a river, and believe it or not, I’ve actually had to use my winching cable to get free. Well sorta free. I ended up getting stuck in the mud because of this thing, or placed awkwardly against a tree branch, or just.. Y’know… Stuck.
The worst part about this all? You still have to manage your fuel. Even if you are stuck, not moving, and only using your winch? You are burning precious fuel. Every minute counts when it comes to this game, which brings resource management (your gas) to the forefront, and it does become a do-or-don’t situation rather quickly. This brings several factors into play: can you get to where you need to go? Is your selected path the most suitable? Are you comfortable with your trucks ‘loadout’? All of this is a factor since you will, if you run out of gas that is, have to drive a fuel truck out to where your deliver vehicle is, and even ensure that neither vehicle takes any damage.
After all, you can damage your engine and ultimately ruin all that precious time you spent trying to make your delivery from the assigned watchpoints before driving onto other locations. Even if you feel like you’ve become acquainted with this map, you probably haven’t due to all the secrets it holds in the dark areas of it. You do get a few revealed areas, but only to help you get started, which leaves an admirable amount of exploration for players to undertake. After all, who wants a map completely filled in for them and telling them where to go? It takes away the challenge.
This makes driving without any idea of where you are going rather fun, thrilling, and even somewhat dangerous. Believe it or not, it’s all quite fun once you get the hang of the game, and understand what’s going on. To be blunt, this isn’t a game I thought I’d enjoy, even after having messed up a few jobs that had started clocking in 1-2 hours, and left me sending out a refueling truck a time or two. Because of this, I came to appreciate the games sheer use of physics, graphics, and realism for its compelling experience.
Even if you find yourself growing frustrated, the game itself is quite relaxing as you become familiar with it. I fund times where I would simply drive off after a long shift of hauling lumber, only to park on a ridge and watch the scenery about me after killing my trucks engine. I even found a mild joy in getting into the games multiplayer component, one where I joined a few other players in order to create a fleet, where we found ourselves having to help one another out if one of us had run out of fuel, one of us got stuck in a river, or if one of us had just straight-up did something dumb (aka roll our truck over).
Even with all the fun, there’s still some bad in the game.
While playing with friends, learning how to take the road less traveled alone, and enjoying a few hours in the mud; all things do have some minor troubles or bad to them. Unfortunately, this is where this part of the game comes into play. I found myself often frustrated with the games oddly chosen camera angles. Never once did I find one that I truly enjoyed, one that would put me fully behind the truck.
But rather, I found ones that would either put me beside, in the drivers seat, or in a chase-like camera slightly above the truck. This approach made utility vehicles such as the crane, loaders, and even the lumber haulers a bit of a pain to drive. Not because I didn’t enjoy them, but rather because I was struggling from time-to-time to adapt to what the developers wanted me to get to know. Even when I was driving a semi, seeking to drop off its supplies, I found myself in problematic angles, ones where I wasn’t quite sure what to do about due to the camera.
Was I supposed to back up? Well I don’t have a full view of my semi. So I backed up. Once backed up, I bumped a tree, so it’s time to straighten out. Within seconds, I found my trailer unhooked, laying on its side, and with no way for me to roll it over and maneuver it back onto its rightful place. Unfortunately, this became even more frustrating when I decided to try out the games hardcore mode. In this mode things aren’t handed to you in any form/ If you want to load your lumber truck, you had to load each log independently by operating the crane.
This means you had to pick up logs from an oddly shaped holder, place them in your truck, carefully that is – mostly so you don’t “spill them” – and place them in your truck. Sadly, the camera doesn’t help here. It doesn’t help here at all. Most of the time, I found myself sending my lumber careening from my vehicle onto the ground beside my truck, causing me to lean back, screaming in frustration. Luckily, thirteenth try was a charm. I was used to slowing down, placing them where they needed to go, and going on my merry way in order to make my deliver.
Even now, the frustration hasn’t ended, but I keep coming back for more.
I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say I don’t enjoy the game, because I do. Because of that, I’ve actually had to uninstall it since I began to finalize my review, and prepare it for publication. Because of this, I’ve had a lengthy visit with it, and a lengthy-enough visit that I actually have come to appreciate this game in some odd way. Sure, the camera angles suck, sure I’ve cried over the spilt milk.
But I’ve come to appreciate the games allowing me to switch between both standard-style cockpit cameras and the games alternative external one. I’ve even come to appreciate the fact that this game is anything, but easy. Because of this, it’s unique, it breaks the trend from most of the driving games we see in today’s society. I’ve begun to frequently drive in the games first-person mode. I’ve even gotten used to checking my mirrors, widening my angles, and adjusting my speed for the terrain ahead.
Spintires: MudRunner – PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One
Developer: Saber Interactive
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: Available Now
But I still can’t get over the fact I don’t have an overhead map, one that’s pinned to my dashboard or sitting in the seat, or y’know, easily accessible outside of the games more hardcore and realistic mode. I found myself frustrated having to constantly open up the map, pin my marker, and navigate towards it. All because the game simply doesn’t have an on-screen GPS of some sort. When you get lost and fuel’s running low, this is when it does become troublesome, but I can appreciate the games sense of urgency when that happen.
If you’re one that can deal with the games, at times, glacially slow gameplay, then this is a game you can persevere through. This is a game that will satisfy you with difficulty, but rewarding gameplay mechanics. It’s no doubt an imperfect game, but it’s a unique one. It’s a fun one, and it’s one that drives the home the idea of stupidly-immersive entertainment.
Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the games publisher. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.