Have you ever played a game that sounded awful in theory but actually turned out to be a lot more entertaining than expected? Well that’s Spintires: Mudrunner in a nutshell. A game about delivering logs from a mill to another while trying to tackle extremely muddy roads sounds as boring as the true act of actually driving a slow vehicle through muddy terrain. Turns out it’s not boring. Definitely not a perfect game, but given my extremely low expectations, it did put a smile of relief on my face.
Mudrunner is not a game for those looking for speed or adrenaline. Even though the game features some very upbeat rock tunes every now and then, you will mostly drive big pieces of metal that can barely reach 40 miles per hour due to all the logs of wood they’re carrying. Your objective is simple: select a vehicle, go to a designated spot, collect as much wood as you can, go to a mill and deliver said wood. The vast majority of those mills are located in the middle of forests and places with little to no vehicular infrastructure, though. It’s up to you to figure out which vehicle is best suited to each type of terrain and manage to overcome the pretty terrible muddy roads ahead.
Controlling the trucks is great. With the exception of a pretty terrible third-person camera mode, which features a totally impractical “over the shoulder” perspective, the gameplay is pretty solid. Mudrunner is a simulator, but it doesn’t force you to fully utilize the very complex mechanics of a real truck. You don’t need to drive stick, for instance. Everything feels extremely realistic, though: it’s definitely not easy to turn your truck around (especially if you’re carrying weight), the 4×4 mechanics are very realistic, the gas meter goes down pretty quickly if you start driving carelessly, and so on. Just like Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and Uncharted 4 before it, you can also use a tow in order to climb steeper terrain.
Technical-wise, the game is a mixed bag. The graphics are decent enough, especially for a game that’s a little more than 1GB in size. The scenery is very detailed, with every single tree swaying according to the wind and tire marks being created in very realistic ways. Despite this, the game also presents some really ugly texturing in some elements, most noticeably when you pick up logs and see how blurry and stretched their textures are. The game also features a lot of fog, which can be tiresome after a while. The sound department is also very mixed. While there is a soundtrack in this game, all you’re going to listen to is very loud engine noises. My suggestion: create a truck-friendly playlist on your Spotify or Google Play accounts. Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” and Deep Purple’s “Space Truckin” are musts.
Spintires: Mudrunner shouldn’t be fun, but it is. Its gameplay is so engaging that it manages to act less like a menial chore simulator and more like a challenging obstacle course game. It features great physics, lots of unlockables, a wide array of vehicles to choose from, and genuinely rewarding gameplay. Despite being far from perfect, with some annoying flaws like its terrible camera controls and some ugly textures, Mudrunner was a pleasant surprise from the last weeks of 2017.
Also available on: PS4, Xbox One