Review – Snowrunner

After blowing their load with a fantastic lineup of games in 2019, including the likes of Greedfall, The Surge 2 and A Plague Tale, I was wondering what Focus Home Interactive would plan for 2020. So far, they haven’t announced a lot of games, with the exception of Snowrunner. This game is the sequel to 2017’s Spintires: Mudrunner, a game with one of the most boring premises I had ever seen at the time. Luckily, it ended up being a lot more entertaining than I could have ever imagined, even if it was filled to the brim with flaws. So, is this a worthy successor to that oddly enjoyable title?

snowrunner1

You can use these watchtowers to scout the terrain around you and fill up your map quickly. Yes, this is Snowrunner, not Assassin’s Creed.

In theory, yes, but there are caveats. This is essentially a larger, more open and more challenging version of Mudrunner, throwing the everlasting nuisance that is driving in snow into the franchise’s already challenging off-road simulation gameplay. At first, the game doesn’t look that different from what you’ve seen three years prior, as you start off in a re-creation of rural Michigan during fall, with plenty of slopes and muddy trails for you to tackle. Once you complete a couple of simple delivery missions in Michigan, the game opens up and allows you to travel to Alaska and Russia. That’s where the real challenge begins.

In Snowrunner, just like in its predecessors, your objective to be a bonafide trucker and provide essential deliveries to construction sites, fuel stations, and many other places. However, instead of your typical highway simulator in which all you do is drive at 55 mph down an interstate road, you’re tasked with driving through muddy and uneven terrain. This is not a game about reaching a spot as fast as possible. Sure, you need to deliver your goods before you run out of fuel (unless you stop and refill your tank for free), but this game is more about being able to reach your destination after getting stuck in ten million piles of mixed mud and snow. It’s a bit like Death Stranding when you think about it, but without the ghosts, overblown production values, and immeasurable hubris. Plus there’s a truck to carry your stuff around instead of a poor man’s spine.

snowrunner4

This is definitely not an off-road vehicle.

The main differences between Snowrunner and Mudrunner is the size of the open world maps you can get lost in, and most importantly, the sub-zero shenanigans provided by driving around in Alaska and Russia. The addition of even more natural hazards to make your driving plans more convoluted might sound like a nuisance, but in a game like this, you’ll actually rejoice when you get stuck. That’s when you have to start using low gears, AWD steering, and the cream of the crop in the whole franchise, using trees and nearby lamp posts in conjunction with a tow cable. Snowrunner, like its predecessor, is more of a puzzle game than anything else. There is also the addition of icy roads, because of course. Can’t say I’m a big fan of those.

Driving these humongous pieces of dated junk is still very realistic and the way the game handles its physics is quite impressive. Getting stuck in the mud feels how it would in real life and it would be a complete nightmare if it wasn’t for the unlimited supply of tow cables. There is one huge flaw in Snowrunner‘s gameplay, however, and that’s the camera. Yes, the same villain from three years ago is back with a vengeance. It might not be in a perpetual “over the shoulder” perspective as before, but it is completely erratic and glitchy, and it doesn’t lock on your truck’s rear as a default position. You will constantly have to move the camera around to find a less painful field of view, and while this isn’t an issue when you’re stuck, it becomes a huge problem when you’re actually on a road. You will crash. A lot.

snowrunner2

I love how Snowrunner’s loading screens talk about how clean modern trucks are, yet you can still see a ton of smog coming out from them.

Unbelievably annoying camera aside, Snowrunner is a well-crafted piece of AA work. It is a truly gorgeous game if you look past the fact that 80% of what you’ll see onscreen is either mud, snow, or a combination of mud and snow. The lighting effects are on point, and the way the game renders tire marks on the snow is still really cool, pun not intended. The sound department on the other hand, is pretty shallow. Then again, this is a game about slowly traversing through uneven terrain with an old GMC truck. You weren’t going to get a Mick Gordon soundtrack. This game is best enjoyed while listening to a podcast, because you’re not going to miss anything by playing it on mute.

snowrunner5

A perfect setting for a horror movie.

Snowrunner might only be thoroughly enjoyed by a small niche audience, but they will have the time of their life with it. It is bigger, prettier, and a bit more fun than its predecessor, even if the camera controls are exponentially more annoying to deal with this time around. I still have no idea how the developers have managed to turn such an annoying real life chore like getting your car out of a muddy track entertaining, but they did it again. I can’t recommend this to everyone out there, but if you want to overcome some challenges against mother nature with your heavy pieces of pollution-emitting metal, go for it.

 

Graphics: 8.0

Although a bit glitchy at times and despite the somewhat repetitive environments, I can’t deny the fact that Snowrunner is a beautiful game.

Gameplay: 7.0

Controlling your gigantic trucks through muddy and snowy terrain is still realistic and entertaining, but the camera feels clunkier than the already clunky one featured in its predecessor.

Sound: 4.5

I hope you like truck engine noises, horns, and reverse beepers. That’s what Snowrunner‘s sound department is mostly comprised of. I’d recommend playing this game on muste while listening to a podcast.

Fun Factor: 7.0

Just as before, it is a very niche concept that sounds unbelievably boring on paper, but ended up being way more entertaining than expected. Even if its camera controls are even worse than they were three years ago.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Snowrunner is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Reviewed on Xbox One.

A copy of Snowrunner was provided by the publisher.