Taking the wheel from original developer Oovee Game Studios, the talented team at Saber Interactive has brought an expanded and even better SPINTIRES experience to consoles and PC with an excellent, highly challenging, and quite rewarding driving game that’s going to baffle some gamers while it pleases a certain bunch of folks who love to play in the mud.
Interestingly enough, Spintires: MudRunner (or MudRunner: A Spintires Game) also works supremely well as a hybrid driving/puzzle game where the environment is your worst and sole enemy as you attempt to simply drive from Point A to Point B or just try to enjoy exploring the massive, gorgeously detailed maps. This isn’t a game about speed at all, folks. It’s more about control and the ensuing chaos when that control is lost.
MudRunner adds a new (shorter) tutorial, a new sandbox map, a Challenge mode and ups the truck count from 6 to 19. While it has a “casual” mode, this clearly isn’t a game for those who want to hop in and get blazing down a dirt road taking corners with powerslides. Here, you’ll rarely get above 20mph, the paved roads aren’t the widest you’ll drive on, and that mud? It’s practically got a life of its own thanks to an amazing physics engine that’s been tweaked even more from the PC original.
Strangely, for all the tension it packs in (along with the dirtiest windshields since your uncle came to visit from Florida in his unwashed rental car) , The game has a way of becoming somewhat… relaxing once you get accustomed to some of its quirks. Unlike other driving games where you can choose from a few set viewpoints, here, you’ll need to deal with adjusting the camera with the right stick which rotates it around your truck. Even crazier, the left stick is used to zoom in or out in addition to steering. Yipes. Did I mention you also need to press in the Right stick to use the manual transmission? Yeah, it’s tricky to deal with for a bit. There’s a happy medium here, though. You need to rely on two viewpoints (one for each side of your chosen truck) and a third from just above and behind while also using the interior camera for best results.
The net effect of this camera tightrope dance is the game becomes a test of not only your driving skills, but your willingness to see your viewpoint tilt, rise and dip in the interior view as if you’re on rough seas but trundling along at maybe 6 miles an hour. Personally, I love the game despite the wonky camera because it works so well as a simulation. You’ll probably also really appreciate having better paved roads in real life or at least be glad any unpaved roads bear you aren’t in as terrible shape as the ones here are. Once you spend a few hours messing with the trucks and restarting, the game becomes even more fun to play.
Oddly enough, there’s a cruise control option in the game, but it makes things somewhat troublesome because this is a game where you want to drive a lot more cautiously when you need to navigate faster than you’re driving. Cruising here usually leads to your cruising just a wee bit too quickly to judge a turn properly, which in turn snowballs into a tree, structure or other vehicle you smash into that can cause major damage to your chosen truck. Oops. Oh, in case you’re interested, here’s me failing miserably at the game early on. It’s not pretty, but hey, it’s a learning experience:
Don’t worry – I got better. The roads here are muddy, chock full of rocks, small to large logs and assorted hazards to make getting around almost impossible if you’re not clever. Using that winch to pull you through rough spots can help out a lot although if the tree you’re tethered to falls over as you’re going uphill, you may end up reloading or restarting. The game has a nice autosave system that quietly updates your progress allowing you to pick up where you’ve stopped playing unless you fast travel back to your starting point. Oh, and while you get music here, you may want to toggle it off as it’s awfully cornball 80’s-sounding rock that’s somewhat distracting. Still, it adds a cheesy factor to things that does add a few laughs if you’re into that sort of thing.
The single player mode is deep and replayable enough to eat way too much of your free time, but if you have like-minded friends or want to make some, there’s an up to 4-player co-op mode to mess around with. This does make some things easier when you have help with getting unstuck or need someone to tackle an area you’re having trouble with. On the other hand, it can be a totally hilarious mess when everyone sinks into an impassable river because the shortcut chosen looked like it was going to work. Oh well. Anyway, enough yapping from me, this one’s a must-buy and I’d say my favorite simulation game of the year. Go get it and have a blast. A slow-rolling, almost to fully tipping over blast, but a blast nonetheless.
Cue up another fun failure? Yeah, sure. I do love this game, by the way.
Score: A- (90%)
Review code provided by the publisher