As with the PC and other console versions, Spintires: Mudrunner – American Wilds ($39.99) on the Switch is a pretty outstanding technical achievement, although this latest version isn’t without a few caveats. Packing in all the original game’s content along with the American Wilds expansion, it’s pretty amazing to see this simulation arrive on Nintendo’s hybrid looking and playing so well. Granted, it’s running at half the frame rate of the PC version and you’ll likely enjoy docked mode more than handheld mode if you’re a total visual purist. But it’s still amazing to see the Switch pumping out everything the more powerful consoles can with mostly relative ease.
If you’re new to the game, expect a hefty challenge the simple and quick tutorial deftly dances around because the game is meant to hook you in and have you figure out what you can do at your own pace. This isn’t some fast-paced arcade monster truck fest with power-ups or turbo boosts galore. Nope, it’s a methodically paced simulation that demands practice and patience galore, but despite the learning curve manages to be incredibly fun and rewarding when all is said and done.
While you’re given basic to complex tasks to accomplish as the game progresses, how you proceed is entirely up to you. Want to take the longer route to a waypoint just to explore? Sure, why not? Feel like waiting until nighttime to make an already perilous trip even more so? Okay, go for it. Just don’t expect the game to hand you an easy time as between the mud, deep rivers, and assorted natural and man-made obstacles, you’re in for a bumpy ride times ten or so (plus tax). Those logs aren’t going to get themselves loaded up and on the way to where they need to be, so it’s up to you and your driving and navigation skills to get them delivered.
Which, by the way, is a darn good thing. Mudrunner is a hard game to play at times, but totally engrossing once you settle in for a spell and let the gameplay (and your trucks) sink in. In solo play, you’ll get stuck in the muck and may need to switch to a second (or third) vehicle to winch your starting rig out of trouble or simply take a better route to deliver those payloads to. Provided you find refueling stations and can manage not to roll over and wreck your ride, it’s entirely possible to log a few hours simply exploring each of the maps to unlock new trucks to drive. The game’s open world does feature natural barriers that make some areas seemingly impassable, but a bit of clever play and adjustments to equipped options can get you to some nifty vantage points. Just prepare to find a way back in some cases where that return trip is going to be a lot tougher.
In terms of performance, as noted, docked mode is superior over handheld with more overall visual detail and a better frame rate, although those assorted effects and physics are solid in either mode. I ended up playing most of the game in handheld mode, so I got quite used to the lower resolution assets and less dense foliage and really didn’t mind them thanks to the responsive handling model and that HD Rumble effect letting me feel every bump and grind along the way. This is a game about inches, inching forward and feet per second, so speed isn’t really a problem. For the most part, if you find yourself going more than 20 MPH in a big rig in areas that aren’t straight paved roads, you’re likely going to hit something on the road or underneath our truck that will do some hefty damage and force a reload or restart.
One other really neat thing is there’s a co-op mode for up to 4 players that really shines despite a few technical hiccups here and there. Players can help out or hinder each other in those maps, there’s a bit of awkward but thrilling racing that can be done with the 4×4 trucks (or just about anything you can drive) and overall, it’s great to see the game appeal to those who like a bit of competitive spirit as an additional option. Frankly, my time with the co-op was mostly spent assisting with and asking for assistance with missions. That said, zipping around in a Hummer, Chevy, or some other sturdy American or Russian make with pals will eat up even more hours if that’s all you want to do outside the 10 campaign and 11 challenge maps.
In short, Saber Interactive has quite a surprising and competent Switch port that the game is worth a purchase just to see how well its turned out, particularly if you’ve played the PC version and were curious. Of course, it’s also an excellent pickup for truck fans new to the Spintires experience and yes, even kids who like trucks will want to get in on the mud-caked fun, provided they can get a handle on the more realistic controls. While not quite flawless, it’s a game that will sit in that play stack for quite some time if you’re big on all things trucky and mucky.
Score: B+ (85%)
Review code provided by the publisher