Spintires: MudRunner Is A Tough, But Rewarding Ride
2,000 meters. It’s a trip I’m going to be taking back and forth through my mission to get freshly cut logs from the field to the lumber station. It won’t be a picnic. Within that 2000 meters sits some of the most densely packed and uneven terrain the folks at Saber Interactive could devise. Trees, puddles, rivers, hills, and mountains upon mountains of mud sit between me and my job. That said, I’ve got the trucks, SUVs, and torque to do the work and the wilderness awaits me. All in a day’s work in a session of Spintires: MudRunner. It’s not a perfect ride, but MudRunner offers an tight off-road delivery simulation that’ll grind your determination to the bone and feel great when you come through the rough journeys ahead.
MudRunner is the second game in the Spintires series. The idea has always been to take heavy-duty off-road vehicles into the dense trails of the wilderness to explore and complete industrial work. The sequel boasts a slew of new vehicles, a wide new sandbox map alongside the game’s original maps, graphical and interface improvements, and more to push players to the limit and make every drive feel like a dynamic experience. Context is limited and you won’t exactly be chasing a story, but you can run solo or take some friends for the ride in a multiplayer exploration.
Spintires: Mudrunner is split into two main parts between Challenges and the main maps. After a short tutorial that gives you the basics of driving, Challenges are kind of like extra training to introduce you to a multitude of advanced features in driving and control. Along with that, you get various objectives and a timer that you can challenge to put your skills to the test and get the most out of your learning. If it weren’t for the small objectives, such as driving solely from the camera inside the cab or not letting go of the acceleration at any point, these challenges would just feel like extra tutorial, but they do all teach you valuable tips and show you things about MudRunner’s physics you might not otherwise get in the main game.
The main maps are a series of massive landscapes in which you must complete objectives, usually by making a delivery from one part of the map to another using the various trucks you have unlocked and those supplied on the map. You can gain control and switch to any of the trucks found on the map by driving close to unlock them. Meanwhile, sections of the map are blacked out and require driving to observation posts to reveal the area. The maps are fairly varied with islands, rivers, hills, mountains, and other various extreme terrain to challenge your driving, but the objectives are a bit slim and boring. Most often, it’s a lumber delivery from a log station or loader to the lumber mill and this changes very little throughout each of the main maps. The real fun is in exploring the far corners of a map and seeing where the wild wilderness takes you and your vehicles.
The physics in MudRunner makes driving a nearly white-knuckle engagement in a multitude of settings. It’s not about speed here. It’s about trudging through some of the roughest conditions Saber could imagine. When your convoy truck digs into some waterlogged mud puddles, you can feel the strain of the engine as you inch your way towards every centimeter of freedom. Every obstacle that isn’t flat dirt presents a new challenge for your vehicles to overcome. Crossing a river or trudging up a wet hill can feel tough and satisfying, but it can also feel very tedious when you’re fighting the firmament at each and every moment. All in all, as a simulation, MudRunner makes the trek feel tough and satisfying when you finish it with your vehicles of choice, though it can also feel slow and lengthy.
That said, it’s not like there aren’t ways around the worst of it either. Each vehicle comes equipped with a winch and this feels somewhat like the easy way out of situations. If there’s a tree nearby, you can attach the winch in a jiffy and yank yourself out of most tough spots. If a vehicle hits uneven terrain and flips, you can bring a heavy vehicle in, winch to it, and pull it back upright to continue the trek. The winch is so easy to attach and use that it smooths the roughest spots in the game and almost feels like cheating at times, but it’s also an indispensable tool for fixing even the worst of situations and making sure you don’t have to start over.
There are a lot of enjoyable vehicles to deal with too and each of them feel quite varied and different. Between SUVs, pick-up trucks, heavy-duty transport vehicles, and semis, each vehicle has a variation in weight and handling that make them suited for any number of tasks and well worth exploring. Even further, Spintires: MudRunner has mod support and there are already a wide variety of add-on vehicles for any given land-based or amphibious situation, should the default fleet not be quite to your liking. This is a game with a dedicated modding community and MudRunner mods are a field that you can expect to steadily grow and deliver whatever you need for your off-road experience.
As much as the physics have been improved, they’re not entirely perfect however. Spintires has very few glitches, but there are times where your vehicles can tilt or spill over in the weirdest of uneven ground. Uneven hillsides and rocks can wreak havoc on your machines and a strange and somewhat uneven damage system can wreck a vehicle before you have any idea what’s going on. When every map is already a drudge and toil, this can mean having to lug another vehicle out to assist or do repairs, or risk starting the map over if it’s too much trouble. It’s really in multiplayer where you can have multiple drivers lending a hand that these problems become more manageable, but it’s still something that exists and makes single player a bit more difficult to endure.
Performance & Graphics
Minimum: OS: Windows Vista/7/8/10 Processor: Intel® Pentium Dual Core 2.0GHz or equivalent Memory: 2 GB RAM Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT or equivalent Storage: 1 GB available space Additional: Confirmed Steering Wheel support for Logitech G25/G27 - Other models have not been tested.
Recommended: OS: Windows Vista/7/8/10 Processor: Intel® Core 2 Duo 2.5GHz or equivalent Memory: 4 GB RAM Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470 or equivalent Storage: 1 GB available space Additional: Confirmed Steering Wheel support for Logitech G25/G27 - Other models have not been tested.
A big part of the move to Spintires: MudRunner was in graphical improvements to the game and many of them came out pretty well. The trucks look finely detailed from the outside and the environment shifts and melds around your drive nicely. You see the mud and dirt squelch and separate under your tires and deeply gashed tracks are left behind as your truck carries dust and water stains upon it from the ordeal. Debris builds up and lingers on the tires and every bit of the struggle seems to leave something behind.
Unfortunately, it’s not all peachy. Certain areas of the game show less improvement, or little at all, over others. Trees and branches look fine from the distance, but up close, they seem a bit low quality in comparison to your vehicles and the rest of the environment. Likewise, the interior of vehicles feels a little bit lackluster with only small details offered as a semblance of the 3rd-person view HUD takes up the dashboard. The information is fine, but the details, or general lack thereof, on the interior of most cabins leave something to be desired in first-person driving. That said, the improvements overall are nice and the vehicles and maps are generally cool to look at from a distance or up close as you’re tearing up both with your driving.
SPINTIRES: MUDRUNNER VERDICT
Spintires: MudRunner is a well-thought out and obvious improvement over the original in a number of ways. The physics feel tight and loose where they need to be, the new vehicles are genuinely fun to explore and drive, and the overall look of the game gets down and dirty in the best of ways for an off-road delivery simulator. It can get tedious at times and we wish the game took a few more chances, context, and variety in challenging our driving skills, but exploring and making our own battles through the tough journey from place to place is still a highlight, especially with friends along for the ride. A sketchy damage system and a few less than stellar textures make this game feel less polished than it ought to be at times, but with a healthy mod community and a ton of support and depth behind it, Spintires: MudRunner feels like an off-road trek that will keep on giving.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Coming through a particularly nasty stretch of river-flooded road, inching and crawling through it, and finally coming out on the other side feels downright triumphant.
Solid multitude of vehicles and environments to challenge them
Deep physics engine that challenges driver skill and tenacity at every turn
Fantastic looking wear and tear on vehicles and the roads they travel
Flourishing mod community with a ton of extra vehicles
Lacking variety in main map objectives
Some visuals and textures are less than stellar
Unfortunately unbalanced systems that can occasionally ruin the drive.