At first glance, it’s easy to see how Spintires: MudRunner differs from your average driving game. This isn’t about racing and chasing, but rather, it’s about survival. If you consider yourself to be a reckless person, then Spintires will teach you…rather, force you to be a lot more careful. My experience with the game has certainly been an interesting one. The best way to put it is like this: it’s frustratingly entertaining.
MudRunner is the sequel to the original indie hit Spintires. It’s essentially the same game, but with new content and improvements. If you played the original game, then you’ll feel right at home with MudRunner. If you’re a newbie (like I was) however, then you need to know this: MudRunner is not your friend. Whether you like it or not, this game has no intention of playing nicely. As I said in the beginning, it’s all about being careful.
The old saying ‘slow and steady wins the race’ definitely applies here. MudRunner is all about navigating the incredibly rugged terrain of Russia’s wildlands with massive off-road vehicles. Most of these are repurposed ex-Soviet military vehicles, so they have a lot of horsepower and can definitely take a beating. Even so, despite being built for harsh conditions, these behemoths still have a hard time navigating the treacherous terrain of MudRunner’s open-world recreation of remote Russian environments.
Your overall objective is to navigate through different maps (like a swamp, island and mountain just to name a few) delivering logs from Log Stations to the Lumber Mill. On paper that may sound like the most boring thing ever, but as I said in the beginning, MudRunner has no intention of being your friend. Navigating through the rugged terrain is not a simple task despite the fact that you’re behind the huge wheels of massive logging machines. These beasts are built for off-road environments, but Spintires: MudRunner most certainly lives up to its name. Prepare to get a stuck a lot.
After completing the tutorial, I set off to take on the main game. Without a doubt, it’s a learning experience. On top of learning how to make use of the winch and shifting gears, you even have to be mindful of your fuel consumption in addition to trying not to take too much damage. The complex weight and physics systems of the game’s engine are running at full throttle here, so trying to basically cheat by using ‘video game logic’ just isn’t going to apply. There’s no way a several-ton truck is going to make it up a steep hill, and MudRunner will have no problem making sure you play by those rules.
Indeed, this game is all about carefully planning your next move and constantly ensuring you’re not making mistakes. But of course, you’ll eventually make a mistake anyway and end up getting totally stuck. Prepare to spend several minutes going absolutely nowhere fast. Even after I thought I learned the best routes to take around the various maps, I found myself in incredibly infuriating situations all because of making just the slightest error in judgment. Even so, trudging through the dense forest roads, raging rivers, and rocky mountains of the virtual Russian terrain never once felt boring. I don’t really understand it, but somehow MudRunner makes plodding along at less than 5 MPH somehow feel really entertaining.
MudRunner doesn’t have any explosions and definitely doesn’t get up to speed very often, but I wouldn’t hesitate to call it an exhilarating action game. Even at its slowest moments (which are very, very slow), the subtle sense of fear and nervousness that you have because you’re trying to figure out how to move a several-ton metal behemoth out of a hole you dug yourself into is very exciting. As much as MudRunner made me want to give up, it also kept egging me on to pull through. The whole experience is just strangely addictive.
What I like most about the game is that there’s no direct path for anyone to take. What you may do might very well be different than what I or another person might do, despite the fact that we’re all trying to complete the same objective. That level of flexibility that the game offers is great; it encourages you to explore and find a style that suits you. It must be noted that MudRunner will definitely find one way or another to punish you if you try to take the easy way out. However, if you’re really determined to do so, then perhaps you actually will find a way to cut through a dense woodland with a log truck that’s far too wide to even be in there. I definitely found that having enough willpower can make even the direst of situations work out somehow.
Another highlight of the game is that it looks just as rugged and raw as it feels. The visuals have a green/orange/brown haze that basically screams “OUTDOORS!”. The engines of the vehicles sound raw and powerful, and you can hear even subtle clunks and creaks of the wheels and chassis as you meander through the rough terrain. Tree branches snap, mud squishes, dirt gets everywhere…it’s as close as to the dirty wilderness that you can get without leaving the house. Despite its generally rustic look, MudRunner does have moments where it actually looks quite beautiful.
The lighting and water effects are top notch, and the way you can see the intricate complexity of the physics system at work as you plod along through the terrain is just so eye-catching. I genuinely found myself actually saying stuff like: “Wow, that looks so cool!” on more occasions than I would have thought. While the game does not have a huge variety of vehicles, that’s actually a good thing. The developer was able to spend time going the extra mile with the attention-to-detail, thus resulting in high-quality models that you can just gawk at for hours.
For a sequel birthed out of an unfortunate situation, MudRunner is quite the experience. It takes all the good parts from the original and compliments them with some new improvements like a cockpit view to make the game’s incredibly strange third-person camera a little more tolerable.
Again, this game most likely is going to frustrate you more often than not. This isn’t a title for those who can’t handle not being able to win quickly. But if you’re willing to be patient and careful, you’ll be rewarded with an incredibly authentic virtual off-road experience that will test your wits and keep you entertained for hours on end with its wealth of content. Once the mods start coming out in full force, then it’s going to be even better.