MudRunner is a kind of “Ultimate Edition” of the 2014 indie hit Spintires. The game puts you behind the wheel of numerous all-terrain vehicles as you traverse your way across its perilous landscapes. This is the first time the game has come to consoles and as expected, the update brings with it a whole host of improvements. Better graphics, more maps & vehicles and a whole new challenge mode.
Release Date: October 31st 2017
Developed by Saber Interactive
Published by Focus Home Interactive
Reviewed on Xbox One S; Also available on PS4 and PC.
We play as Ivan Truckmo, the sole survivor in an apocolyptic world. With no other signs of life except for vegetation and a few birds, you must battle against the elements in salvage off-roaders. The way forward is your only hope of survival.
Or at least that’s the story I was playing in my head as my lonely truck driver went about picking up and hauling logs across muddy roads and boggy marshes.
As you’d expect for a simulation game about trucks in mud, the majority of the gameplay is that of trying to drive your massive vehicles through the forests and fields to complete the relevant tasks. This generally takes the form of going to one side of the map to pick up some logs, then trudging over to the other side to drop them off at the lumber mill. While this may sound easy, you need to think about your equipment, route & fuel consumption. Swapping between vehicles to make sure you don’t get stuck up the river without a paddle, literally.
The options for solo play are either the Campaign or the new Challenge mode. The campaign consists mainlly of the aforementioned log gathering across six different maps. While the maps do vary in shape and terrain, the general gameplay is still (to me at least) rather dull and repetitive. The task is more a test of patience than skill, as you slowly (and I do mean slowly) trudge onwards through the mud. Occasionally things will change up a little by replacing mud for water and marsh, but traversing this is just as slow and tedious. Seriously, in the rare moments when your tires hit a piece of actual road, the sensation of speed is a blessed relief.
Much more interesting and enjoyable is the challenge mode. There are 9 different ones to attempt, each with 3 bonus objectives to complete. The tasks range from carefully scaling up cliff faces or clearing a little neighbourhood of falling logs, to trying to get two massive tankers across a flooded path at the same time. These are done in uniquely created areas and are great fun. The only downside is that there aren’t enough of them. Once I finished the last I was hungry for more.
The online component is very similar to that of the campaign mode except instead of having to swap vehicles you all can drive around at the same time. While this can prove to be more fun than the solo effort, as you bail your mates out if trouble, it’s more down to the banter with your friends than the game itself.
This is the area where the game really shines. While the maps can look a little dreary, the level of detail is impressive. The deformation of the mud is ridicously good too, as is how the water pools on the ground. The trails you carve through the wilderness also remain so you can see the path you took in case you get lost (which is surprisingly easy if you don’t keep pausing to check your map).
Not being much of a truck enthusiast myself I can’t tell you how accurate the vehicles sound but the noises they make have weight and suit what is on screen. Same can be said for the rest of the game’s effects. The crunch of the trees as you plow through them, the squelch of the sludge under your tires and the birds in the trees are all suitably atmospheric.
This game is one of frustration…in so many ways. The way your truck moves at a snail’s pace along the seemingly neverending mucky paths, the way the external camera never sits quite right, the fact that the most enjoyable experiences in the game (the challenges) are such a small part. So while there is some enjoyment to be had and the physics engine and graphics are both notable, the core game ultimately feels more like work than fun.