During early childhood many of us were prompted by our elders to go outside and play, before returning home hours later, wet, covered in mud and forcing them to rethink their recommendations. For some of us however, those early childhood memories of being stuck in the mud have developed into something else, something much more expensive and something much, much muddier.
Off-roading. Back in the early days of PlayStation and Xbox, anyone wanting the thrill of off-roading without the excess dirt, torn clothes and extortionate costs could get in on the action with the large variety of games that tried to bring the experience to our TV screens, but the years since haven’t been quite so kind to the genre. Could Spintires: MudRunner be the revival the genre needs?
It’s fair to say Spintires: Mudrunner isn’t an entirely new game. Back in 2014 Spintires released on PC and quickly became a huge hit with players, with sales now reaching more than one million for the indie sensation. Spintires: MudRunner looks to expand on that success in many ways, with those of us on console now getting to jump in on the experience too.
For those unaware of Spintires, or the new MudRunner version of the game, the overall premise is actually rather simple. You are a delivery driver – a lumberjack of sorts – and it’s up to you to ensure the faithful delivery of logs to each of the lumber yards across the land. Doing so is no easy task though, and due to severe wet and muddy conditions you will be found delivering your logs to some truly hard to reach destinations across some of the most treacherous terrains in the world. With constant mud, ruts and rivers to work through, you must utilise clever skills and an understanding of the environment to ensure you get where you need to be, without running out of fuel, destroying your vehicle or losing your load. And that’s just the start of your worries.
There are a few different modes available to play through with Spintires: MudRunner, with Single Player, Multiplayer and Challenges all present, as well as a trusty Tutorial to get you up to scratch.
Having heard a little about the challenge presented by Spintires in the past few months, I thought the tutorial would be a wise place to start, especially given the fact that such few off-road titles have arrived on console in recent years. After just a few minutes, I was grateful I did.
The tutorial teaches you all the basics such as how to move your vehicle – something a lot more complicated than just accelerating and braking – as well as how to deal with specific situations, such as getting your vehicle stuck, how to change vehicles, how to repair and refuel and so on.
Whilst Spintires: MudRunner gives you enough information to be getting on with things on your own, there is an awful lot to take in if you want to be doing more than simply spinning your tires and causing ruts, something which felt a little overwhelming at first but became much easier when I started to get the hang of things. That is in part due to how helpful the tutorial actually is. As someone who has spent the vast majority of my life playing games, tutorials are something I, like many others, find exceptionally tedious, but instead of doing my usual habit of spamming every button in a hope to skip the dreaded tutorial, this time I found myself going back over things just to make sure I got it right. Whether it was due to the fact that the tutorial isn’t forced, or the fact the game is actually a rather serious off-road endeavour and it appealed to my tastes, I’m not sure, but it was nice to finally see a worthwhile tutorial.
The most obvious options once you’ve learnt the ropes are either the Single Player or the Challenge Mode. Multiplayer is of course present, and those keen to jump straight in with their friends may well find this as the most enticing choice, however after spending many hours learning the terrain, I advise anyone looking to jump into Spintires: MudRunner to get some practice in the single player options before heading online – if only to avoid looking like a complete tool as your vehicle topples over again and again.
Challenge mode however is one of the new features added in the expanded Spintires experience and brings with it nine different challenges with specific vehicles and certain goals to aim for. None of the tasks are particularly challenging in themselves, with many proving to be simple A to B journeys, whilst adding additional extras such as picking up a trailer on the way, or crossing unexpectedly difficult terrain such as rivers. But due to the near perfect nature of the game’s environmental design, the challenge actually comes from the general gameplay, and will be easier or harder depending on how you go about getting to your destination.
Each challenge comes with three bonus objectives, each of which gives a star for completion. None of them have got to be completed, but if you’re anything like me, then having all three stars in place will feel like a job well done. That said, anyone hoping to get all three on the first attempt will either need to be heavily skilled and incredibly patient, or just damn lucky. Fortunately, stars earned stay put should you retry a challenge, so if you want the full set, it provides a great opportunity for replayability. Challenge mode is also great for working as an expanded tutorial, without having to dive into a fully-fledged single player adventure.
Single player on the other hand is where the real meat of the game lays, and it’s here that you’ll likely be spending the majority of your time. It has six different maps for players to play through, with two unlocked from the start, and the others coming into play as you earn progression points by completing the overall task of deliver a set number of logs.
So, the overall goal doesn’t sound all too interesting, but before you write this game off for a boring objective, let me give you a clearer picture – Spintires: MudRunner is essentially the muddy equivalent of the popular TV program Ice Road Truckers… and it’s just as exciting too.
That’s right, this game is quite easily one of the finest indie titles to have arrived on Xbox this year, and that’s all down to the level of detail and realism that comes from the gameplay.
From the texture of the mud, squelching and moving beneath your wheels, to the water pressure on your vehicle as you traverse the high current river crossings, all the way to the brilliant physics that are ever present, everything within Spintires: MudRunner feels incredibly realistic and it makes for a great off-road gaming experience.
At the start of each solo game, players pick their chosen map, the trucks that will start in their garage, the place you set up your vehicle and the carrying capacity for the job in hand, and of course the difficulty.
There are two difficulty options available – Casual and Hardcore – with the former being by far the most sensible way to start. You see, it brings in some life savers including the recovery of certain vehicles in unlocked garages, stopping any changes to your vehicle’s parameters when receiving damage, lowering the fuel consumption of your vehicles, offering the ability to skip the dreaded nighttime driving, and showing the navigation route in game and not just on the map screen. Hardcore on the other hand removes all of those luxuries, instead offering up the chance to earn some extra achievements for your efforts. Even on the casual difficulty however, things can still be quite difficult and anyone not concentrating will quickly find themselves struggling.
Each of the maps in the single player mode centre around a huge open expanse, however with only a map and compass to guide you, you never know what to expect around each corner. Naturally due to conditions, your vehicle is never usually able to gather much speed, but this isn’t a negative thing and due to the slightest bump will easily see you being knocked off course. When navigating there are a number of things to keep an eye out for, with the most important being watchpoints – relatively simple areas that consist of nothing more than a flag in a hard to reach area. However reaching them is a must should you wish to uncover the entire map as it removes the black shrouding covering large areas around it, therefore giving a very small clue as to what you can hope to find next. Other things to keep an eye out for are Gas Stations, Lumber Yards and, of course, vehicles.
You start the game with some vehicles that can be swapped between, and there will often be occasions when you need something a little different to get the job done. Throughout each map there are a number more available to be unlocked, and this is simply done by driving up to them. Once you have, you can simply swap between them by either being in close proximity or selecting them via the map screen – something which proves useful if you want something with a little more power to winch you out of a stranded position in the middle of nowhere.
Gas Stations are also important as driving through the demanding terrain will see plenty of fuel being pumped through your vehicle, not to mention the extra fuel needed to carry the extra weight when you’re fully loaded with a fresh delivery of logs. You’ll also need to watch out for the Lumber Mills, as these are the point of call which you’ll need to fill with logs.
Whilst those who spend many hours perfecting their skills should be able to navigate their way around fairly swiftly, it’s not unexpected for journeys to take literal hours, especially on the hardcore difficulty.
The final option found in Spintires: MudRunner comes from the Multiplayer mode. Here players can choose to either create a public or private lobby, or join one of the public sessions currently in progress. The goal is the same as the single player mode here, letting you join a team of four in an attempt to master the terrain together.
There are also a few extra things that, whilst not being overly dramatic on their own, each make an impressive difference to the game and are well deserving of a mention. First up is the camera angle and even though a first person camera angle is available, the preference is the third person approach. Unlike other games however, the camera doesn’t sit directly behind the vehicle, but rather to the side, and can be turned in any direction as you see fit. This is great for those moments that see you needing to see exactly which part of your vehicle has become stuck. The next worthy mention comes from the difference that any extra added weight brings to your vehicle. You can obviously expect to see a much higher fuel consumption with added weight attached, but it’s also worth noting that extra weight will see your vehicle sink much quicker, making your journey even harder than before.
Finally, and possibly the only real negative I could find with the game, is the lack of an option to attach multiple vehicles together via winches. For example, on one challenge in particular I was required to bring a vehicle to a location, however I quickly lost the additional vehicle it was carrying to the river current. After trying to attach a winch and struggling to pull it out of the water, my attempts to attach an extra vehicle to the initial winching vehicle to gain some extra pulling power was met with the first one disconnecting. The option to attach multiple winches would have certainly gone down well.
Overall and there isn’t much to say other than the expected. Spintires: MudRunner is a fantastic game and one well worthy of the praise it received previously. It comes with some fine physics, textures, graphics and realism – more so than we’ve ever seen in any off-road title – and that ensures it is one you should be playing at the earliest opportunity. Especially if you’re one who likes the off-road scene.