Spintires: Mudrunner – review

  • Format: Xbone (version reviewed), PS4, PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
  • Developer: Saber Interactive
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://www.mudrunner-spintires.com/en
  • Game code provided by PR

Do you like mud? Do you like driving very slowly? You might just enjoy Spintires: Mudrunner, a game about driving very slowly in mud!

Mudrunner, is, at its heart, a physic game. Of course that could be said of all ‘realistic’ driving sims, or flight sims. The more realistic they are, the more what you’re actually doing is fighting physics, just as a racing driver and their team are doing on a daily basis. However, driving games normally have lots of modes to make the game a bit more ‘fun’, you know… like a game. Flight sims too can have various options on or off; and often if you want, you can just go for a flight somewhere, and see a digital version of something cool like the Golden Gate Bridge, or similar landmark.

Spintires on the other hand takes its physics very seriously. It takes everything very seriously. This is a game for people who drive John Deere vehicles for a living and then, when they get home, want even more time in the cabin.

The purpose of the game is to take logs and other fascinating items from a place where logs are stored to places where logs are then…er, whatever it is people do with logs. We like chocolate logs, incidentally. Couldn’t find them in the game anywhere.

The taking and bringing of logs is purely incidental though. The challenge is getting from point A to point B. It’s you and your big 4X4 truck via a non-existent road system. This land is a land full of mud. The last episode of The Grand Tour had James May taking part in a ‘Muddy Bottom Punch Hunt’, as a ‘Winch Bitch’. This was where a driver and their ‘Winch Bitch’ has to get through a track/course, which of course is full of mud and ditches. It’s not a fast race. Every few yards the Winch Bitch has to get out, attach a winch to a tree or something stable, and then have the driver use it as leverage to get out of each muddy situation. It looked fun.

However, Spintires: Mudrunner has burst that thought bubble. Whilst essentially a digital version of Muddy Bottom Punch Hunt, it lacks any of the fun suggested by watching James May fall about in the mud.

The mechanics are there. Attach winch, maybe make a few yards progress, then drive some more. Maybe activate or de-activate your split diff, use the right gear at the right time… then get stuck again, and re-use winch. Repeat, repeat and repeat all whilst looking at the dreariest graphics we have possibly ever seen. We actually reviewed this on an Xbox One X, which might seem like overkill; and trust us, if you ever wanted to take top end hardware and make it feel like a PS2 in terms of graphics quality, you would install Spintires: Mudrunner. Harsh? Reality can sometimes hurt.

Yet, yes there is a yet…. you might think we do not value this game or the work that has gone into it. You would be wrong. We do! We sort of can’t stand this game, and as you may already be thinking. Mudrunner, whilst perhaps looking like the mud it seeks to drag us through, is a terrific physics simulator. You really do feel like you are against the elements, but you also feel equipped to overcome them if you apply logic, science, and patience.

Remember an old episode of Top Gear, where (once again) James May had to reverse a camper van trailer into a parking space? Well there was one, trust us. The point is he showed how complicated reversing with a trailer can be (as the trailer goes in the opposite direction to the one the car is reversing in), and even basic tasks like that are recreated authentically in this game. The winching is very satisfying, and where you attach the winch onto the vehicle, or what you attach the hook to outside the vehicle is key for ending up at the right angle.

The user interface is really raw. The on-board software in John Deere vehicles is way more accessible and prettier than that present in this game. However, all the vehicles here seem to be Soviet era, so that is at least consistent with the source material. The controls themselves are fine, and there are plenty of menus to explain what to do and how to do it. The initial tutorial challenges should most definitely be played, and are a great way of breaking the player into the core skills needed to progress.

The camera angles offered in the game are interesting. You have access to an in-cabin view, which is fine and functional. You also have access to an out of vehicle camera, which is key. Without this view, you cannot work out which wheel has no traction (normally it’s a case of wheels plural rather than one wheel), or work out how to best utilise the winch. What would be ideal would be a totally ‘free’ camera with the ability to ‘walk’ (or float) around the vehicle to get a better lay of the land. Or even to walk ahead a little, so we can better plan our route. As it is, the camera angle offered is workable but at times awkward, with no justification in terms of keeping the game a true simulation.

Be sure what you’re buying when you get this. It’s not an off-road racer, but a hardcore simulator. You also need time to play this game, as achieving anything takes time. Serious time. The graphics could do with a major update. We’re sure when it’s windy and rainy, these harsh, exposed areas of Russia are probably not all colourful like Tellytubby land; but even the game’s own CGI trailers show the environment in a way more appealing than the in game graphics achieve. Hopefully, in time the developers will take the time to get the in-game experience on a par with those in the game trailer. Currently if the player is frustrated by the game, the graphics do nothing to entice them to come back and grind on. There is no ‘Golden Gate Bridge’ moment here.

So to sum up. This isn’t a game for everyone. But it’s a well-designed game, with tough challenges, and very accurate physics. It does what it says on the tin. If you have serious love for cars/engines, Muddy Bottom Punch Hunts, or digital sadism, this is the game for you.

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Written by Steven G

Steven Gurevitz is the CEO of 2002 Studios Media LTD and a founder of gaming accessory company Asiiya. 2002 Studios started off as a music production company, but produces a range of content from videos to videogames. The company specialises in localizing content for global brands. He also owns the Urban Sound Label, a small niche e-label. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor and co-owner CriticalGamer.co.uk. He enjoys FPS, Third person 'free world', narrative driven and portable gaming. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor to CriticalGamer.co.uk.

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