Have you ever seen films where a car gets stuck in the mud and you see the tires furiously spinning around, spitting mud all over the place yet moving nowhere? Upon seeing this did you ever think to yourself, “That’s easy, anyone could get out of that”? If you have then Spintires: MudRunner, from Focus Home Interactive, is the perfect game for you to show the world that you can deal with situations like that. I believe this game may have slipped under a few peoples radar at the tail-end of 2017 however, this isn’t your ordinary driving simulation game. So, grab your wellies and winch as we jump into the dirty world of log transportation as we see if Spintires: MudRunner is as hot as Dirty Money or Dirty Pants…
Spintires isn’t your standard driving simulation game, yet it isn’t a racing game. Your main objective, during the single-player campaign, is to tackle various maps and meet the objectives given to you. For example, in the first few maps I have unlocked, the mission has been the same – goto the logging camp, pick up the logs and then transport the logs to the lumber mill. Upon completion, you will earn a ‘Progression point’ which will unlock the next map. Now I know what you’re saying, “that sounds easy, where is the gameplay in that”, to which I would have to reply ‘you clearly haven’t played the game!’ One mission is going to take you upwards of a few hours if you are playing on your own and a little less if you play multiplayer (which is the best way to play). As you are trying to complete your mission, you will come across various obstructions such as lakes, mud, forests and even running out of fuel – the key here is learning how every vehicle works and using them to your own advantage in order to progress successfully.
You begin with a tutorial that gives you the basics of the game. There have been a few updates since launch, the most welcomed and required is an update to the camera – at first, this was the main reason I would have knocked a few points off the overall grade I would have given it but now they have implemented a normal behind the vehicle camera. The tutorial quickly goes through the various mechanics of the game which you will use to overcome the obstacles you will encounter during normal gameplay, I’ll explain these down below as they are really cool mechanics which I haven’t seen any other game implement and they really make this game one of the best simulations out there.
Differential Lock and 4-wheel drive:
Some of the vehicles will possess one, both or neither of these. The differential lock allows your vehicle to spin all of its tires round at the same time and in the same motion. This allows you to get through mud, streams and puddles a lot easier at the expense of control – you will see your vehicle skid and spin a lot more often using this mode so it’s best to only use it when you really have to and then turn it off in order to regain full control. You probably know what 4-wheel drive is, it allows you to utilise all four wheels on your main vehicle at the same time. This is different from the differential lock as the wheels will rotate at different positions allowing you to maintain control whilst having the power advantage. The downside – using a 4-wheel drive burns through your petrol faster – a necessity which is highly important in this game.
Your winch is the single most important tool you have access too in Spintires and I absolutely love it! Every vehicle comes equipt with one and can use it for a few different scenarios, the most common use for it would be to pull you out of the mud or up steep hills. The way you operate it is, you press Triangle and a marker appears on near-by trees. You choose which tree you wish to attach to and press Triangle again and you will become attached to the said tree. now, if you hold Triangle as you drive, you will start to pull yourself towards the anchor as your vehicle tries to move. Using this mechanic, you are able to literally pull yourself up mountains and, most importantly, out of rivers where you can easily get stuck in the mud which resides on the riverbed. However, if you attach yourself to weak or smaller trees then there is a chance they will break as you are using the winch – this could result in you falling or becoming more stuck than you were original.
The second crucial use for the winch is to rescue your other vehicles or your friends (if playing in multiplayer). That’s right, you can put your vehicle next to another one, attach the winch and use it as a towing rope in order to try and rescue other vehicles. For example, I was going uphill with a massive tanker truck full of petrol when my truck skidded and toppled onto its side and slid all the way back down into a puddle on its left-hand side. I took control of a near-by 4-wheel drive truck and came to its rescue – I positioned myself near it, attach the winch and drove as hard as my little wheels could manage! I was able to pull the petrol tank back onto its wheels and also give it a hand getting up the hill and on its way.
As I touched on above, you can swap your vehicle at any time. A few will be unlocked from the start but others will be locked until you drive within their vicinity on the map. In singleplayer this can be a bit time consuming as your vehicle is going to run out of fuel – there is no doubt about that – so you will need both a truck which has been pre-created at your garage to handle the loading and transport of the logs and also a truck which has a petrol tank attached in order to refuel your other vehicle. This means, most of the time you will have to traverse both vehicles through the mud and lakes to the same destinations in order to be there when the vehicle needs topping up. This is where multiplayer comes in. In multiplayer you can have each of you in a different type of vehicle which means less time consuming and more co-operation.
Garage and watchtowers:
Garages are used to equip your vehicles with new parts in order to complete their job. For example, you could add a medium log carrier if that’s the role you are playing or a log carrier with a crane to load the vehicle if you are playing on your own. Alternatively, you could just have the crane or various sizes of petrol in a tank – there are many different things you can equip in order to change the function of your vehicle. You start off with one garage and you can unlock others around the map by completing transporting certain items within contain ‘garage points’ to them. For example, if you take a caravan-style trailer to another garage then that’s two points. The watchtowers are placed around the map in various locations and until found, your map is all black and only becomes visible after you have driven on it yourself. Driving into the vicinity of a watchtower will reveal a portion of the map so it is imperative that you unlock all of the watchtowers so you can plan your best route and avoid the lakes.
The stand out mechanic of the game is also its namesake, the mud. The game started out as a PC game many years ago and it blew everyone away with its mud physics as you would get stuck, see your tire leave tire track which was still there an hour later, the mud spat out by your tire would gather as if you were actually playing with the real mud in-game, and you could even drive into any tree, big or small, and they would snap, bend and break – just like in real life. The developers have managed to bring this same experience to consoles in this version of the game, which is awesome. You really feel like you are ploughing through the mud as you gradually get slower and slower the deeper into the wet, sticky mud you become.
And this is where I think most people would begin to turn away, unfortunately. The game is slow, especially if you are playing on your own. The majority of your time will be spent in the 4-wheel drive mode which means you will require petrol more often – or you can stick to 2-wheel drive and deal with moving at a fraction of the speed as you succumb to the mud. In multiplayer, this game is a blast! You can have a lot of fun with friends or strangers as you all work together to get through the level – the online side is still very healthy as well. One other thing to keep in mind, if you play a multiplayer game and have to quit then the game will save what you got up to so that the next time you jump in everything will be as it was. This is a great feature in a game like this which takes a few hours to complete as you don’t want your playthrough to be lost just because you had to call it a night halfway through.
If you want to play smaller, more objective focused levels then there are nine challenges for you to undertake, each with the customary ‘three-stars’ to achieve. These are short (around 15-30 mins each) challenges that have you trying to complete a set goal whilst adhering to certain objectives. For example, Pick up a trailer and drive to a town without damaging yourself or another vehicle, driving on the wrong side of the road, and you have to use the first-person view for the entire playthrough. The challenges get harder as you go along and not only offer something different to do but I also found them useful as mini-tutorials on how to do different things which weren’t shown in the official ‘tutorial’ section.
The campaign itself has you driving across six massive maps via the use of many different vehicles. All throughout the game, you will truly understand what it is like to drive in these situations as the developers have managed to really capture the reality of driving through these Siberian landscapes. I can’t think of any other game, especially on consoles, which has this level of detail when it comes to a simulation game. There are farming simulators that people play for relaxation but they don’t seem to pack the same punch as this one. I feel this is for a different crowd, it’s not for people who just want to sit back and relax whilst they hire NPCs to do most of the work as they amass a fortune, this is for people who like to get their hands dirty and feel truly accomplished for successfully completing a mission.
If any of the above, including the video, doesn’t appeal to you then I believe this game isn’t for you. Spintires: MudRunner is a game that can both relax and frustrate you at the same time, a game that you can sink hours into, and a game you can thoroughly enjoy with your friends or like-minded people. It’s hard work trying to receive and deliver the logs but it brings a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment when you manage to complete the mission objectives. It does take a while to get used to the controls and what’s on offer, but if you stick with it and play a few challenges, you will be rewarded with a great game with very addictive gameplay aspects. Highly recommended for Simulation fans.
- Best real-world physics I have seen in a game to date
- Great fun in Multiplayer (and still very active)
- Each level is an open sandbox for you to tackle as you choose
- Relaxing and frustrating at the same time
- Many different vehicles and combinations to play with
- Game is a bit slow, can take hours to complete one mission
- If playing on your own, you have to control all vehicles which can get a bit annoying
- The tutorial isn't the greatest at explaining mechanics needed later on in the game (challenges seem to fix this though)