A few years ago PC players were treated to a different style of racing experience as Spintires (2013) showed us the glory of heavy duty trucking. Racing tracks were now muddy forests, and the speed was adjusted accordingly. Now Spintires makes a comeback with some additional gameplay features and improved graphics, and even console gamers are invited to the party this time around.
In Spintires: Mudrunner the idea is to make your way around rural areas either alone or with a few online friends. You are tasked with different objectives, for example, retrieving tree trunks from the woods and then getting said trunks to a sawmill. There's an element of challenge and tactics introduced as your vehicle will guzzle up gasoline and you'll also need to factor in the damage your truck takes along the way. You may also be asked to park your truck, but for the most part the appeal of this game is to make a truck go where even walking is a challenge.
The driving here is carefully modeled to resemble reality. Trucks behave like they are supposed to behave, and this is because Spintires factors in the weight of the cargo as well as the surface on which the truck's tires are currently spinning on. This means that a muddy road feels different from a swamp or a shallow river. You need to watch out, though, because a lack of patience when you're in tight spot might end up with you wrecking your truck, or a deep river with an intense current might take you somewhere utterly unpleasant.
Graphically everything looks good, and the environments are carefully modeled much like the trucks themselves. There is also a day and night cycle as well as various weather conditions to contend with, and water that behaves and looks as it should. There are plenty of minute little details such as seeing the oil on the surface of water reflecting all the colours of the rainbow.
Of course, there are also some issues. The various meters on the truck's dashboard are not modeled: they are just pictures behind the steering wheel. Side mirrors don't work at all, which means that it's basically impossible to go in reverse using the cockpit view. In third-person mode there isn't always an ideal place for the camera, although the camera can be moved around freely. There is also the possibility that these issues are caused by the lack of horsepower offered by a standard home console.
It should also be noted that the sound design in Spintires: Mudrunner is well implemented. Big trucks sound like they should, and the different audio effects you hear as you're driving through the forest creates a nice atmosphere. Falling trees crackle as you would expect them to, and during the night the hoots of a nearby owl fit the scene perfectly. You should, however, tick "mute" on the generic heavy metal soundtrack, because doing so makes way for a relaxing zen-like feeling while driving through the vast forest. Unless, of course, you're a fan of generic heavy metal.
Spintires: Mudrunner offers something a little different, and it's done in an innovative way. There is something primal about driving through a forest behind the wheel of a big truck, although at times the conditions force you to advance with caution, and this can make for a slow pace. There is plenty of challenge to be had here, and we're pleased to say that frustration is not an issue. The best thing about the game is the overall feel and mood it manages to create while you are doing the work you're assigned to do. You don't get to experience something like this very often, it comes with our wholehearted recommendation.