Spintires has a bit of a chequered past, originally released on steam as just Spintires the game did phenomenally well with over a million copies sold, however, things took a turn for the worse when the developer and publisher ‘fell out’ and the game fell by the wayside. It has since been picked up by Saber Interactive, with the original developer joining the team, and Focus Home Interactive have taken on publishing the game, now known as Spintires: MudRunner.
It’s not the exact same game as it has had a huge overhaul, with new graphics and an advanced physics engine, allowing for more authentic water and mud, giving a more realistic feeling overall. So what is it all about then? Well, the game is essentially you driving heavy machinery through muddy, boggy, water-logged locations to fetch and deliver logs from ‘kiosks’ to ‘lumber mills’ in the single player mode. Sounds simple enough, but with all the terrain you have to deal with there’s lots of things you need to concentrate on from traction, water depth, damage and fuel consumption etc. It really taxes your ability to manage the vehicles without getting stranded, or worse still, tipping your load over. To put it in to a category it’s an off-road simulator.
In single player there’s a total of six maps, each named after their main characteristics, for example The Bog has a huge boggy area in the centre of the map, while clear of trees and other obstacles making it tempting to use as a short cut, there’s a high chance of getting stuck. The rest are Island, Seashore, Crossing, Downhill and Deluge. As mentioned earlier, the main objective in single player is to fill the lumber mills with the required amount of log points. Doing so will complete the map and you’ll be offered the chance to head back to the main menu and start a new one, you can however stay in a map and just drive around or, if you want, complete the secondary objective of unlocking all the garages around the map.
This is done by loading up vehicles with garage points when at a garage, this consists of scrolling through a list of available truck beds and trailers, installing them on to your truck and driving them to a garage to unlock it, in a sense the same as the main objective. There’s two difficulty options to play on, casual and hardcore, while it sounds like a drastic change, it’s mainly physics based differences between the two, and I would advise playing on hardcore to get the best experience out of the game, also for those that like earning them, some achievements are unobtainable in casual.
When starting a map you’ll also be given the option to choose which vehicles you want to start with, there’s fifteen to choose from, and just like the maps, these also need to be unlocked by earning progression points, with progression points being earned by completing maps. You can’t just have the biggest baddest trucks in the game however, as there’s a ‘balance points’ system where a map will have a number of stars attached to it. This number corresponds to the stars that vehicles have. So, for example, if a map has four stars then you can have a one star vehicle and a three star vehicle to start with, you are also restricted to two or three vehicle slots. Or simply stick to the default vehicles to keep it simple.
There are also other vehicles to find on the map, and these can spawn in a variety of different locations each time you play. You’ll need to drive up to these in order to unlock them for use, and some of which are essential to find while playing on hardcore, namely the K-700, you’ll need this big bit of kit to load logs in to trailers from the kiosks, other vehicles dotted around will have refuelling tanks, and repair kits. While you can equip these to your starting vehicles it’s worth travelling around to unlock these extra vehicles.
There’s a map you can use to see where these vehicles are, unless they are cover by ‘the fog of war’. These are areas of the map that are blacked out that can be uncovered by visiting the ‘watchpoint’ in the centre of them, there’s usually three or four of these to find per map, getting to them can be a bit tricky, and you’ll often find yourself in need of using the winch to get yourself unstuck. Luckily all vehicles come equipped with one and they’re simple to use, a couple of presses of the ‘Y’ button and away you go, you can also use the winch system to pull other vehicles, you’ll be doing this a lot.
Single player isn’t the only mode, there’s also multiplayer and challenge mode. Multiplayer is pretty much the same deal as single player except other players in the game have their own vehicles to use. Challenge mode has nine maps with a set of three challenges in each, these vary massively and can seem a little daunting. However, you can complete the three challenges in separate sessions, allowing you to fully concentrate on one if needed. They’re only short with my longest time spent on one being sixteen minutes, and the shortest being three minutes. An enjoyable mode if somewhat short lived compared to spending upwards of five hours on one map in single player. I’d probably like to see the challenges integrated with the main game mode, so you could go off and do those without having to back out and load them up separately. It would also break up the repetitive nature of just delivering logs.
The hardest thing to get used to is the camera, while MudRunner does feature a ‘cockpit’ camera I rarely used it mainly due to the fact that you can’t see in your mirrors. I mainly used the orbital 3rd person camera, it can be tricky to get used to as you use a combination of the right stick to move the camera around, the left stick up and down to zoom and the d-pad to switch from cab and trailer view points, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be well away, using it to check that your wheels aren’t over hanging the narrow road you’re on etc.
There’s also options to use diff-lock and all-wheel drive, along with manual gears, you can leave the vehicle in automatic if you wish, however if playing in hardcore, you’ll want to use manual as you’ll not be allowed to use diff-lock while in automatic. I would recommend using manual anyway as it gives a more immersive experience.
The game’s visuals are great, while at first glance it looks a little washed out it makes the game feel all the more muddier. The attention to detail of the trucks is phenomenal, you can see all the components working as you drive along, the suspension, tire deformation etc. You can even see the drive shaft in action if you choose to drive a truck without a bed on it. The terrain deformation is also fantastic, while you may find a decent route to travel this won’t always be the case once you’ve driven over an area four or five times, as the ground is churned up it becomes increasingly difficult to travel over, forcing you to eventually find an alternate route, usually by ploughing through trees in a four-axled beast of a truck (so satisfying). The audio in game is great too, everything from the sounds of the trucks, to the ambient sounds of the surroundings and the crunching and cracking of trees and rocks as you drive over, through and around the map. The music in game does leave a little to be desired and I found myself turning it off after ten minutes.