Gran Turismo may be getting all the attention
at the moment, (and rightly so) but another driving sim has just been released - and this one goes where the cars of GT Sport wouldn't dare to tread.
Spintires: MudRunner is described as the "ultimate version" of its PC-only predecessor, Spintires. Now coming to PS4 and Xbox One as well, it puts players in control of a range of Soviet-era 4x4s, trucks, and off-road machines as they venture across a vast, remote, and extremely muddy sandbox landscape. The original game has been popular with PHers for years - with some even modding it to include the trusty smiley itself - so we sat down to find out what all the fuss is about.
MudRunner is certainly a fun way to wile a few hours, but it's no walk in the park. This is immediately apparent from the tutorials forced upon you the first time you fire it up - and the following prompts to try your hand at the new, objective based Challenge mode before attempting to tackle the sandbox. This is good advice though, because from wading a six-wheeled brute through a swamp in the dead of night, with only your headlights to guide you, to using your winch and a planted right foot - or finger, rather - to scramble a 4x4 up the side of a rocky mountain, there's plenty of off-road high jinks to be had. It's a more focussed, managed way to access the game and, divided into bitesize chunks as it is, provides an ideal foothold for console gamers and players new to the franchise.
Once you feel confident enough, you can head over to the brand-new sandbox map, which is available alongside the original game's five environments and nine dedicated Challenge areas. Here you can either complete further objectives - delivering logs to a saw mill, rescuing broken down comrades etc - or roam to your heart's content. Either way, you'll encounter terrain which fully exploits the game's pièce de résistance, the mud.
A complete graphical overhaul and an advanced physics engine have allowed for new vegetation and mud interaction, enhanced water physics and dynamic day-night cycles, all of which serve to fully immerse you and your vehicle in the environment. Surfaces churn up under wheel, the mud clinging to your tread and amassing until it prohibits further traction, only to be washed away again as you wade through the next river. It's all clever stuff; highly engaging and entertaining too - if you're into that sort of thing, of course.
But what of the vehicles themselves? Well, there are 13 new additions - bringing the total up to 19 - all with their own unique strengths and abilities and various combinations of locking diffs, all-wheel drive, fuel loads etc. From logging lorries to fuel tenders, and industrial tractors to 4x4s, there's something for everyone.
What unfortunately unites them all is the diabolical camera angle used to control them. This is the game's main pitfall, and if one thing will hinder its enjoyment and longevity, it's this. Aside from a somewhat slapdash interior view, you're left with an incredibly finicky exterior camera, this either clings to the side of the vehicle two thirds of the way along it, or else requires manipulating with the right stick or mouse until it points roughly in the direction required. There are side and rear view options which are handy for manoeuvering, but why a couple of elevated, rear-positioned, forward facing angles couldn't be included - a la every other driving game ever made - we will never know.
Far be it from us to end the review on a negative though, as overall Mudrunner achieves what it set out to do with aplomb, namely provide an off road game of considerable substance, appealing to sim players and casual gamers alike. If only they would fix that camera...
Spintires:Mudrunner is available to buy now for PS4, Xbox One and PC.