Put on some Hayseed Dixie, grab your best truckers cap and let’s get this big rig runnin’. Spintires: MudRunner puts you in control of a series of all-terrain vehicles in some of the boggiest ground known to man. It is your task to battle against Mother Nature as she attempts to destroy the trucking industry. This isn’t the actual plot of the game but as you attempt to cross some extremely unforgiving terrain, with only a map and a complete disregard for your own personal safety, you will begin to question the sanity of the whole situation. Seriously, If Bear Grylls were a truck, this is where he’d want to be: abandoned in the depths of a big-rig survival game.
MudRunner offers an authentic mud adventure with a collection of 19 all-terrain vehicles, each with their own unique abilities and attachable equipment. Each vehicle has a realistic feel; chugging about in a Jeep as the mud clags to the tyres has real weight to it. Steering becomes sluggish and you’ll have to play with the gears, rocking your vehicle back and forth to keep it trudging ever onwards. Each vehicle has its own attributes; the Jeep is lighter making it more suited to scouting out ahead of your convoy, choosing more suitable routes for your heavier vehicles and allowing you to exploring the vast areas MudRunner has to offer. The larger vehicles allow you to transport lumber, repair broken trucks, refuel and pass over terrain the Jeep wouldn’t even contemplate crossing. There’s a nice mix of options available to you and with the ability to teleport between vehicles you’ll soon start planning ahead, positioning rigs along the route to drag your flatbed through the squelching mud pits and to scout out better paths and refuel you as your gauge dips below 0. It’s a slow moving, tactical nightmare.
The true star of MudRunner is the sticky brown stuff that sucks at your tyres as you squelch across the barely explored landscape. Your wheels dig into the mud leaving wonderfully deep impressions in the dirt track you’re desperately maneuvering through. Huge clumps of mud cake your tyres and spatter the edges of your vehicle – there are times when your route is just completely impassable, especially if you’re hauling a flatbed of logs behind you. It truly feels like a battle of wills between you and the mud as you plead with your vehicle for one more inch of this unrelenting countryside. It’s exhausting. The landscape sinks beneath your wheels as your truck struggles to keep momentum and the ground threatens to swallow you whole. It’s a wonderful sludge that makes you wish you’d worn wellies to play.
Unfortunately, though the visceral nature of the mud and the fantastically developed physics should be applauded, MudRunner is barely a game. Once you have delivered your first stack of logs to the mill, struggling over every inch of the road at a speed that would make a snail blush, you realise that your next challenge is to do exactly the same thing again. Eight times over in fact, to each individual lumber mill. You can jump in a Jeep, exploring the mud strewn forest, opening way-points to see new sections of the mud strewn forest or travel to new vehicles that are abandoned across the mud strewn forest. This is fun for a bit but with every metre being an infuriating struggle and with each map being set in the same uninspired mud strewn forest, it is a battle of wills to keep playing.
There is a challenge mode that gives you a series of objectives to complete and some fun bonus objectives to do but there are only nine of these and they act more like a tutorial than another game mode. I did enjoy barging my way through the woods, having to scare away birds with my big rig’s horn and traversing the map without using a bridge was a real test of my trucking skills. But what it was more a test of was my patience.
MudRunner also offers a multiplayer experiences, where you and your friends can get stuck in the mud together. Using winches and a bit of genial shunting you strive to tame the wilds while completing a variety of missions or endeavor to traverse the map from one side to the other. But to be honest, you’ll mainly be ramming your unsuspecting mates into a raging stream and laughing as their truck is swept away with the current. It is the most fun you’ll have in MudRunner yet the terrain is so sluggish to move through, as it should be, that it’s nigh on impossible to muck around and you’ll spend most of your time watching your tyres spin pointlessly in the dirt.
Spintires: MudRunner is a seriously niche title and if your idea of fun is dragging yourself through thick, revolting mud an inch at a time, then you’ll love this game. Regrettably, I struggle to find watching my vehicle fail to gain purchase as I strive to move logs from one place to the other anything more than monotonous. The challenges are a nice distraction and the ability to go into the truck’s cab was a welcome change of scenery, just not enough to make me want to continue playing. In the end, Spintires: MudRunner is a tedious grind through an incredibly dull environment that has little more to offer than to showcase Saber Interactive’s impressive mud physics. Mother Nature (mud physics and all): 1 – truckers:0. MudRunners, for me, remains stuck in the mud.