How to enjoy Spintires: MudRunner

A big truck in some mud.

MudRunner is a slow game. Disavow yourself of any notion of blasting through muddy water, spraying muck over the scenery in your wake. This is not a roaring romp through a playful sandbox in your choice of turbo charged monster truck. It's a long, deliberate haul through carefully simulated realism.

If that doesn't sound like fun then it's probably because a lot of the time it isn't. Most of the game involves driving not entirely suitable vehicles very slowly through thick mud. The level of visual detail and feeling of realism is impressive, but over time the experience is prone to tedium.

The problem is that even with incredibly well simulated mud the main game consists almost entirely of collecting and delivering logs. It gets repetitive very quickly. It's as though the developers put all their effort into building an incredibly detailed physics engine but ran out of time to put a proper game on top of it.

A car stuck in a pool of water.

Take it off road

Although trudging down the same muddy tracks over and over again in a big truck can be repetitive, MudRunner's strength lies in ignoring log delivery entirely and simply driving off road. Although most of the roads in the game barely qualify as such, the real fun lies in avoiding them altogether and diving straight into the undergrowth.

Taking on thickly forested terrain in a smaller vehicle like a jeep is a complicated and interesting challenge. Each rock and fallen log is an obstacle to overcome, each slope a treacherous maze to navigate. It's still incredibly slow, but it feels amazingly realistic.

There are aspects of this in the challenge mode, but the volume of content there pales compared to the rest of the game. It's an opportunity missed as there's huge potential to use this to expand the main game into something much more varied.

A jeep bouncing through some undergrowth.

Off to the shops

If the developers don't recognise the potential in their game then the community certainly does. There are maps and vehicles available in the Steam workshop for all tastes, from massive trucks for ploughing through the scenery to landscapes covered in complex and technical hill climbs.

What's interesting about much of this content is that it is unafraid to meddle with the underlying formula. If you prefer turbo charged blasting through the muck to the slow chore of log delivery then you can have it, but it's so far removed from the base game that it can be almost a different experience entirely.

A truck and a land rover driving on a rough and bumpy road together.

Multiplayer

Online multiplayer seems like an obvious feature for a game like MudRunner but again it seems like not enough thought has gone into it. There are no challenges or maps specifically designed for multiplayer, so the experience is basically the normal game but with friends. In addition, just setting up a game is overly difficult, particularly when using mods, in part due to occasional bugs and crashes.

Most of the time players are left to make their own entertainment in multiplayer. Racing to unlock a watchpoint can be fun, but most maps only have half a dozen of them so this can be short lived. Difficult river crossings, like on the map 'Deluge' can be more engrossing if players work together. Log delivery takes less time with more players to help, if it still holds appeal for you.

It feels again like there's a lot of unrealised potential here. It's not hard to imagine game modes where players in different kinds of vehicles could cooperate to complete a challenge, or race against each other in some way.

Two trucks driving on two bridges.

Tired now

MudRunner is a strange game. It initially looks amazing, turns tedious after a few hours, but then still has enough unrealised potential to keep your attention long after it deserves to, as long as you're prepared to put the effort in to find it.

If you want a good off roading game, then it's unlikely you'll find better. Whether you have the patience for the standard game or need to delve into the workshop for a wholly different experience is up to you.

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