When video players get stuck behind the steering wheels of vehicles, it's usually about getting the best possible seat or getting from A to B in the fastest possible time. At the end of 2017, Saber Interactive turned the tables sharply: In Spintires: Mudrunner, you had to drive on rough terrain in sometimes crazy vans. Time played only a subordinate role. The main thing was that you got there. With the successor Snowrunner, the developers have managed to put a shovel of mud on the battle between humans, machines and nature.
Snowrunner exudes a feeling like watching series like Outback Truckers on the Discovery Channel. Only that you are able to sink SUVs, trucks or heavy trucks in the mud. It may not sound like fun at first, but due to the complex physics calculations of the most diverse earth mixtures and the demanding driving behavior, Snowrunner is a successful pastime. How so?
The fight against nature
Among other things, this is due to the comfort of the driving simulation. After you have played through the short tutorial, the vast areas in Michigan, Alaska and the North Russian Taimyr are open to you. You can explore the area and discover new vehicles or upgrades, dedicate yourself to the orders of various companies or master small challenges. No matter what you choose to maneuver the heavily motorized tin cans through the rough terrain, it feels really good.
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I can understand that this “spectacle” must seem strange to outsiders if you steer your truck through endless mud paths at a snail's pace and you are happy if you have reached your destination after what feels like an eternity without having to use the winch.
This is because developer Saber Interactive has managed to realistically integrate mud, snow and water into the driving simulation. Any deformation affects driving behavior. Even if you meticulously plan a route in advance, you always have to keep an eye on your surroundings. Every detour into nature is a new challenge. Unfortunately, the weather is purely visual. So if it should rain, it has no effect on the surroundings.
Powerful machines stand up to Mother Earth
You should never make the mistake and question the game world anyway. No matter in which of the three regions you are: The developers have not given much thought to the infrastructure. It also seems almost ridiculous in what disastrous condition most streets and paths are. Maybe Snowrunner is playing in a post-apocalyptic world. As if the city planners had thought: “Asphalt roads? We do not need! After all, our ancestors even successfully got through the mud on horseback! ”
So that you don't get stuck in the long run, you can convert your vehicles in the garage. In addition to various types of tires, gearboxes and motors, there are also various trailers, even cranes or other special machines. As already mentioned, some upgrades can be found in the area, but most of them have to be bought for cash. But you not only need the money, but often also a corresponding driver rank, which you increase with experience gained from completed jobs.
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Over time, you will prepare vehicles for a wide variety of applications, which gives a satisfying feeling of progress. Some orders mean that, for example, you build bridges or clear rocks out of the way so that a road can be driven on again. The environment also changes over time. Snowrunner offers various options to make your life easier in the long run.
For people with sit meat
However, the great playful freedom is one or the other fatal to the driving simulation. For example, if you accept an order and only realize later that you are not prepared for it at all. Sometimes the way to the goal is blocked, sometimes you accidentally choose the wrong trailer. The game highlights what needs to be done and sometimes recommends a suitable vehicle for the job, but in the beginning players may feel lost.
The menus and the overview map in particular could do better information work here. It took, for example, tens of hours to find out that I can select vehicles that are already in use on the local map (by pressing the right analog stick) and then get into the car from there. But you get used to it over time.
What is really a shame is that you only work on the progress of the host in co-op sessions. The colleagues get experience points, money and keep new upgrades and vehicles. Nevertheless, it would have been nice if the orders fulfilled were to be accounted for by all players. So if you occasionally help out with friends, you will surely have to play some missions multiple times.
Demanding, but unfortunately not resentful
I also miss an optional hardcore mode. Repairs are free of charge. Just like filling the vehicles with petrol. If you are stuck somewhere, you can simply teleport back to your garage at the push of a button. It's all nice and helpful at the beginning to avoid frustration. But I lose my immersion.
Your finances only play a role when it comes to buying or upgrading vehicles. And because your means of transport in the garage immediately change back to the new car condition, you can plow your way through the area pretty ruthlessly. If in doubt, beam yourself to the garage and just try again.
As for the presentation, Snowrunner is also pretty dull. Generic country music splashes out of the boxes so boringly that I switched them off completely after a few hours. Missions are also only initiated by means of bare text boxes. There are short cutscenes at most when you have found a lookout tower that reveals part of the map or you have built a bridge. The game looks quite appealing, especially on the PC, but the staging is unspectacular and dreary. Snowrunner focuses solely on gameplay.