Sponsored By: Oh, I wasn’t going to wait for this one to be a gift.
Time Spun: 71 minutes
The follow-up that Spintires deserves.
Videogame sequels frequently baffle me. Sure, sometimes they make sense, like when a popular and commercially successful game (not always the same thing!) gets a follow up. But occasionally something I like gets a sequel too, and I’ll be darned if I know why.
Yet here I am, reviewing a copy of Spintires: Mudrunner – also known as Mudrunner: A Spintires Game – the followup to OoVee Game Studios’ phenomenally good take on the mundane vehicle sim, Spintires. For those of you not in the know, Spintires is a game where you drive massive logging vehicles through exquisitely-simulated mud to deliver loads of lumber to remote areas. Sometimes your truck will get stuck, and you’ll have to deploy other vehicles to try and pull it out of the mud. Or you could just see how far you can get and start over. It is a beautiful, unstructured game with plenty of opportunities to make your own fun, such as using a winch to climb trees or just generally seeing how stuck you could possibly get.
I’m already on record as saying that Spintires is one of the best driving games ever made, and video games have a history of improving over iterations, so what can I say about Mudrunners?
In what way, you may well ask. In nearly every way possible. The graphics are better, the mud physics is better, the user interface is better, and in spite of all that, the game still maintains a touch of the Spintires jank that made me fall in love the first time.
Let’s start with the user experience, because that’s where most of the progress has been made. The original Spintires plopped the player down in one of six maps with a page of instructions outlining the basic controls and an expectation that anyone buying a game like Spintires would want to figure it out on their own. It was the Dark Souls of mundane vehicle sims: unclear, unrelenting, unforgiving. Mudrunners, by contrast, starts the game with a tutorial explaining the basic controls. The tutorial is fun to play, and I enjoyed the refresher even though I didn’t particularly need it.
After the tutorial, the player has the option to go directly into a map just like the original, or to perform challenge missions which explain advanced controls. Making the challenges optional was a great move, because it lets players who just wanted to jump back into the mud do so with a minimum of fuss, while also allowing new players and people who like a more structured experience in on the fun too.
They’ve improved the interface too. The menu system is more intuitive to navigate, and I found myself making fewer mistakes when trying to navigate to a map, which is something I still do in the original from time to time.
On the downside, only one map is available in the free-play mode, and you have to complete map challenges to earn points to unlock subsequent maps. On the one hand, it’s nice to have a difficulty curve spelled out so plainly. On the other, dropping myself into a map and finding out that it was the hardest one on my own was part of the fun of the original Spintires. I don’t hate the change, but it feels like an overcorrection.
One of the things they didn’t change was the camera controls, and for that I’m grateful. Spintires had camera controls that were janky as heck, and fought the player as much as they helped. I’m happy to say that none of that has changed much. It’s still hard to see in front of you unless you use the cockpit view (in which case it’s still hard to see in front of you because the windshield is so dirty) and you can’t zoom out far enough. While that might seem annoying, to me it was a big part of the feel of the game, and I’m glad they didn’t change it for a camera with more visibility but less personality.
Spintires was a beautiful game, considering the subject matter, and Mudrunners improves on that. The lighting effects alone are breathtaking, but the real star is the mud. This may seem like faint praise, but it looks like mud. After years of hearing people rave about how water looks, I’m going to rave a bit about how the mud looks. It behaves just like you’d expect deep mud to behave. It squishes realistically under the tires. Chunks of it cake onto your wheels as you go, flying off when the wheels lose traction and spin out. Then, when you drive through a stream, it will all rinse off and start caking on again. Honestly, I could watch it for hours. It’s like a lava lamp for people who don’t like weed.
Will I keep playing?
Mudrunners is still Spintires, but better. Anyone who liked Spintires should play it. Anyone who didn’t know about Spintires, but likes complex vehicle simulations should play it. In fact, I’m going to go play it right now.
Is it the Dark Souls of mudboggin’?
The original Spintires is, and remains, the Dark Souls of its kind. With all of the user interface improvements and increased accessibility, I have to say that Mudrunners is the Dark Souls 2 of mundane vehicle sims.
One day, perhaps they’ll make the Bloodborne of mundane vehicle sims. Perhaps that’s the Dirt series.