Spintires: MudRunner is an off-road truck driving simulator available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. The origins of Spintires date back to a Kickstarter crowd funding campaign in 2013 which raised $82,684 enabling original creator Pavel Zagrebelnyj to realize his vision of an off-road truck driving simulator. Spintires released for PC in June 2014, rapidly becoming a critically acclaimed indie sensation with over 100,000 sales on PC within a month and going on to sell over 1 million copies on PC. Pavel Zagrebelnyj returned to partner with the talented and diverse Saber Interactive to create a home console spin-off titled Spintires: MudRunner. Therefore, it makes sense for Spintires to receive a home console port, but can Spintires: MudRunner improve upon the original Spintires to enhance the equivalent quality of its predecessor’s initial 2014 release?
A tutorial teaches players how to manoeuvre the camera, start the engine, release the parking brake, accelerate, engaging specific settings such as all-wheel drive and differential lock to be able to drive through muddy surfaces, switching trucks, differences between trucks such as going from all-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive and differential to no differential, using the winch to pull the truck up a harder to navigate area, how to unlock a garage, the benefits of a garage, how to upgrade your truck, collecting cargo for transportation and unloading logs.
Single player mode has a choice of six maps in which two locations named The Bog and Island are initially unlocked, although progression points are required to be earned by fulfilling objectives in order to unlock the rest of the maps. MudRunner’s premise is to deliver logs to the lumber mill, while factoring in fuel consumption, weight of the cargo and more besides in the process. It is not just about travelling through pre-set routes from A to B and B to C as there are further complexities such as unloading logs on some occasions will require you to reverse the truck into a perfect position within an incredibly tight space in order to be able to complete the unloading.
Challenges mode comprises of a series of 9 challenges which are progressively unlocked after successfully completing the previous challenge. Each challenge contains their own primary objective such as picking up a trailer and driving the rig to a small town, alongside a variety of bonus objectives including not damaging either vehicle, not driving in the opposite traffic lane and using the cockpit camera when driving with the trailer.
There is a diverse range of 19 vehicles in which every vehicle has the potential to be customised with additional elements referred to as attachments that reflect the respective role of each vehicle. For instance, C-256 is a military style truck which can carry long logs, although it struggles to cross difficult terrain as it does not have all-wheel drive, despite having a differential lock and a height of 7.2 metres, while B-131 is also a military style truck which is cheap to deploy, but is quite slow and lacks in pulling strength, although it does have all-wheel drive in addition to a differential lock with a 0.5 metres smaller size than the C-256 at a height of 6.7 metres. The smallest truck is a jeep at 3.8 metres which has low fuel consumption in addition to being fast, agile and recallable which is complimented by all-wheel drive and a differential lock, although it cannot carry logs which makes it more of a recovery vehicle.
Environment design is as varied as vehicle design as every map has their own respective start, log station and lumber mill locations, although while in transit to these destinations; trucks will have to endure challenging off-road terrain and a potential loss of traction through inclines, dispersion of mud, rocks, trees and rivers in which vehicles and tough terrain work in perfect harmony to showcase realistic physics.
Camera angles include a third-person perspective positioned just behind or to the side of your truck which can be panned around for a better view to suit which direction you are driving in, while players who prefer to drive from a first-person viewpoint can navigate their way through the environments from behind the steering wheel and gearbox of the truck in a cockpit view.
The Vita has played host to successful Farming Simulator games, therefore it feels as though a Vita native version of MudRunner would have been well suited; however remote play is a consolation. Spintires: MudRunner’s remote play performance is comparable to the PS4 version as it usually produces the quality of graphics, audio and general performance. Control optimisations include accelerating and braking is re-mapped to the bottom right and left of the touch screen respectively, while manually shifting gears has moved to the top or bottom right of the rear touch pad, alongside changing the camera angle moving to the top or bottom left of the rear touch pad. Spintires: MudRunner is a comfortable remote play experience that is essentially transformed into a pick up and play truck driving simulator within the portable environment of remote play.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the default right-handed control scheme including holding R2 to accelerate; holding L2 to brake; pressing L1 to turn your truck’s headlights on or off; pressing R1 to beep your horn; pressing O to engage or release the parking brake; pressing X to switch between different modes of drive such as to all-wheel drive; pressing triangle to utilise the winch for a winch pull or quick winch from a tree or another vehicle; pressing square to engage the differential lock; pressing up or down on the d-pad to enter advanced mode; pressing left on the d-pad to change to the front or rear camera angle; pressing right on the d-pad to change to the trailer camera; moving the left analogue stick to the left or right to steer the vehicle; moving the left analogue stick up or down to zoom the camera in or out; pressing L3 to enter cockpit camera; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to pan the camera; pressing R3 to begin manual movement of the gear stick; holding R3 to engage cruise control; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Left-handed controls effectively reverses pretty much every control input from the left analogue stick and left shoulder buttons over to the right analogue stick and right shoulder buttons. Tapping the touch pad to display the navigation map, while vibration occurs when driving over tougher terrain as it places more stress on the tires, although there is no light bar implementation which could have provided an alternative HUD to showcase the fuel consumption or fuel efficiency in real-time and conditioning of the vehicle.
Graphically, Spintires: MudRunner has some impressive visuals such as a dynamic day-night cycle with night time conditions significantly reducing visibility, therefore requiring headlights to be turned on to light the path directly ahead. Dirt can be seen on the front window when driving in the cockpit view, foliage looks natural and has appropriate depth, vehicle models look realistic in their respective representations and steering, alongside surface deformation as mud is dispersed by the grooves in your truck’s tires.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, single player menus, challenges menu, multiplayer menus, settings menu and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick during right-handed controls and right analogue stick during left-handed controls, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the touch pad. Menu backgrounds focus on the types of terrain you will be driving through.
Sound effects include the engine of your vehicle accelerating through the gears, reversing, braking, utilising the winch, collisions with objects or scenery and ambience such as brushes along foliage and birds tweeting, while rock music is only present during menus. There is no usage of the DualShock 4 speaker; however perhaps it could have been utilised creatively by producing music from radio stations or ambience.
The trophy list includes 59 trophies with 54 bronze trophies, 3 silver trophies, 1 gold trophy and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Lumberjack bronze trophy for knocking down 100 trees which will more than probably happen naturally due to the difficulty of navigating some environments and the Drive Carefully bronze trophy for delivering the load without receiving any damage or changing vehicles by driving as carefully as possible. Harder trophies include the Forester silver trophy for finishing a level without using the navigation map in single player mode; the My Only Love silver trophy for finishing a level using only one vehicle in single player mode; and the I Have All I Need silver trophy for finishing a level without changing any vehicle add-ons in single player mode. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 40 to 50 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are two difficulty levels including casual and hardcore with the major differences being casual difficulty affords players the luxury of their trucks to recover in unlocked garages, while damaging the truck does not change its parameters; lower fuel consumption; the ability to skip night time; and an outline of the navigation route is visible when driving, although some trophies are unobtainable during casual difficulty. Meanwhile, hardcore difficulty is as tough as the terrain as damaged trucks struggle to steer accompanied by less engine power and engine stalling; differential lock does not affect steering wheels and damages the truck when driving on hard surfaces, while the differential lock cannot be engaged when using an automatic gearbox; log stations are disabled and even harder than that is the fact that you can only manually load your truck at log kiosks; navigation when driving is limited to distance and position of the next route node; and wheels will autosteer, forcing the truck to move downhill on slopes.
Online multiplayer allows for up to 4 players to co-operatively complete objectives as a team. Teamwork is essential during online co-operative multiplayer as each player can help each other out of thick mud or rivers by winching a vehicle along or nudging a vehicle by gently driving into it to assist in the vehicle ahead gaining traction. A save system provides the ability to resume co-operative online multiplayer missions at a different time which is an excellent design choice. However, there is no split-screen multiplayer which could have provided the same gameplay elements for 2, 3 or 4 players in split-screen local co-operative multiplayer. Another area of improvement that is required albeit specifically for home console gamers is the lack of mod support which has always kept the Spintires community on PC thriving, although there is always the possibility of a future post-launch update to enable in-game modding compatibility.
Replayability stems from various areas including a single player mode and challenges mode containing primary and bonus objectives to fulfil within unique maps full of off-road terrain, differing specifications throughout 19 vehicles, two difficulty levels and online co-operative multiplayer for up to 4 players which will keep players returning for quite some time.
• Title: Spintires: MudRunner
• Developer: Saber Interactive
• Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
• System: PS4
• Format: Retail Release/PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1/2-4 (Online Multiplayer)