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SnowRunner review: drivin' in a winter wonderland

By Joe Parlock. Posted

I have a lot of time for The Series Formally Known as Spintires. The first, Spintires, introduced a completely original take on the driving sim that rewarded perseverance and mastery over the terrain, while its successor, MudRunner, took that formula and made it much more polished and accessible. Now we’re on the third entry, SnowRunner, which maintains everything that made its two siblings great, but also adds a creeping hint of staleness to the formula.

It’s a hardcore driving simulator where you’re tasked with navigating hulking vehicles over muddy, tricky environments. By carefully managing your fuel, gear, and situation awareness, you’re able to haul your trucks to complete contracts in mud, rivers, and now, as the title might suggest, snow.

SnowRunner has retained the simulation excellence of MudRunner, offering beautifully grim environments and detailed vehicles. There’s nothing more satisfying than trampling over the ground with a brute of a lorry and seeing mud squelch and twigs snap underneath the tyres. Much like MudRunner, the joy of SnowRunner isn’t in the times where you’re zipping along; it’s when you’re inching through the mud, frantically switching gears and tethering to anything you can find. Spending ten minutes and moving only a couple of metres shouldn’t feel satisfying, and yet it absolutely does.

SnowRunner has also successfully streamlined the controls, making the entire game a much more accessible experience than ever before. The hours of tutorials and challenges are gone, and instead you’re taught the basics of the game in a more seamless way. The Spintires series has always felt like a battle with the controls as much as it did the world you were driving in, but with SnowRunner it finally feels like a problem of the past.

Where’s the snow?

However, all of these things are small iterations on the formula and not anything I could reasonably call sequel-worthy. The snow doesn’t make as much of a difference as would initially be expected – black ice poses a decent threat, but the snow itself feels like reskinned mud. Annoyingly, the water remains stubbornly liquid, too; I would have loved to acquire new tyres to distribute my vehicle’s weight better while crawling across frozen lakes and rivers, but the game just doesn’t lean hard enough into its Arctic theme. 

What’s worse is that the snow is only in one of three locations – the other two are just as muddy as any other entry in the series, and pose the same challenges as well. This isn’t the Ice Road Truckers fantasy I was hoping it would be.

SnowRunner could have been an expansion to MudRunner instead of being a fully priced sequel. What you get is still an excellent bit of sim driving, but for the most part, that’s because MudRunner was excellent. If you’re new to the series, SnowRunner is a great place to start, but veterans may get just as much enjoyment out of its muddier brethren. 

In the snow-running business, we call this situation ‘screwed’.

Highlight

The sense of progression is fantastic – not only with how new vehicles and tools are unlocked, but also in how you physically crawl and fight across the unforgiving landscape. Taking an hour to go 30 metres shouldn’t be this satisfying.

Verdict

SnowRunner feels too similar to its predecessor to stand out as an essential.

64%

Genre: Simulation / Driving | Format: PC (tested) / PS4 / XBO | Developer: Saber Interactive | Publisher: Focus Home Interactive | Price: £34.99 | Release: Out now


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