SnowRunner is Saber Interactive’s follow-up to the surprisingly successful simulation MudRunner, a niche driving game in which you navigate heavy-duty off-road vehicles through thick deformable terrain.
Surprisingly for a driving game, the main hazard of SnowRunner is not traffic. Your only obstacle is the terrain itself – snow, mud, rocks and flowing rivers stand between where you are and wherever you want to be. Having perfected their depiction of sloppy, treacherous mud in the previous game, the developers of SnowRunner have turned their attention to the white fluffy stuff with equal success. Deep snowdrifts and icy roads coat Alaska’s terrain in the most realistic reproduction of snowy terrain I’ve encountered since Red Dead Redemption II.
Following a couple of months of experiencing graphical issues with newer games, I had concerns that my aging computer would struggle with a more demanding sequel. SnowRunner however has run extremely smoothly with no graphical glitches or framerate issues. Aiming to improve on the MudRunner experience, the new game brings far larger maps and surprisingly beautiful vistas. The white snowscapes of Alaska contrast wonderfully with the marshlands and muddy fields you encounter elsewhere, and where MudRunner’s palette consisted of (rather unsurprisingly) a lot of brown, SnowRunner features a variety of colourful forests, mountain passes and villages for you to explore.
Vehicular fidelity has also seen a massive step forward, with every movement of your suspension modelled with high attention to detail, with every nut, bolt and patch of rust expertly rendered. Previous fans of the MudRunner series will be pleased to find a large number of versatile vehicles on offer, with an expanded customisation system allow you to tinker with your choices of tires, engines, suspension or even a new coat of paint.
A major aspect of the SpinTires community has always been the vibrant modding community. SnowRunner launches with full modding support and at time of writing a handful of mods have already been completed and are available to download. Now the game has launched I fully expect the number and variety of mods to exponentially skyrocket, with all of the silliness and unexpected delights that mods generally bring.
Rather appropriately, advancing in SnowRunner is all about being in it for the long-haul. Vehicles and upgrades are unlocked as you find them on the map or purchase them from garages. However, when it can take several minutes of painfully precise navigation to travel just a hundred meters, 100% completionists will have a very, very long road ahead of them.
Luckily, there are a variety of missions on offer to keep you engaged. Whereas MudRunner was obsessed with the relocation of large logs, SnowRunner provides a variety of challenges including hauling heavy loads and salvage operations. Completion of each challenge adds to your experience and wallet, which is required to purchase vehicles and upgrades. I’ve found the more directed experience to be more enjoyable, with the variety of experiences on offer a welcome change from dragging another load of logs around.
This isn’t to say the more guided gameplay of SnowRunner holds your hand. The game may offer you a destination, but how you get there is entirely up to you. Taking major roads may provide for an easier route, but if you think you can crash your truck through a forest, ford a river and scale a cliff without losing your load there is absolutely nothing preventing you from giving it a go.
Take risks, but beware of the devil on your shoulder that whispers ‘you can probably make that, what’s the worst that could happen?’ Having a trailer that you’ve spent twenty minutes dragging across the map slide irrecoverably down a canyon can be agonising, with SnowRunner a firm contender to become the Dark Souls of truck simulators.
Alternatively, there’s nothing stopping you from forgetting about the missions altogether. Grab your favourite vehicle from the garage, find a trail that looks like it might head somewhere interesting and just see where you end up. Personally, I’ve always treated the franchise as a meditative experience, ideal for podcast listening or winding down after a difficult day.
SnowRunner continues in MudRunner’s wake of providing an utterly unique driving simulator. Its target audience may be niche, but what it sets out to do, it does extremely well. While the slow pace and high difficulty will no doubt put off anyone looking for a light-weight off-road challenge, fans of the original SpinTires will definitely not be disappointed by what they find here.
SnowRunner is available now via Epic Games Store.
The Verdict – Headshot
Platforms Available – PC, PS4, X-Box One
Platform Reviewed – PC
Please see this post for more on our scoring policy. Epic Games Store review code supplied by PR.