Do you love driving trucks? No, we mean it, do you REALLY love driving trucks? How about mud? What about snow? What about driving trucks, in mud, and snow, with over 20 tonnes of steel loaded on the trailer and you’re running out of fuel? Sound overwhelming? Welcome to the world of SnowRunner!
If you were one of the people who were shocked that last year’s Death Stranding turned out to be an ‘against the elements’ courier simulator, you might be surprised to know that SnowRunner developers Sabre Interactive had the jump on Hideo Kojima’s delivery opus by over two years. 2017’s MudRunner was a truck simulator that wasn’t afraid to get dirty, tasking you with delivering truckloads of materials to all sides of the Siberian wilderness. Their follow-up, SnowRunner, tasks you with much of the same, but with bigger maps, harsher environments and a bigger cast of trucks to choose from.
SnowRunner offers a simple A-to-B kind of gameplay loop. From a selection of missions (called ‘Contracts’ here), you’ll be tasked with collecting materials from various steelworks, lumber mills and other resource centres and delivering them to those in need – they get their materials, you get paid, and you can unlock various upgrades and new vehicles that are parked in the garages scattered throughout the map. The opening area, Michigan, has suffered massive flooding just before the game’s opening, and the backroads are more treacherous than ever.
Sabre Interactive have made a lot of noise about the simulation grade mud, snow and vehicle physics that are packed into SnowRunner, and they’re not wrong. The process of bushwhacking your way through the forests and tundras of SnowRunner involves some of the most realistic driving we’ve ever seen. From smaller ‘scout’ trucks to big rig haulers, each vehicle type is unique in the way they drive – they all have different weights, and different feels. The sound design is great too, with so much detail that you can hear your little trucker actually shifting gears for you as you press on.
One thing we didn’t expect was just how stunning the game’s day/night cycle can make the environments themselves look. The fiery shades of Michigan’s maple forests are just stunning to look at, even while you’re accidentally tearing saplings out of the ground with your winch. When it’s dark, your headlights illuminate the path ahead beautifully, and the roar of your engine in the night air almost makes us want to call SnowRunner atmospheric. The only disappointment when it comes to the game’s world is that it feels conspicuously empty – you’re the only truck on the road, and even the urban areas that you’d expect to be populated have a ghost town-like air to them.
“Much like RPGs along the lines of Dark Souls and The Surge 2, you have to play by SnowRunner’s rules if you’re going to make it through…”
However, with the roads as unforgiving as they are there’s a high risk that comes with completing almost any task in SnowRunner. We became bogged down without a winch point more times than we could count, forcing us to ‘recover’ our truck back to the nearest garage, meaning we’d have to brave the same route all over again for a second chance at making it through the muck. Add to this that any cargo you’re carrying can’t be recovered along with your vehicle and the stress, repetition and difficulty of navigating some parts of SnowRunner can become exhausting. Much like RPGs along the lines of Dark Souls and The Surge 2, you have to play by SnowRunner’s rules if you’re going to make it through, and failure can be absolutely crushing.
Ultimately, that’s what makes SnowRunner an ‘enthusiast game’ – we can envision the massive amount of online streaming and mod-making that’ll come with a release like this, and for driving sim lovers who are willing to get down and dirty with its mechanics and particulars, SnowRunner is the perfect game. So, again we ask, do you love driving trucks…?
SnowRunner is available now on PS4 and Xbox One.