SnowRunner – Review
Follow Genre: Simulation
Developer: Saber Interactive
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Tested on: Xbox One

SnowRunner – Review

Site Score
8.5
Good: A lot of content, Fun gameplay, Playing in the dirt
Bad: Crashes frequently, The music is bland
User Score
7.5
(2 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.5/10 (2 votes cast)

We are all comfortable driving on nicely paved roads, but what if nature strikes and those roads disappear? Many places in the world are hard to reach, as you need a skilled driver and a capable vehicle to reach the designation. The Spintires series is well known for its highly accurate simulation, while the original game did stir up a lot of dust, Saber Interactive is the one that saved the franchise. After their successful game, MudRunner, they now made a version in the snow. Building on the foundation of their previous title now comes a game filled to the brim with enjoyable content.

Story

Your career starts in Michigan USA. Armed with a standard pickup truck, you must explore and help the people after a flood has destroyed most things in the area. The tutorial holds your hand through these first steps but the game is far from easy. There isn’t a real red wire for the story, you are free to go where you want but to unlock certain areas you must meet the right conditions. You’ll have to help to rebuild and to supply the people in need, earn experience and money to invest in better parts and build vehicles capable of traversing even the worst roads. Because of the free nature of the story, you are responsible for the flow. You can drop into one of the three available countries and start working there, or fully complete one before going to another one. The world is one large sandbox and the toys are yours to find.

Graphics

When you are performing on dirty roads, it can be off-putting if your vehicle stays clean. We have seen this issue in the past with certain off-road racing titles. Luckily SnowRunner does this perfectly as vehicles become riddled with filth, dirt, snow, and grime. You can turn your truck completely white with snow, or brown with mud, or a combination of the two. The overall graphics are pretty decent but the real devil is in the details as water moves organically, you can get stuck behind trees and branches, mud flies off tires, and will drop off your truck.

Sound

SnowRunner hits a lot of opportunities just right, but the music isn’t one of them. You are located in three places in the world, which could be empowered by having a fitting soundtrack in each place. Sadly the music feels generic and gets boring quite quickly. However, the sound effects of the vehicles and environment are very well done. Vehicles have different sounds according to their engines. You can hear the gearbox switch gears quite loudly, mud sludges, water flows, branches break and these little things make the immersion perfect.

Gameplay

SnowRunner is an off-road simulation game that traded in some hardcore elements to make it more accessible. The people that have played both the original Spintires game and the new Runner series will see a few changes that are up for discussion. When starting your career as a SnowRunner you get dropped in Michigan USA with your trusty Chevrolet pickup truck. You need to help the people there as recent floods have wreaked havoc, trashing the roads, rendering some people in crisis. The tutorial will hold your hand through these harsh roads until you unlock the garage. From here on out you are free to do what you want. Getting this far will give you access to the world map. You can play in Michigan, Alaska, and Russia. The USA levels each have four locations and Russia has three. To gain access to new locations you must help out the population enough so you can fix the road that leads there. To rebuild the place you will need to bring supplies to different locations. This can be done with a trailer or you can just load them in your truck bed.

During exploration around the map, you will find lost vehicles and upgrades. Both are yours to keep and as you can ship them over to different countries you can collect better trucks somewhere else and use them to complete earlier stages. Upgrades and customization is a new thing about SnowRunner and this feature is something that the game was missing in the gameplay. In older versions you could just equip parts right away, now you have to find them or unlock them at a certain level. This gives you more sense of progression and lengthens the gameplay, while not feeling like a bad stretch. There are a bunch of upgrades, from engine, gearbox, drive, wheels, and much more, to customization upgrades that will make your vehicle look more personal.

The small issue that arises with the upgrades is, as we mentioned earlier, it slightly takes away from realism. In Spintires you always had 3 low gears, high gearing and automatic, while in SnowRunner this is separated into three different gearboxes. It makes it kind of annoying that you are either stuck with a snail, a speed demon that dislikes mud or something in the middle, instead of having it all together in one.  Real vehicles have this option standard, or at least the cars we have seen. The other change is that you have more points to use the winch now. Hardcore fans will say that this isn’t realistic, yet it greatly improves gameplay by having more chances to recover your vehicle.

To get all the nice new upgrades you must earn money and experience, as some are locked until you reach a certain level. You can do missions for companies in the location, or help to clear the path for the locals. Both will grant you cash and XP, while unlocking more roads to drive on or shortcuts to take. Upgrades are expensive and you will have to save up your hard-earned cash to unlock necessary items so you don’t get stuck every five seconds. To get to your objective you must also keep your vehicle maintained as damaging the engine or gearbox will increase fuel consumption or have you slip into neutral from time to time. If you are not careful you can puncture your tire. Luckily you can upgrade your vehicle to carry spare parts and fuel. You can even borrow fuel from other vehicles if necessary.

Controlling the vehicles goes quite well. You will notice that on higher speeds the trucks tend to pull to one side even though they are equipped with road tires. Rummaging through the mud is fun and will combine skill with the right setup to have you successfully complete the course. The game now allows for quick winching and this feature is absolute heaven. Just with the press of a button, you can attach your winch to the nearest possible location. This makes gameplay quicker, handier and you can still do it manually if you need it for different situations. The simpler gearbox layout means that driving is easier and controls are easy to learn and master.

While all the content seems nice, there remains a truckload of problems. The PlayStation 4 version which we tested was prone to frequent crashing. After a quick internet search, it seems that a lot of PS4 users encounter the same problem about the game crashing frequently after a few hours or when visiting a certain spot. Hopefully, this gets patched rather quickly, as lost progress is something very annoying and not being able to enjoy all the content is just a deal-breaker at launch.

Conclusion

SnowRunner is the perfect game if you like off-road driving. Because there is a lot of content thanks to the three countries and eleven maps in total, you will be enjoying yourself for hours on end. There is much to discover and even more to explore and unlock. All the different vehicles all serve a purpose and with the customization options, you can tailor them to your needs. There is a lot of attention to detail to make the immersion as true as possible. Yet while SnowRunner takes a lighter approach to the genre and the music is not that great, it is an amazing game if you like to play in the mud or snow.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.5/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
SnowRunner – Review, 7.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
MC_JP
MC_JP


Never give up on a dream. It might be a long nightmare, but one day it will change into a beautiful reality - MC_JP 2014

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