MudRunner 2 Preview: Off-Road sim shaping up nicely
Early eyes-on impressions of MudRunner 2 reveal a filth-fuelled sequel that will put gamers’ off-road skills to the test.
Focus Home Interactive has a bumper crop of exciting, inventive games lined up for 2019, many of them standing out among the fairly safe and somewhat predictable output of the industry’s biggest publishers.
MudRunner 2 embodies this unconventional, ambitious approach to game-making through an unusual splicing of genres. It’s the kind of game you’d struggle to give an elevator pitch – a driving simulator that is solely focused on navigating rough terrain with no racing element whatsoever.
When the original game in the series, Spintires, launched in 2014, it quickly garnered a hardcore following of fans eager to get their hands dirty. Proving a hit, the crowd-funded PC title was later repackaged as MudRunner for a multi-platform release, with Saber Interactive attached as the developer.
With MudRunner 2, the team is looking to iron out some of those rougher edges and esoteric quirks while delivering a sequel that’s much larger in both scale and ambition.
Although we didn’t get any hands-on time with the game (the current build is still in early development) we were recently given a behind-the-scenes look at how MudRunner 2 is shaping up.
It should come as no surprise that, on the surface, not a lot has changed. Although experimenting with some new ideas and features, MudRunner is still focused on authentic, intense off-road driving.
You’ll get behind the wheel of jeeps, trucks, and other heavy-duty haulage vehicles as you brave the sequel’s four intimidating frontiers. Expect vast swathes of dense forest, muddy plains, and flowing rivers as you look to navigate between checkpoints, delivering one precious payload after the next.
The game’s developers are promising much bigger, more lavishly detailed maps for drivers to explore, MudRunner 2 being 25 times the size of the original in terms of landmass.
To the untrained eye, each map will look like an unappealing, barren wasteland though MudRunner vets will be eyeing up every slight gradient and puddle, carefully sketching out a route and making note of the various terrain types they’ll be attempting to navigate.
This is a driving simulator after all, and while that label is one we often see associated with Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsports, and Project Cars, in MudRunner 2 you won’t be getting your rocks off to stitch-perfect upholstery of its virtual vehicles.
Instead, there’s that same overriding focus on driving physics and how different types of terrain will react when being churned up by a parade of lorries trekking across the wilderness.
Although the developers didn’t go into specifics, they assured us that MudRunner 2 will feel even more authentic than before, briefly giving us a glimpse of the Alaskan map and its intimidating snowdrifts.
The minute-to-minute gameplay will shift between long tranquil period (perfect for sticking on a podcast) and those intense, messy moments where you’re suddenly wrestling against the environment, at risk of losing your precious hauls or even the vehicles themselves.
MudRunner 2 will look to expand the number of tools players have at their disposal to overcome these nail-baiting scenarios. Saber Interactive is promising more winch options and even teased some new recovery options when you have no other choice but to abandon a vehicle.
As in the original, there’s a carrot at the end of the stick to keep you driving forward. Completing jobs will help bring in the cash needed to buy more vehicles, as well as upgrades and add-ons. The sequel will have way more purchasing options than before with an enhanced customisation system, the developers having managed to reel in some top tier licenses.
Saber Interactive isn’t ignorant to the fact that MudRunner 2 may be a newcomer’s first experience with the Spintires franchise. The original game wasn’t exactly an easy ride – after a brief tutorial, the stabilisers came tearing off without much of an explanation of what you needed to do to make any progress.
MudRunner 2 is looking to remedy this, making the onboarding experience more approachable. This will be done by having a companion that will continue to guide you after those first baby steps until you’re comfortable with the feel and flow of the sequel.
It’s an incredibly niche series though MudRunner has managed to find an audience and will hopefully be able to expand on its earlier successes through the sequel’s new features and refinements.
The developer gave no indication as to when MudRunner 2 will launch though they did confirm that they’re aiming for a simultaneous launch across PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.